Students at Copper Mesa Elementary School raise the school’s Eco-Schools USA Green Flag. Photo by Judith Kohler

“Way to go Cougars!” a student at Copper Mesa Elementary in Highlands Ranch exclaimed as the gym full of students cheered.

The occasion was a kind of pep assembly at the Denver-area school, but it was unlike any pep assembly I remember attending. The kids weren’t cheering for a sports team; they were excited about earning a Green Flag, the highest honor in the Eco-Schools USA program. The students didn’t sing the school fight song; they recited Copper Mesa’s “eco-code.”

“You’re part of an elite group of schools and students,” said Ann Morgan, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Rocky Mountains and Prairies Regional Center.

Ann Morgan, executive director of the regional NWF office, presents a Green Flag to Flagstone Elementary School.
Morgan presented Green Flags to Copper Mesa and Flagstone Elementary School in Castle Rock, south of the Denver area.  NWF is the U.S. host of the Eco-Schools program, an international network of 41,000 K-12 schools in 53 countries.

The two Douglas County schools are the first in Colorado to earn Green Flags and as of April 25, were just the 14th and 15th nationwide.

Students at both schools were clothed in several different shades of green to mark the special day. During an outdoor assembly, Flagstone students waved green paper flags attached to pencils. Parents stood around the outside of the group, taking pictures and clapping along with the kids when the Eco-Schools flag was hoisted up the flagpole.

The raising of the Green Flags followed a lot of work by students and school staffs. Copper Mesa has saved more than 127,000 kilowatt hours of electricity the past three years with the help of energy audits. The school has saved about $400 by using both sides of copy paper and decreased trash pick-ups from five to two days a week.

Flagstone has reduced the amount of waste left from school lunches. The school provides vegetables for the community from its garden and has built and located bluebird houses to enhance the birds’ population.

Flagstone Elementary studets cheer as their school is awarded the Green Flag. Photo by Judith Kohler
Flagstone Principal Kelli Smith said the kids don’t hesitate to make sure the adults are being eco-friendly.

“They found I left my light on once and they haven’t let me forget it,” she said.

Members of Copper Mesa’s student “Green Team” said the work has been worth it.

“We’ve had to be like a team,” 10-year-old Hailey Merrill said. “It’d be really cool if all the other schools could do it, too.”