GCES Going Green!

Environmental Issue Instruction

ALS Program

The Academic Life Skills classed learned about Penguins and their habitats.  They were split into three groups and each group had to learn about one specific penguin.  The penguins they learned about were the Rockhopper penguins, Adelie Penguins and Emperor Penguins.  During this project we watched the movie Happy Feet which incorporated all of these penguins.  In the movie, the subject of littering and the effects it had on the penguins arose which brought up the topic of littering in the classroom and how harmful it is not only on the environment but also on the animals.  The students enjoyed learning about the penguins, their habitats and ways to make sure that penguins are safe from pollution and littering.

Mrs Mackin, Speech Pathologist, and Mrs Murray, Intermediate ALS teacher did a lesson on the effect that pollution (items that can be recycled) has on fish in a pond.  We started with blue paper to represent the pond and lots of plastic fish.  We had a yellow chart that showed how many fish were in the pond and how much pollution was in the pond.  We started with lots of fish and no trash.  Then we had the students start adding trash to the pond slowly.  Each time trash was added, a fish or two were removed from the pond and the chart was showing less fish per trash being added.  In the end, the pond was full of trash and no fish.  We discussed with students the effects of trash on the Earth and how recycling could help prevent all this extra trash and pollution.


Teachers in the MINC-P/K (Multiple Intense Needs Classroom Preschool & Kindergarten) class taught students about what it means to recycle items and the importance of saving scrap paper to use for future projects.  They taught students that paper comes from trees and that the more paper they conserve and re-use, the fewer trees there are that need to be cut down.  With that in mind, students used recycled, left-over construction paper to work on their fine motor skills by cutting out different shapes using scissors during their table time after arrival.
During a week in February, 2011, our preschool curriculum theme was "Earth is Our Home."  We learned how to take care of our own homes and the home we all share - Earth.  We've been discussing why it's important to reuse items to reduce waste (or garbage) to keep the Earth clean and healthy.  In this activity, students were asked to sort items into garbage and recycling piles.  The objective of this lesson was that students would be able to correctly sort items into each pile, identify some categories of materials that are recyclable (paper, glass, plastic, and metal) and give an appropriate reason why an item could be recycled or why not.  Below are some samples of students' responses:

"We recycle at my house.  My mom recycles magazines.  They're [made of] paper, so you can recycle paper."
"You can't recycle graham crackers, because they're not metal or plastic."
"Glass [jars] can be recycled because you can use it again for something else, like to hold your pencils."
"You have to throw tissues away because they have germs."


As a follow up to the energy conservation presentation by Diane Sweeney, Kindergarten teachers spent instructional time teaching students about the human impact on the environment.  Students learned to explain that humans use resources from the environment to meet needs and wants, and that using resources can affect the environment.  They also learned to identify factors that contribute to air, water, and land pollution.  Upon reflection, students wrote a commitment to conserve energy in their homes and at school. 
In a Kindergarten lesson, students learned to identify what plants need to live and discussed the steps of planting.  They showed their knowledge of planting by writing and illustrating directions for planting a seed.  The teacher read Bear and Bunny Grow Tomatoes to students and asked the children to discuss what the bear and bunny were doing while planting the seeds.  After the reading and a short discussion, the teacher asked the students for help planting her seeds.   After the teacher modeled the steps, the students went outside in small groups and planted grass seed in a cup.  Finally, students sequenced the steps for planting a seed.

Plant and Seed Lesson
On Earth Day in Kindergarten, students examined ways to take care of the Earth and identified why it is important to take care of the Earth.  The teacher read aloud Our Class is Going Green, written by kindergarten students of the Oak Park Elementary School.  Next, students looked at a series of pictures of green and non-green activities.  They identified green pictures by growing like a tree and the non-green activities by crossing their arms and looking mad.  Next, the class brainstormed ideas for what they could do to celebrate Earth Day, and why it's important to take good care of the Earth.  Finally, students wrote their favorite way they would be taking care of the Earth. 

