Stories from the Eco-Green Schoolyard – A Medium for Healing, Student Learning and Managing Climate Change

NWF Eco-Green is in its eighth year of supporting schools across Southeast Michigan and beyond that are making real change on their campuses to mitigate climate change through action-based Eco-Schools projects with the generous support of General Motors. Twenty schools are projected to reach 3,100 students with the support of 134 teachers and staff as they implement recycling, compost systems, rain gardens, native gardens, vegetable gardens, and design environmentally friendly homes and skateparks to name a few.

As schools return to their new baseline through a long and turbulent COVID pandemic, it highlighted the importance of building meaningful student connections with the environment and time outdoors. As one teacher put it, “I’ve been trying to build an outdoor learning space for years, and for the last two years there was so much interest and effort put in to make this come true!”

Achieving College & Career Education (ACCE) High School in Ypsilanti, Michigan, is building a memorial, native garden in their courtyard to bring celebration, closure, and healing to the student body. Four students who have attended the school in the last four years have passed away and the garden will serve as not only a memorial space but as an outdoor classroom and place of healing for students and their families. It also has the added benefit of attracting native pollinators, and helping with stormwater runoff as we see larger volumes of rainfall as a result of climate change. This project is being led by the younger sibling of a student who lost his life in the 21-22 school year with the support of the garden club and their GM mentor Sherri Zeller.

Detroit Prep, a K-8 school on the Eastside of Detroit, is working closely with their neighbor Mr. Willie J Patmon, an 89-year-old farmer who started WJP Farms just four blocks away. Students participate in every part of the growing cycle from preparing the soil to starting seeds and harvesting their fruit all while learning to steward the earth using organic methods and achieve community sovereignty. This year they will be adding a wildflower garden on campus to attract pollinators, mitigate flooding, and beautify the block with their GM Mentor Katie Peterson.

Students visiting WJP Urban Farms. Photo credit: Dee T.

These projects are just two of twenty that show Eco-Green sustainability and climate mitigation projects are multifaceted—from educating students in STEAM to providing socio-emotional learning. It shows students that as we deepen our relationship with the environment, we deepen our relationships with our selves and each other. This couldn’t be truer for the blooming of these projects after three years of disruption and loss during the pandemic.

To learn more about Eco-Green, head over to our website or the Eco-Schools USA YouTube channel where you will find more stories like these and further information on how to get involved.