Green Schools in Action

An Environmental Stewardship Journey from Maryland to Taiwan

Students and staff have been busy cultivating a culture of environmental stewardship inside the walls of Lutherville Laboratory, a magnet school specializing in science, math and communications.
Students explore findings
Photo via Lutherville Laboratory

Through the Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Educators (MAEOE), the school has been a recognized Maryland Green School for 16 years. Since we are always looking for ways to continue our stewardship journey and expand our impact beyond the walls of our classroom and school, we jumped at the chance to partner with a school in Taiwan through the USA-Taiwan Eco-Campus Partnership, a collaborative initiative from Eco-Schools USA.

Many of the initiatives that are already in place at Lutherville Lab fit perfectly with the Eco-Schools USA program. These include raising, tagging, and releasing monarch butterflies, Trout in the Classroom, storm water drain stenciling, planting a pollinator meadow, planting and maintaining a learning garden for lesson integration, field experiences for students in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and solid waste reduction projects.

Our biggest challenge in partnering with a school half way around the world was finding time in the day to prepare our project due to curricular demands and the time difference. Fortunately, we have a school community that embraces our emphasis on the environment, which includes our after-school environmental club, full of enthusiastic and energetic students, staff members with availability to work with students on environmental projects, and the incredible support of the Office of Outdoor Science through Baltimore County Public Schools. Administration and community members also provide assistance with many of our environmental initiatives, working to find money in the school budget and by providing grants to purchase supplies.

Students dig for worms
Photo via Lutherville Laboratory

One of the favorite environmental projects of many students and staff is our school-wide Monarch Madness. Every fall, you will find caterpillar and butterfly habitats in every learning space throughout the building — from the nurse’s suite, to the kindergarten classes, to the front office. Students have planted milkweed, flowers, and other host plants in the meadow that we created on school grounds.  This program builds a community spirit and shows students that they can make a true difference in the world.  This year through our blog, we were able to compare our monarchs to photos of those from Kai Guan School, our partner school in Taiwan. Exciting!

Moving forward, this year our goal is to have every grade level enjoy a salad day in the cafeteria during lunch time, made of lettuce grown right at the school. Every winter we partner with volunteers from Trout Unlimited and the Department of Natural Resources to raise and release rainbow trout.  The 55-gallon tank is housed in our library, so students get to see the trout every week and observe their growth.  We will also continue our vermiculture composting project that we are sharing with our partner school in Taiwan.

Students look at sample
Photo via Lutherville Laboratory

The best advice we can offer for schools beginning their Eco-Schools journey is to start small.  Projects such as solid waste reduction or adding a pollinator garden are great first steps. Be sure to build a relationship with your school system’s science office if one is available — they are invaluable in connecting you to additional environmental professionals and resources.  And be creative in how to fit these initiatives into the curriculum — after-school clubs, lunch bunches and recess meetings are all good options.

Over time, students see that they can make a positive difference, raising monarchs, raising trout, having a grow tower, planting more flowers for pollinators, recycling, and reducing the waste that we produce.  Our goal is for students to internalize these simple, daily actions so that environmental stewardship becomes their norm.

About the Author: Deidre Austen is a teacher at Lutherville Laboratory for Science, Mathematics, and Communications in Lutherville, Maryland.