1st Grade

In November of 2011, Mr. Echentile’s first grade students learned about what it means to recycle and the importance of recycling both in school and at home. Students explored the various materials that can be recycled and created a list of items that we can recycle in our very own classroom. A student job was created in which they are responsible for turning off the lights every time our class leaves the classroom, a recycling bin was designated for empty water bottles, yogurt containers, and other recyclable materials students use during snack time and two students collected these items daily. In addition to recycling paper, our class decided to differentiate between paper that should go straight into the recycling bin or can be used as scrap paper and then distributed to the recycling bin for collection. Lastly, as part of Gorman Crossing's effort to GO GREEN, students utilized their writing and illustration skills to write a pledge to support our Gorman Gator’s becoming an eco-friendly community. They pledged to bring in their reusable napkin every Wednesday to help celebrate the schools Waste Free Wednesday!

First graders learned about the relationship between the sun and the Earth and sun through an interactive Powerpoint picture presentation.  They learned about recent changes to the Earth's climate that have more to do with poor choices made by people than actual changes in the environment.  Finally, we brainstormed ways that we can make a change for the better.  For our final project, students wrote letters to their parents offering ways that they can practice "green" habits together.  Students plan to bring in images of their "green" activities to share with the class as the year goes on.

2nd Grade

Butterfly Life Cycles/Habitat - Each spring, second grade students learn about the life cycle of a butterfly.  During the unit, students learn how to care for the developing butterflies and their habitats.  They visited Brookside Gardens and toured the butterfly pavilion where they learned about many different kinds of species, plants, and flowers.  They watched them grow and raised them from tiny larvae to adult butterflies.  As a culminating project, the butterflies are released on school grounds to continue the cycle.

In social studies, second grade students learned about different types of pollution, including land, water, and air pollution.  They discussed the effects of pollution on the environment and their communities.  After reading books about pollution, students were given the task of cleaning up a community park.  In cooperative groups, they created a poster to bring attention to the pollution problem and offer solutions for restoring the park.

In science, second grade students learned about soil and erosion.  They took nature walks around the school to observe the environment and identify needs.  With careful preparations, students created soil boxes with optimal conditions for grass growth.  The grass quickly thrived and will be used to fill in bare areas on school grounds.

3rd Grade

Each year in honor of Earth day, third grade students learn about the environment and the role that trees play in helping to maintain a healthy, sustainable Earth.  Students learn to describe the ways in which trees provide energy for human use.  They also learn to determine the best planting location for trees in order to conserve energy.  Third grade teachers spend three days instructing students prior to their culminating activity.  On day one, students partner read "Planting Trees to Help the Planet" and share new ideas with the class.  Next, they respond in writing to the prompt, "Arbor Day is a day to think about the importance of trees to our earth..."  On day two, students read two sets of directions for planting a tree and compare both sets of directions, followed by a whole class discussion.  Students work with partners to read and discuss, "Where Can I Plant My Tree" and then work together to complete the organizer.  Finally, each student completes the worksheet, "My planting location will be..."  At the end of the lesson, each student will take home their organizer and planting location and discuss their decision with their families.  On day three, each student is given a seedling to take home and plant, and a certificate for having planted their seedling and helped our planet.

Lesson Resources

As part of a 4th quarter Social Studies lesson, third grade students create an invention using pieces from the trash or the recycling bin.  This is a lesson they call, "Trash to Treasure."  Teachers and students discuss/review garbage going into landfills and the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling to care for the environment.  Teachers begin by displaying different collected objects and brainstorming with the students what they could be made into.  For example, a milk carton could be decorated and used as a watering can, an empty shoebox could be used for a rock collection, or a paper towel tube could be used as a telescope.  Students then collect the items and art supplies needed for the project and work on creating their "treasure."   Upon completion, the projects and inventions are displayed in a "Recycled Treasures Art Gallery."

