Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Exponential Growth

Cody Ewert
Middlesex Elementary
Carlisle PA
2015 TTEC Cohort

Since, our work in May, 2015, the Middlesex Environmental Trail has been featured in our cabinet level district newsletter sent by the Cumberland Valley School District Superintendent, Dr. Frederick Withum and Assistant Superintendent of Elementary, Dr. Patty Hillery.  We are also now an official site listed with the AT Seasons program for phenology monitoring of red oaks on our trail.  Additionally, we have two boy scouts seeking their Eagle Scout merit through projects they are doing along the nature trail, re-establishing environmental education informational signage, proportionate state markers for the AT along the length of our trail, and a milkweed patch with informational signage for monarch butterflies.  A formal proposal has been sent to the school district to use a space specifically for a pollinator garden of native plants.  Our PTO has supported our efforts in the outdoor classroom by purchasing a composite deck-box to store lesson resources, as well as 3 8ft composite picnic tables to provide additional workspace for students.  We are

awaiting a date from district administration to formally present this work at a school-board meeting later this year.  21 interested 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders have also committed to participation in the Middlesex Elementary Environmental Service Learning Club after school.  As though the above isn’t enough, we have our own website to house lesson resources and information for interested readers about topics related to the importance and benefits of children in nature, Project-Based Service Learning, Leave No Trace, AT Seasons, and the history of our trail.  Whoa! This just got serious! J
At this point in time, funding and service project ideas have become more relevant parts of the conversation.  We have encountered an individual within the community that has decided that he is willing to donate to the Middlesex Environmental Trail and support both short and long-term projects.  We have applied for and received a grant through The Eagle Foundation, a PTO led organization within our district that raises money in order to provide educational enrichment opportunities and clubs to students in the district.  We are also currently in the process of applying for a Lowe’s grant to help fund the pollinator garden project. 
With all of these successes, we have also been able to experience some of the “red-tape” challenges associated with an improvement plan of this magnitude in a large school district.  Last April, we were approved to move forward with all of the plans that have been previously shared by the Assistant Director of Facilities and Grounds.  You may already be able to see where this is going.  6 months later, members of the same department realized something big was happening over at Middlesex Elementary, and decided that it was worth a trip over to observe the activities.  Out of all of the planned activities, one component has not yet been shared.  Unfortunately, it is because I need to now figure out where to relocate it and how best to use it, if at all. 

This is a picture of our 3 stage compost bin built from recycled materials.  It was one of our goals to allow students to participate in the soil cycle as well as waste reduction by collecting specified food scraps after lunch and add it to Stage 1 of the bin.  As part of the club, students would learn about the science and benefits of composting, returning the created soil to apple trees that would provide them with food to bring back into the cafeteria. 
At this point in time, our district has stated that all food scraps must leave any district cafeteria in a trash bag due to sanitary and liability reasons. 
As much as I would like to continue this discussion with the members of this department, I feel as though it is in the best interest of our plans moving forward to be gracious and thankful for all of our approved opportunities. J
It is quite possible that students at some point will wonder why something is not in place at our school, and maybe that question will lead to an eventful service learning project! Unshaken pride, motivation, and determination are constantly driving the goals of the Middlesex Environmental Trail and its current stewards.  

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