DEEP: 2014 School GreenCircle Award Recipients

GreenCircle Award Recipient
2014 School Related

Name of School Facility


Description of Activity

Oak Grove Montessori School
Mansfield Center, CT

Voluntarily contribute significant time or resources to environmental instructional programs, DEEP fish and wildlife projects, water quality monitoring programs, or lake, river or watershed associations.

The Oak Grove Montessori School carried out several activities during the 2013-2014 school year that encouraged children to be respectful and mindful about the environment. Some of the activities included: 1) chores that promoted care of the classrooms; 2) use of trashless lunches, reusable utensils, glasses, cloth placemats and tablecloths to minimize the generation of waste; 3) fall and spring cleanup by volunteers to highlight the importance of team work; 4) maintaining a greenhouse: a collaborative effort of volunteers and private donations from the community. Mr. Bryan O'Hara invested countless hours with the students to work on the vegetable garden where students grow vegetables and flowers from seeds. The vegetables are served as snacks and the flowers are used to beautify school grounds. The sale of harvested vegetables generates a small profit which is used to buy supplies for the classrooms; 5) applied cooking lessons to everyday life: the students went apple picking at a local orchard and then turned their harvest into snacks for the classroom; 6) a hibernation festival: families and the community share homemade foods and enjoy the season. The school did fundraising by selling products made from recycling old materials. For example, pumpkins were created out of Mason jar lids or disposable helium tanks turned into outside lanterns; 7) nature trails: teachers and students spent many hours maintaining, clearing and cleaning the nature trails around the school; 8) community activities: the collection of used cloth for a homeless shelter, fundraising to help a family purchase a service dog for a special needs child, de-cluttering closets and storage areas to share materials with other schools, and the collection of electronics for reycling such as cell phones, laptop computers, ink cartridges, ipods, calculators, etc.; 9) donated a Christmas tree to the Wadsworth Atheneum: decorated by students and teachers with recycled materials such as fabrics and yarns; 10) "plunger for hunger": many of the families plunged into cold waters to raise money for the soup kitchen in Willimantic; 11) "walk for warmth": families participated in this event to raise money for local families in need of assistance to pay for the winter heating bills; and 12) earth day celebration: the students had a parade around the school showcasing their clothing made out of recycled materials.
The new additions to the school activities included a fairy house and woodland village. With materials gathered from the nature walk, students designed and built little houses for fairies and other creatures in nature. By growing the shown interest of many of the students in fairies and creatures in nature, the activities provided the opportunity of countless hours of exploration, lessons in the handling of plants in the wild, planning, drawing, and successfully building small houses to provide shelter to fairies and other creatures in nature. A house was built by each student and taken home.
The school is also developing a new web page to share information and recipes about the use of non-toxic, all natural cleaning solutions that can be made at home. The main ingredients for all of the recipes are: lemons, essential oils, vegetable oil, borax, baking soda, toothpaste, herbs and salt. Lastly, other changes implemented in the school are the replacement of k-cups to a 97% biodegradable K-cup.

Robert J. O'Brien STEM Academy
East Hartford, CT

Document and implement a facility-wide pollution prevention plan; successfully implement an innovative and unique pollution prevention plan or recycling program that generates an environmental benefit; separate organic materials at schools or cafeterias for composting or animal feed; voluntarily contribute significant time or resources to environmental instructional programs.

The O'Brien STEM Academy partnered with the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut to bring interns in the Master's program to develop inquiry based curriculum across the grades and subject areas. Charline DaSilva and Lindsey Volz, interns in the Master's level, developed a composting program and curriculum for each grade to enrich student involvement in the school community and the STEM components: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Composting fosters environmental awareness in helping students understand the implications of waste and recycling in our society. As educational reform transitions schools to a new curriculum base, Coming Together as a Composting Community will expose students and teachers to new curricula, project-based learning, and state expectations.

The project started by building a supportive team with administration, teachers, food services, public works, and volunteers. This strong foundation has supported the curriculum development and implementation of a composting program. The curriculum component is being taught across the grades through hands-on, interdisciplinary, composting lessons and activities in both indoor and outdoor settings. Each grade is currently completing a year-long unit to build knowledge of composting and environmental preservation.

During March 2014 volunteer contractors built the compost bin at the school. Prior to completion of the compost bin, the academy initiated teaching lessons about sorting materials for composting so that students could participate in composting in the school cafeteria as soon as the bins were completed.

Throughout the school year, lessons and other enrichment activities concerning the composting process were taught across the grades. The academy started with introductory lessons, scheduling each grade into certain time blocks. These blocks were repeated three to four times throughout the academic year.

In order to start the program and get the staff involved with its initial development, they started composting in the staff lounge at the academy. This enabled the staff to learn composting behaviors prior to full implementation with the student body in the classrooms and cafeteria. They have been collecting the staff's compost materials in a small bin in the school courtyard. This has provided a visual example for the students during outdoor composting lessons and activities.

They administered a school-wide pre-assessment and mid-term assessment prior to the building of the compost bins to assess composting knowledge. The results of each assessment were used to refine their lesson planning and program development.

While Coming Together as a Composting Community is a sustainable program, it will also positively affect environmental sustainability at the O'Brien STEM Academy and in the East Hartford community in general.

The academy’s efforts were inspired by School Composting: A Manual for Connecticut School, the program developed and implemented by the Mansfield Public Schools. The Mansfield program started in the fall of 2000 and is still successful today. The O'Brien STEM Academy aspires to replicate the same type of program and take ownership as well.


GreenCircle Award Recipients | GreenCircle Award Program

Content Last Updated on December 8, 2015