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Peace Seed Connection Archive

FINALLY!

Spring is here after a bitter winter that held more than its share of surprises.  It’s that time of year when our senses are reawakened—by the caress of warm air, the fragrance of blossoms, and the morning birdsong wafting in through open windows. Our appreciation for Mother Nature is in full bloom, and we re-commit ourselves to caring for the environment and teaching our students to do the same.

This issue of the PSC features Montessori schools and students working actively as stewards of the planet. Some have taken on a specific cause, like protecting the nests of endangered sea turtles. Others, such as Abintra Montessori School—whose students are shown planting a tree for Earth Day—are working as a community to consistently reduce, reuse, and recycle.

We also celebrate Montessori schools that have earned recognition for meeting the
highest green building standards with a new structure or remodeling project. Follow the links in this article to learn more about these schools and the process they went through to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

You’ll find more resources in our “Worth Sharing” section, including Web sites replete with activities for teachers and students that foster knowledge and appreciation for many aspects of planet earth. Also recommended are 2 books for children that artfully explore the interconnectedness of the natural world.

We hope this issue of the PSC motivates and inspires you. Happy Earth Day to all!

Warmly,
Nancy Hofer
PSC Editor

If your school or a class of students is involved in work that makes the world a better place, whether it is humanitarian efforts or environmental sustainability, please let us know. We would like to share your work through this newsletter.

Good Works

Fraser Woods 8th Graders Tackle Electronic Waste

Each year, Americans discard more than 2 million tons of outdated electronic equipment.  At Fraser-Woods School in Newtown, Connecticut, the 8th year leadership class is examining this “designed for the dump” mentality and exploring ways to safely recycle electronics.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, Americans own approximately 24 electronic products per household. A majority of these items end up in landfills or are illegally shipped to developing nations such as China, India, Ghana, and Nigeria. There, poorly paid and often underage workers are exposed to toxic chemicals as they strip precious materials from these devices. The chemicals contaminate the air and water, and put workers at increased risk of cancer, kidney damage, lung disease, and other threats to health.

To address the illegal dumping and shipping of unwanted electronics, Fraser-Woods students have organized an e-waste collection drive that will culminate with a presentation at the school’s annual Earth Day celebration on April 21. They are also producing a video about the perils of e-waste, complete with guidelines for purchasing green electronics, to be shared with the school and the larger community.

On the policy front, the class is spearheading an e-mail campaign to urge Congress to support the Responsible Electronic Recycling Act (HR 6252), a bill which would make it illegal to export toxic e-waste to developing countries.

By educating their community, enlisting their legislators, and partnering with their local transfer station and MyBoneYard®, a national recycling organization, Fraser-Woods students intend to make a dent in the proliferation of electronics that clutter local landfills. They also hope to inspire others to join the campaign to stop the global dumping of e-waste.

Abintra Montessori School Embraces Green Living

The vision of Abintra Montessori School in Nashville, Tennessee, is to develop confident, self-motivated learners who creatively meet life’s challenges. We recognize sustainability as one of these challenges, and the school works hard to put green methods into practice whenever and wherever possible.

Abintra's students practice sustainability by recycling and composting, conserving electricity, and preserving natural habitats in the surrounding environment. We run an ink cartridge recycling program as well as an electronics disposal station, where the local community can drop off old appliances to keep hazardous waste from ending up in landfills.

Taped over light switchEach year we observe "Blackout Week," during which students, faculty, and staff conserve light and energy by minimizing electricity usage throughout the day.

