GCES Going Green!

Solid Waste Reduction

Waste Free Wednesdays

On Waste Free Wednesdays, students are encouraged to pack lunches and snacks in re-usable containers to reduce the amount of waste they produce at school throughout the day.  In the cafeteria, a survey is conducted each week to determine how many students in each grade participate, and that number is recorded on a graph for all of the students to see.  Students who participate in Waste Free Wednesdays at lunch are often rewarded with Gordy Bucks to encourage the behaviors.  Teachers are also encouraged to flip their trash cans over in the classroom to discourage students from throwing anything away.

Waste Free Wednesday Bandannas

In November, 2010, the green school committee joined efforts to sponsor the annual Math-A-Thon.  It was advertised that any team with 85% of the students achieving a score of at least 85% would receive team-colored, cotton handkerchiefs for use as napkins on Waste-Free Wednesdays.  This tied in well with an earlier recycling presentation where students learned that napkins and paper towels cannot be recycled because they've already been broken down into their simplest form.  Because of this, students had been thinking of alternatives to using napkins in the lunch room.  Fortunately, the bandannas provided great motivation for students to study their facts, and all students received his or her own team ‘napkin’ to take home and use every Wednesday to show team pride and green spirit.  Since receiving the bandannas at the end of November, students have made a great effort to bring their re-usable bandanna to use with their lunch every day of the week!

Cafeteria Recycling

Prior to September, 2010, students were not recycling in the cafeteria.  Thanks to Alicia Moore, the green school committee, and the custodial staff, a recycling program was started and continues in our school cafeteria.  Since then, students have used what they learned from Alicia Moore during a pod presentation to separate their own lunch items and recycle as much as possible.  Gorman has greatly improved waste reduction in the cafeteria on a daily basis!

GCES Paper Recycling Team

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, fourth and fifth grade students collect paper recycling from classrooms, offices, and all other instructional areas throughout the school building.  Each teacher was provided with at least one decorative plastic dish pan to keep in their area in which all paper is to be recycled.  With the assistance of the custodial staff, students generally fill one to two blue recycling receptacles on recycling days.  Since forming the club and initiating paper recycling in the classroom, students have become great advocates for recycling and awareness around the school has drastically improved! 

Electronic Delivery of Gator News

In an effort to greatly reduce paper consumption, Gorman Crossing electronically delivers the school newsletter to the community on Fridays.  Gator News includes a letter from the principal, important upcoming dates, notes from the PTA, and relevant information about future events at the school and in the community.   Families were introduced to Gator News and asked to sign up at back to school night in September.  Those who do not have computer access signed up separately to receive a paper copy of the newsletter so that everyone can stay in tune with things that are happening around the school.


Every year in the winter, the media specialist, Cheryl Valentine, runs a trade-a-book program in the library.  Students are permitted to bring in as many books as they desire for a one week period of time.  The following week, students may return to the library to make new selections from the other books that were brought in.  This is a fabulous program which encourages reading and promotes going green by recycling and re-using books.  It also reduces costs for families in the community, as purchasing new books can get expensive. 

Copy Free Days

In 2010, the green school committee started a copy free initiative where copiers would be shut down and unplugged for one day per month to save energy and reduce waste.  The copy free dates for 2010 were as follows:
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Staff was required to plan ahead and use best practices in their classrooms on copy free days.  The use of technology was encouraged and staff was trained on 1/24/11 on finding alternatives to using paper as often as possible.  As a follow up to copy free days, staff was sent an updated document showing the copy counts for the school so that everyone was aware of how much we were over/under our allotted amount.

1st Grade - Crayola Crayon Recycling Project

In a first grade unit titled, "Our Changing World," students learned how people in the past used resources from the environment to create items which helped them survive.  They read Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy and discussed the ways in which Samuel's life is alike/different from their lives today.  The teacher demonstrated the method that pilgrims used to make candles.  She informed students that they would be making candles in a way that was different from the pilgrims using recycled materials from their environment.  Using recycled crayons, rolling pins, and plastic bags, students crushed the crayons and filled a small tealight tin mold with the crushed crayon and a wick.  Candles were baked in an oven at 350 degrees and candles were sent home with students when cool.  A discussion ensued about ways that we use our environment today.

Office Depot - "Recycling Rules" Program

GCES teamed up with Office Depot in 2010 to start the "Recycling Rules" program at our school.  Our school is now collecting empty ink and toner cartridges and small electronics such as cell phones and rechargeable batteries.  Based on the value of our recyclables, the school is awarded with Office Depot gift cards to purchase supplies for our teachers and students.  Second grade teachers used the initiation of the program as another great opportunity to educate students about the importance of recycling.  The school community also participates in this program by sending in items from home to recycle.  Regular reminders are sent via our school conference and Gator News to encourage participation in the program.

