Feature image: Students at Forest Oak Middle School participate in a clean-up day as part of their "Outdoor Learning and Sustainability Initiative" project.
On July 18, at A Midsummer Night’s Green, the USGBC National Capital Region community celebrated sustainability leaders across the Washington, D.C. area. Included in the celebrations were three schools from the area that demonstrated excellence in education, conservation and community action in their Connect the Dots projects, all the while boosting school curriculum to encourage students to be active stewards of the environment.
The yearlong Connect the Dots sustainability competition deepens collaboration between students, teachers, community members and volunteer green building mentors to help develop and implement low-cost, high-impact projects connected to their school buildings.
2018–2019 Connect the Dots winners
Forest Oak Middle School—Honor Award
At Forest Oak Middle School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the "Outdoor Learning and Sustainability Initiative" helped create a new outdoor learning space and is continuing to restore existing outdoor learning spaces. The Commons was designed and built thanks to volunteers, students and staff, and incorporates a variety of sustainability features ,such as raised garden beds, a forest and stream learning area, birdhouses and a butterfly garden. Students now have a more tangible means of interacting with their natural environment through learning about the importance of maintaining and protecting it.
Discovery Elementary School—Environmental Conservation Award
The "Schoolyard Habitat" project at Discovery Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, was led by members of the school’s Eco-Action Team. Students participated in learning activities and community service events centered on cleaning and caring for their vegetable garden and butterfly garden, as well as the surrounding habitat, to help protect the area’s biodiversity. Community support was provided by Long Branch Nature Center, which led an education session highlighting native wildlife, and Arlington Arts Truck, which helped implement artistic elements into the school’s habitat.
Takoma Education Campus—Environmental Education Award
The Takoma Education Campus’s "Greenhouse Resurrection" gave Washington, D.C., students a direct, hands-on approach to science by helping them make connections to the environment they regularly interact with. After recognizing the school’s greenhouse had not been in use for years, the school decided to repair it, to take advantage of the many educational opportunities greenhouses have to offer. The greenhouse now serves as a classroom for students, and teachers at the school will incorporate it into their science lesson plans and interactive lab classes.
USGBC National Capital Region is proud to recognize this year’s participants and winners, all of whom continually demonstrate a strong commitment to green building and sustainability for K–12 schools. Registration for the 2019–2020 Connect the Dots Green Schools Challenge will open in August, and we hope your school will join us in participating.