4th grade

Fourth grade students investigated the soil on school grounds to determine what plants would successfully grow in that habitat.  They used an understanding of Earth's surface features, environmental conditions, and environmental changes to decide how to design the garden area in front of the school cafeteria.  In the end, students decided that a butterfly garden would be the most beneficial use of the space.  After a study about the importance of using native plants, students decided to plant only specimens that are well adapted to the local conditions.  Students discovered that there are many benefits to building a butterfly garden.  First, a well designed butterfly garden may provide a safe-haven for butterflies and other wildlife to gather, acquire food and water, reproduce, and seek shelter.  The garden will also attract wildlife for the purpose of observation, enjoyment, and study.  Finally, the butterfly garden could be used for scientific study by various grades in the future.
During the months of April through June 2010, Mary Reinhard oversaw a team of twenty-two fourth graders who participated in an instructional elective group called the "Save the Penguins Club."  The purpose of the club was to educate students and the community about ways to help save the penguins by reducing global warming.  The group met on thirteen different occasions.  The series of meetings began with students learning about global warming and its impact on penguins by reading a variety of articles and informational texts.  Then, the club decided that the best way to increase community awareness was to create a penguin game that families could play during our annual spring carnival.  For a majority of their classes, club members researched ideas to save penguins and wrote true/false cards to use in the game.  They also spent a lot of time making penguin-themed prizes to hand out at the carnival.  On June 4th, the fourth grade students independently ran the Save the Penguins Booth at the school's spring carnival.  About 150 students played the game, and overall awareness was raised in the community.  The club turned out to be a great success.
In 2010, fourth grade students made oyster reef balls to put in the Chesapeake Bay.  Students learned that oysters help filter water and help reduce pollution.  These orbs provide habitats for oysters and small marine life.  Teachers, parent volunteers, and students worked together to make four of these balls.  Attached, one will see two of the oyster reef balls.  Students learned how the openings provide hiding places for small marine life and protect them from predators.  Also, oysters can grow and reproduce on the concrete surfaces.  Some fourth grade students made a mural to show what the oyster reef balls would look like in the Chesapeake Bay.  They researched different fish and marine life to illustrate how water quality and life would improve because of the reduced pollution.  Some fourth grade students also created an interactive play.  They demonstrated the process of how oyster reef balls would help reduce pollution.  They started with a "dirty" tank by using transparent overheads with black spots, and using green yarn to represent algae blooms, and then placed the orb models in the tank.  Students acted out different lines and then added a new layer of transparent overheads with marine life returning and new plants and creatures improving the state of the Bay.
To commemorate Dr. Seuss's birthday, Ms. Bystry planned a "green friendly" lesson for fourth grade students that used Seuss's book, The Lorax.  She began by asking students to silently reflect about a few decisions that they had recently made and how those decisions affected others.  She informed students that they would be reading a story about a man who made a decision that would benefit himself, but hurt many other people.  While reading The Lorax, Ms. Bystry paused several times to ask the students to make predictions or reflect about what was happening in the book.  At the conclusion of the story, students were offered the imaginary "last tree seed on Earth" and told to express their ideas for what to do with it in writing.  Many students came up with creative, inventive ways to plant/use the last seed to start a new population of trees and benefit as many people as possible.  After the lesson, students reflected about the fact that many of Earth's resources are limited and we must make a huge effort to be better conservationists! 

5th grade

 Students in fifth grade read and discussed “Everyone is Part of a Watershed!” found in their student science notebooks.  Next, they came up with a definition for watershed.  They looked at a map of Maryland and traced the flow of all the major rivers into the Chesapeake Bay.  Students worked hard to create a model of a watershed to help prepare for their tree planting field trip to create a Riparian Forest Buffer.  As a culminating activity, students went on a field trip to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to plant trees and create a buffer zone.

During the months of May and June, 2010, Mrs. Reinhard taught a CEU (curriculum extension unit) to a group of 4th grade students that was titled, "Planet Ocean."  Throughout the unit, students learned about water pollution and the Deep Water Horizon spill.  They also learned about oceanography.  With this new knowledge, students wrote and created a short film to inform viewers about the BP oil spill.  Groups learned about videography and practiced the skills of planning and teamwork.  