Creating a truly green and sustainable environment takes everyone's diligent efforts on a daily basis. But Abintra students rise to the challenge with grace and enthusiasm, as evidenced in the words of these Upper Elementary students:

"Here at Abintra the students try to be conservative with the materials we have. We recycle many things such as paper, plastic, aluminum, and cardboard. We also compost. Composting is a great way to stay green. Each classroom has a bowl or container that we empty into the compost bins every afternoon." - Sierra

"We re-use scrap paper so we don't waste any paper. We try to print out our work as little as possible as to not waste paper or ink." - Natalie

"We use fabric rags to clean our room and cloth napkins at lunch, and we compost our unprocessed, half-eaten food instead of letting it decompose in a landfill. We pick up litter on our campus and write in journals instead of using loose sheets of paper. Earlier this year we visited the recycling center to try to learn more about what can be recycled and how we can beautify our neighborhoods and the places we go on a regular basis." - Katie (Upper  Elementary student)

"All of the classrooms help out. We have many gardens and places for animals to stay. We love our creatures here at Abintra!" - Isabel

To learn more about Abintra's green environment and our approach to Montessori education, visit our Web site or call us at 615-352-4317.

Greensboro Montessori Students Help Protect Endangered Turtles

Each spring our 8th graders travel to the east coast of Costa Rica to volunteer with the Programa de Protección de Tortugas in Matina, Limon. The students spend 3 days and 2 nights working with scientists to study and help preserve the leatherback turtles that nest on the coast at this time of year. These huge, ancient reptiles are in danger of extinction due to beach development, poachers, and other human threats.

At night the students take 4-hour shifts, scouring a 6-kilometer stretch of beach in search of turtles laying eggs. Working with a trained guide, they help collect turtle eggs as they are being laid. They measure and tag the turtle, record its position on the beach, and then carry the eggs, ever so gently, back to the research station. There the eggs are re-buried in nests for incubation in a hatchery. 

During the day the students help create new hatcheries: clearing land, raking and sifting sand, and marking the incubation grids. They also build fences around the hatcheries—to protect the eggs, the hatchlings, and the future of the species.

Earthly Stewardship Starts Early at Bunche Montessori

As we all know, so much of living the Montessori way is to understand and live the life of an “Earthly Steward.”  As Montessori guides we also know the importance of nurturing our young children’s natural tendency of love and respect for the Earth.

At Bunche Montessori Early Childhood Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we provide many ways   for our students to be environmentally responsible.  For example, each of our 3 – 6 classrooms contains worm composting bins. The children are responsible for taking care of the bins and for composting snack and food preparation waste. In doing so, they learn how worms are important to the health of the soil—a hands-on lesson in respect for nature and the value of even the smallest of Earth’s creatures.

The children also recycle and compost lunch waste.  Aluminum and plastic lunch containers are rinsed and recycled, and compostable lunch waste is deposited in our outdoor composter. 

Our commitment to recycling is evident throughout the school. Visitors entering the building’s back door are greeted by our 6-Pack Ring Recycling Tree, decorated by the students with plastic rings from 6-packs. When tree can’t hold another ring, they are sent out for recycling.

Every classroom contains paper and co-mingle recycle containers, which the students empty, as needed, into larger waste receptacles.  All recyclables are picked up once a week by our city’s waste management company.

An exception is aluminum cans, which get special attention at Bunche. Our popular can crusher is centrally located in the building, and all students take part in rinsing, crushing, and recycling cans to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity.

We are always eager to find new ways to protect the environment, and this year our school has markedly reduced the amount of paper used to communicate with families.  Weekly classroom and monthly school newsletters are now sent electronically to most households, thanks to the compilation of e-mail addresses for all in our school community.

In March our school was accepted into the Fort Wayne Watershed Rain Garden Initiative.  To improve the quality of the city’s drinking water, Fort Wayne’s City Utilities has set a goal of establishing 1,000 rain gardens in the next 2 years. The city plans and designs the gardens, and purchases rain garden-appropriate plants. It also provides schools with training manuals and lessons for guiding students in garden care. The school’s role is to plant and maintain the garden—an opportunity for our children to actively protect and care for the planet.

Our school population serves as Earthly Stewards.  Administration, teachers, and support staff all see the benefit and need to model environmentally responsible behavior.  We never know the global impact we may have. But we know we have instilled in our students a love for the Earth that they will carry throughout their lives, and we hope future generations at Bunche Montessori Early Childhood Center will live in a world full of beauty and peace.

