Three Norman schools discuss at summit how they are going green

Norman High School students discussed the school’s expanded garden, pictured, along with the recycling project and their aquaponics program.

NORMAN — Three Norman schools are part of the growing movement to make Oklahoma schools green.

Norman High School, Lincoln Elementary and Terra Verde Discovery School all took part in the Oklahoma Green Schools Summit Monday.

Nine schools — ranging from elementary schools to high schools — shared their green efforts with 14 schools in total attending the summit.

“I think we had the most schools present at the summit since it has started, so that was pretty cool,” Norman High biology teacher Adam Lifsics said.

Norman High School hosted the summit last year and presented on the school’s aquaponics system.

Lifsics said this year, his students discussed how they expanded the system, along with their expanded outdoor garden and recycling project.

He also said their was a broad range of not just ages represented, but also the projects themselves were diverse.

One of his favorite presentations was by a school in Tulsa that had its own small barn where they raised chickens and mini-goats.

“They had a really cool monarch butterfly area where they are really building up that population,” Lifsics said.

He didn’t get to see all of Lincoln Elementary’s presentation, given by some of the school’s second-graders, but he said they worked on a pollinating garden.

“We learned an entrepreneurial marketing skill from them,” Lifsics said. “They made really cool pamphlets showing the different processes with their garden.”

Learning and getting ideas from other schools, specifically other students, is one of the important parts of the summit. At the end of each presentation came a Q&A session. While some came from adults in the room, Lifsics said most came from students.

He said students tend to get a little envious of other projects they see, which prompts them to look at how they can either tweak their own projects to work better or start a new project from scratch.

“They think this stuff is cool,” Lifsics said. “It’s invaluable collaboration. It’s real-world learning here. It’s OK if every single project isn’t from square one; you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every project.”

Terra Verde Headmaster Eric Snyder said his students had a chance to reflect on their own projects, as well as connect with other students around the state looking at similar problems in their own schools and communities.

Terra Verde’s presentation centered around how the school monitored and improved its green initiatives.

“The project they presented today was our trash-less lunch program,” Snyder said.

He said their school found out about the Oklahoma Green Schools Initiative last year and started a committee of middle schoolers who developed different projects and was charged in up keeping the different projects, including taking care of the school orchard, checking the recycling bins and hosting clean-up days at a local creek.

During lunch, students from the committee look at how many trash items students have, then give or take away points accordingly. At the end of each month, the class with the least trash in their lunches is awarded a special Green Owl Award.

“I thought our kids did really well with their presentation,” Snyder said.

He and his students were interested in a project from another middle schooler about a website he made and then promoted to let people know about his school’s various green initiatives.

Oklahoma Green Schools presentations don’t just focus on the end result; students also talk about different grants used for the project, where they went to get materials and how they actually implemented the projects in their school along with any setbacks they may have faced along the way.

Lifsics said this helps him as a teacher get ideas for what he can do to lower the cost of projects, which is often the biggest barrier to starting a green initiative.

Snyder agreed.

“Every school can do something small,” Snyder said. “And it doesn’t have to be something expensive; trash-less lunch is a prime example.”

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