Planet Ocean Lesson Plan
From January through March 2010, Mrs. Reinhard taught a "Politics of Persuasion" unit that focused on the environmental issue of Styrofoam use. Students learned to persuasively communicate about the issue by accessing websites to learn about the issue and the suppliers and sellers of Styrofoam egg cartons.  They also collected Styrofoam cartons from families at GCES.  Students sent letters to stores and packagers that sell eggs in Styrofoam.  They drew political cartoons about the issue, took persuasive pictures about Styrofoam, and developed matching persuasive slogans.
        Delegate Guy Guzzone visited the Gorman Crossing Elementary School Fifth Grade students, at their request. During the visit, the students shared their research findings with Delegate Guzzone and he shared his insights about the Maryland political process.
        The G/T Politics of Persuasion class has been studying the usage of plastic, paper, and reusable shopping bags in Howard county for several months.  First, the class directly observed and tallied over 2,000 shopping carts on shopping trips with their parents.  The class found that about 75% of the shoppers left the store with plastic shopping bags in their carts.  The class followed up this initial research with a second survey of 250 adults on their perception of their shopping bag preferences, using the website Survey Monkey.com.  During their research, the class discovered that Howard County representative, Guy Guzzone, is a co-sponsor of a current bill that would directly impact this issue in Maryland.
        Guzzone spoke about the origins and current status of House Bill 1034, (Clean the Streams and Beautify the Bay of 2011), which was proposed to encourage behavioral change among shoppers.  If passed, the bill will impose a small tax on paper or plastic bag use in Maryland stores. 

Related Arts - Media

The GCES media specialist, Cheryl Valentine, displays and promotes the check out of environmentally friendly books during the month of April to accompany the various celebrations of Earth day around the school building.  Mrs. Valentine also plans a lesson and a read aloud per grade level that centers on the theme of living a green lifestyle.  She does this with students a minimum of once a year.  Each year when Mrs. Valentine and Mrs. Parater conduct inventory and order new books, they choose a large selection of books that promote and explain ways to live a healthier, greener lifestyle in today's ever-changing world.

Related Arts - Physical Education

Recycling Quest is a game played in Physical Education class that integrated the concept of recycling into an aerobic activity.  The purpose of this game is for the recyclers to collect and deposit the trash into the proper recycling bins. Bean bags of different colors represented the different types of trash (paper, plastic, glass, metal). While the recyclers were recycling the trash, there were a few litter bug taggers that were trying to prevent the recycling from happening. In between each round, recycling facts were shared with the students to show them the kind of impact recycling has on the environment. By playing this game, the students learned the importance of working together to recycle and become "GREEN". 

Professional Development

Recycling Presentation - 9/29/10

On September 29, 2010 Alicia Moore came to Gorman and conducted a staff presentation about recycling.  She described and showed what types of items can and cannot be recycled and answered any relevant questions pertaining to recycling.  She also showed a brief video to help staff understand more about the recycling facilities in Elkridge, MD.  Although the meeting was non-mandatory, a majority of our staff showed up and we received a lot of positive feedback after the presentation. 

Energy Conservation Presentation - 10/26/10

On October 26, 2010 Diane Sweeney (from Howard County Public Schools) came to Gorman Crossing to present to staff about ways to conserve energy both in school and at home.  She told staff about the necessity to start saving energy from an environmental standpoint.  She showed us a few graphs and data points to help us better understand energy use at Gorman and ways to improve our consumption.  She helped staff understand the difference between being stingy and wasteful with electricity.  Finally, she recommended many measures for energy conservation, including: keeping doors and windows closed when the building is using heat or air conditioning, using ventilating fans only when they are needed, closing shades and/or blinds after school to reduce heat loss through window areas in the winter and to keep solar heat out in summer months, turning off lights when rooms are not in use, turning off computers, and reducing the number of microwaves, refrigerators, and printers that are plugged in around the building. 

Going Green Best Practices  - Staff Development 1/24/10

On Monday, January 24, 2010, Ami Holden (1st grade teacher) conducted a staff development session to tell staff about best practices related to going green.  Staff compared Gorman Crossing's use of photocopies with other schools that have achieved Green School status.  Then, they were asked to consider their own use of photocopies/best practices in the classroom.  Finally, they were introduced to a GCES resource that supports the green school initiative.  Staff can now access an on-line GCES Green School video archive to access ideas for best practices in the classroom.  http://goinggreenbestpractices.weebly.com

Howard County Conservancy Workshop - 1/25/11

On Tuesday, January 25, 2011, a member of our green school committee, Stephen Futado, attended a workshop at the Howard County Conservancy.  The workshop was a small group and more of a question and answer meeting.  Some tips were shared, like having a fashion show with recycled materials, putting up information signs next to a planting of water project outside, and having each grade post to a spread sheet any green projects they do and its purpose.  At this meeting, he also learned of important upcoming dates and events to share with our school.

