Earth Day may be in April, but the student environmentalists on the Frederick Elementary School (FES) Green Team are focused on creating a greener school, community and planet throughout the school year.
Now in its second year, the Green Team–part of FES’s OST/After School program–is a group of enthusiastic team of six 4th and 5th graders led by Jillian Zarra, FES Librarian, and Janikka Simms, OST Program Director for the After School and Summer Programming at FES.
Throughout the 2022-23 school year, the Green Team has been working with Bon Secours Urban Farm to collaborate on the design of a new Teaching Garden at FES. While Bon Secours is the main community partner for FES and supports the school and neighborhood in numerous ways, this is the first time that FES has partnered with the Urban Farm on a project significant to the school community at large.
The FES Teaching Garden
This spring, the Green Team is getting a true hands-on education by building the Teaching Garden. Consisting of three raised garden beds that are 3’x8’, the Teaching Garden covers a large area (18’ x 30’). It is constructed to be part of the school’s curriculum and culture for years to come.
“The purpose of the garden at FES is to help our students develop lifelong nutritious eating habits by educating them about the connections between their food choices and the impact they have on their brain development,” Ms. Simms explains. “The Teaching Garden will allow our students to choose healthier options by choosing local, fresh foods that are available during the school day. The Green Team will also strive to educate the families by providing resources to create healthy meal options.”
Creating a Teaching Garden on the grounds of the recently renovated FES building has long been a dream. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Zarra and Ms. Simms began working on plans, but when the pandemic and remote learning hit, plans for a garden wilted. In May 2022, Ms. Zarra completed the application for the Baltimore City Public School Beautification program for funding, and since funding approval, the garden project has blossomed.
In 2021-22, the Green Team planted herbs and took two field trips to the Baltimore City School Great Kids Farm for the Spring Workshop and to learn about composting, plants, and seeds. The student leaders on the Green Team also are spreading awareness on the importance of recycling by creating posters and displaying them in each of FES grade-level collaborative spaces.
“Projects like this are important for students,” adds Najah Hameed, FES Community School Coordinator. “It’s a fun hands-on experience. It’s a great way for students to be proud of the work that they do in and around their school. Most importantly, it’s a great way to teach students about environmental science and health, as well as can be the catalyst to have them begin critically thinking of ways they can sustain and develop safe and green neighborhoods in their community.”
Earlier this year, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works selected the FES Green Team to participate in the 2023 Eco-Warriors of the Future Schools Competition. Winners of the competition will be announced on May 8, 2023, and winning schools receive funding for their green project.
Congratulations, Green Team, on your passion and purpose to improve your school and make a difference to your community and the Earth!