Schools for change: How one group of girls mobilized peers to aid the Gulf

Eco-Schools leaders visit Maryland elementary school's Go Green Team

06-22-2010 // Laura Hickey, Senior Director of NWF's Eco-Schools USA

Laura Hickey and Jennifer Hammonds, members of NWF’s Eco-Schools USA team, were offered a unique opportunity to visit a Howard County, Maryland public elementary school this week.  Here’s their account of one special group of rising stars.

Fulton Elementary in Maryland opened its doors to National Wildlife Federation this week.  The reason for our visit to the school? Its Go Green Team wants to be part of a solution to the BP Oil Spill.

The Go Green Team is comprised of handful of 5th grade girls who found themselves feeling distressed over the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.  The students approached their school counselor, Ms. Quirk, to conduct a spare change collection campaign for National Wildlife Federation’s efforts to aid wildlife, habitat and people in the wake of the catastrophe.  Ms. Quirk quickly spoke with Ms. Moore-Robey, the school’s principal, who fully supported the effort! The girls were excited.

Next, the Go Green Team decorated donation boxes which were placed in the lunchroom, classrooms and in common areas.  The students asked schoolmates to bring spare change from home to donate for the cause.  Within two weeks, these 5th graders had raised more than $500 (that’s a lot of coins!).  A local Girl Scout troop dropped by the school with a check for $50, and soon Fulton had gathered enough funds to make the donation an even $600! 

This week, my colleague Jennifer and I traveled to the school to see the Go Green Team get recognized at the 5th grade’s end of the year assembly. The cafeteria was packed with students, teachers, parents and even press! NWF was introduced, and took the opportunity to thank students and faculty for supporting restoration efforts in the Gulf region. 

People are curious about Gulf cleanup efforts, so we told the audience a little bit more about how NWF is working on the ground with our wildlife surveillance volunteer teams.  We assured the students that many adults are working around the clock to fix this terrible environmental issue.

After the assembly, Jennifer and I chatted with the Go Green Team and heard from the girls why the environment is so important, why they want their school to be greener, and discuss other ways that they can help. 

Many of these bright girls are interested in science, animals and the outdoors.  We gave each of them a reusable Ranger Rick water bottle, and the entire 5th grade received a copy of the latest issue of Ranger Rick magazine.

Fulton Elementary recently achieved “Maryland Green Flag School” status—an honor which means it has met certain criteria to be considered a sustainable school.   We’ll head back to the school in the fall to talk to students and faculty about becoming one of our star Eco-Schools.  The Go Green Team has promised they will carry forward the green ethic when they begin middle school this fall.

At the end of the day—a half day for the kids!—a member of the media asked me what it meant for NWF to receive a donation of $600, thinking that the money probably wouldn’t go far. 

Our response is this: there’s no price tag on helping build the next generation of environmental stewards.   These girls care enough about the natural world and its inhabitants to galvanize their peers and help correct a terrible wrong.  

That’s something that will last a lifetime.

Contact Laura about Eco-Schools USA, and other similar initiatives, at Photo Credit: NWF's Jennifer Hammonds.