Chesapeake Classrooms - Summer Immersion Course

During the summer of 2010, Jennifer Sutcliff (4th grade teacher) attended a five day immersion summer course.  The course focused on Chesapeake Bay watershed investigations, learning to use the enviroment as an integrating context, and connections to the community and schoolyard.  Jen has taken a lot of the information she learned during the week long study to enrich the science curriculum for her students and to raise awareness about some of the major environmental concerns that the Chesapeake Bay is faced with.

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Training

In the fall of 2009, all fourth grade teachers attended a professional development at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.  Teachers were in-serviced about the facility and various exhibits that their students would be seeing on a field trip at the end of September.  Teachers were trained on different activities they could do with students while at the facility, as well as ways to tie the trip to the science curriculum and lessons.

Butterfly Tagging

Teachers representing first and second grade attended a monarch butterfly workshop. They learned how to safely capture, tag and release monarch butterflies. They also learned about plants preferred by monarch butterflies for laying eggs and sustenance. The second grade representative attended the workshop with the objective of supporting the team’s butterfly unit. The first grade representative attended the workshop to learn about butterfly habitats in order to assist with Gorman Crossing Elementary School’s butterfly garden.

National Aquarium - Aquatic & Marine Science

As a science teacher, Mrs. Mullenholz was interested in new ways to motivate her students and teach them about important environmental issues.  She joined a group of local educators at the National Aquarium in Washington DC for a weekend workshop.  The “Aquatic and Marine Science for Today’s Classroom Teacher” workshop explored local and global marine life and the effects of pollution on their ecosystems.  The teachers took a guided tour of the aquarium to discuss classroom lesson ideas and field trip options.  They practiced experiments that could be done in the classroom with students and discussed how to modify them for various grade levels.  Books, resource packets, and lesson materials were provided to share with other educators back at Gorman Crossing.


Waste Free Wednesday Trophy

In order to celebrate the students participating in Waste Free Wednesday lunches and using their waste-free bandanas, our green school committee created a trophy out of recycled materials.  Each week, that trophy is awarded to the grade who had the highest number of participating students at lunch on Wednesday of that week.  The weekly winner is announced to the school on morning announcements every Thursday, and the trophy stays in that team pod for the entire week.  The trophy has created a friendly competition around the school and it encourages teamwork and camaraderie amongst teams throughout the school.

Green Wednesdays

In the spirit of Waste Free and Lights Out Lunches on Wednesday, our school has encouraged students to wear green on Wednesdays to show their support for the going green cause.  Students love the fact that there are children all over the school in all of the different grades wearing the same color!  It creates a sense of community and pride within our school.  Seeing green everywhere on Wednesdays also reminds us all how important it is to raise awareness in both our school and our community.

Spirit Day - Green Day

On March 25, 2011 the Student Council sponsored a spirit day called "Green Day."  Students were encouraged to wear the color green, any organic/recycled clothing, or shirts that have a "green" message on them.  The purpose of the spirit day was so that staff and students could show support for our green initiative and to build a sense of community by all wearing the same color. 

Grade 1 "Trashion Show"

On Friday, March 18, students in Mr. Echentile's first grade class put on a "trashion show" to celebrate going green.  For almost two weeks, students collected re-usable trash items from home and school.  They sorted the items into containers, similar to the way in which materials are sorted in a recycling facility.  Students were given time to use these items to create things they could wear and display during a green fashion show.  Items included hats, bracelets, belts, glasses, skirts, and many more. 

Beautifying School Grounds

As a way of celebrating all of our school's hard work and accomplishments toward becoming a green school, a group of fifth grade students organized a "Recess Trash Collection" group to keep school grounds beautiful and to show our pride for the area that we work and play in.  Every Monday, students obtain trash bags and gloves from Ms. Hobbs, and spend their recess time picking up garbage from our school grounds.  This is a self-guided activity that was created and is maintained strictly by students!

Student Recycling Website

The fourth grade student liasion for our green school committee, Josselyn Martinez, created a website to celebrate the paper recycling project that was taking place at Gorman Crossing.  With very little adult support, Josselyn established and maintains the website. 

The website can be viewed at:
Our third grade student liason, Jessica Wu, conducted interviews and research about going green at Gorman, and wrote an essay of support and celebration in honor of our school.  The essay was shared with administrators and the green school committee, as well as posted for students and staff to read around the building.

Letter of Celebration