Green Building

Montessori Schools Earn Recognition for Green Construction

Many Montessori schools involved in building or remodeling projects have gone green in a big way. Guided by standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council, these schools have achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, an internationally recognized measure of the highest eco-friendly building practices.  

LEED assesses a building’s environmental impact across a broad range of sustainability and health measures, including energy savings, water efficiency, indoor air quality, and sensitivity to local ecosystems.

Listed below are several LEED-certified Montessori schools with links to Web sites that provide more information.

Montessori School of Maui, Makawao, HI

Pleasant Ridge Montessori, Cincinnati, OH

Ruffing Montessori School,  Cleveland Heights, OH

St. Catherine’s Montessori School, Houston, TX; Hilltop Montessori School, Birmingham, AL

Worth Sharing

Noteworthy Books

Looking for books to help your students explore interconnections in the natural world? These 2 selections do it beautifully.

In You Are the Earth: Know Your World So You Can Help Make It Better, authors David Suzuki and Kathy Vanderlinden explain how everything on Earth is connected. Packed with scientific facts, hands-on activities, and stories about children who have made a difference by being green, this appealing volume encourages young readers to get involved in preserving the planet.

The book reflects the mission of the David Suzuki Foundation, which works through education and advocacy to natural conserve resources and to protect the diversity of nature for future generations.

Beautifully illustrated and designed, Connected Wisdom: Living Stories for Living Systems, could easily be a coffee table book. But it is much more. Through simple folk tales from around the world, author Linda Booth Sweeney, EdD, introduces us to the profound principles of living systems. Woven into the stories of peoples who lived close to nature are lessons about interdependence, system integrity, biodiversity, rightness of size, and more. For both students and their teachers, this thought-provoking book provides a vital perspective for understanding the interconnectedness of our world. 

Linda is a systems educator, researcher, and writer who is dedicated to helping people of all ages learn to embed everyday decisions with a deeper understanding of living systems principles. She works with Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development (SEED) to integrate the principles and tools of systems thinking into education materials.

Recommended Web Sites

The Internet is a potent tool for engaging young minds in the issues facing our planet. Here, we offer some of our favorite Web sites for both educators and students. Included in the list are links to organizations doing important work toward sustaining the Earth and its inhabitants.

Staff picks from the Care2  social action network provide a high-caliber assortment of science and nature sites for children and youth. From Ranger Rick’s Kid Zone  to BBC Nature Online, all of the sites are informative, interactive, and include a teacher’s resource section.

The Natural Resources Defense Council offers a wealth of sites for teaching environmental topics to children at all levels. Options include The Green Squad, an animated interactive program for promoting environmentally safe and sustainable schools.  The Electronic Naturalist, an online education program, offers an environmental unit each week of the school year. Other sites listed here focus on animals, plants, habitats, energy, pollution, recycling, and much more. 

Involve your students in 350.org’s  international campaign to find solutions to the world’s climate crisis. The numeral 350 refers to 350 parts per million (ppm), the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere widely considered to be the safe upper limit. Our current carbon dioxide level stands at 388 ppm. Next fall, have students join the group’s annual October 10 “day of action” by creating the numeral 350 in some way and posting a photo of it to the Web site.

Through Save the Rain  it takes just $15 to provide water for one child for a lifetime. Visit the site’s School to School project page to learn how your school can raise funds for a rain harvesting system to provide water for a sister school in East Africa.

Visit the “Heroes of Compassion” section of the Amman Imman site to see how schools are raising money to support the construction of safe water wells for the Azawak people of Niger. Many Montessori schools are participating by pooling the funds they raise.

One Change encourages communities to take simple actions to make a positive impact on the planet. Join their “Project Porchlight” commitment to replace your school’s incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescents (CFL), and ask parents to do the same at home. Or encourage your school community to improve fuel efficiency by measuring the air pressures in their cars tires once a month.

Join the Roots and Shoots program to create positive change by working with others in your hometown or across the world. The Web site provides group listings, project ideas, and a resource center.

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