"Elmer's Glue Crew" Recycling Program

During the 2010 - 2011 school year, third grade students initiated the "Elmer's Glue Crew" Recycling Program at Gorman Crossing.  Teachers have used the program as a fun, hands-on way of teaching students about recycling.  Our glue crew collects empty glue bottles and glue sticks from the school community in specific collection bins.  They clean the bottles and sticks out with warm water and then drop them off at a local Wal-Mart once the container is filled.  In turn, the plastic is recycled and re-used in similar products in the future.

GCES Sneaker Drive

During the fall of 2009, our P.E. teachers organized a shoe drive to recycle old sneakers.  In all, they collected about 100 pairs of shoes!  The following communication went home in our electronic newsletter to promote the shoe drive:
Have old sneakers just sitting around and don’t have a use for them?  Well we have the answer!  During the month of September the Physical Education department will be collecting old or unused sneakers for donation to Reuse-A-Shoe from Nike.  Nike will recycle the shoes to help make playground surfaces across the world to help kids become more physically active!  There will be a drop off box located in the school, as well as at our Gorman Crossing 5K run on September 12th.  The sneakers do not need to be Nike brand, just any sneakers that are gently used!

Domino Club

The third grade Domino Club always makes buttons for the club members.  In the past we have used paper, laminating film, and a button maker to create these buttons.

This year the Domino Club decided to recycle defective dominos and use them to make the Domino Club buttons.

Energy Conservation

Teacher Desk Lamps

In November, 2010 teachers were provided with the opportunity to obtain a free desk lamp from Office Depot to use during their planning time and all times when students are not present in the classroom.  Interested teachers were required to make a promise to use their lamps accordingly by making the following pledge: "I pledge to turn off my overhead lights in the classroom when students are not there, and I will use my brand new desk lamp during planning periods instead!"  We received a great response and about 45 staff members took advantage of the opportunity to receive a desk lamp.  We also have many staff members who use a personal desk lamp in their classroom during planning periods to reduce our electricity use. 

Lights out in the Classroom

In the spring of 2010, fourth grade teachers held a contest where students were asked to create an index sized card that would serve as a reminder to turn off the lights.  Within each classroom, teachers currently have a card displayed by the light switch to remind students about the importance of turning off lights when you leave a room.  Most teachers have also started to include a "Lights Off" person as part of their classroom list of jobs.  Overall student awareness has gone up this year and students rarely need reminders to turn off the lights when they are leaving an area.  This is yet one more thing that has contributed to the decline in energy use at Gorman since November.

Go Green Patrol Team

The "Go Green Patrol Team" is a group of third grade students that patrol the school building at the end of the school day.  Their job is to remind all staff members to turn off and unplug overhead carts, desktop computers, and printers at the end of every day.  Each patrol member is assigned to a particular area of the school building.  Students were trained in what to say to teachers, and the group reviewed manners and appropriate ways to have a conversation with adults.  The purpose of creating our patrol team was to give staff members a reminder to be responsible with their use of electricity and to decrease our energy consumption at the school.  Many teachers have expressed their gratitude for the gentle reminders at the end of the day from students.  This has been especially effective on Friday afternoons before the weekend.

Lights out Lunch

In an effort to conserve energy, our school community decided to have "Lights Out Lunch" in the school cafeteria for students.  To make it safe for students, the shades around the cafeteria were opened to allow natural light into the room.  At first, the incentive began in collaboration with Waste Free Wednesdays, and we only had lights out lunch once a week.  But the students and staff soon decided that this was something we could do on a daily basis and there was no reason to limit it to only once a week.  At the present time, as long as it is a reasonably sunny day, students enjoy "Lights Out Lunch" every day of the week in the cafeteria.

Copy Free Dates

In 2010, the green school committee started a copy free initiative where copiers would be shut down and unplugged for one day per month to save energy and reduce waste.  The copy free dates for 2010 were as follows:
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Staff was required to plan ahead and use best practices in their classrooms on copy free days.  The use of technology was encouraged and staff was trained on 1/24/11 on finding alternatives to using paper as often as possible.  As a follow up to copy free days, staff was sent an updated document showing the copy counts for the school so that everyone was aware of how much we were over/under our allotted amount.

Water Conservation

Awareness Posters by School Sinks

The art instructor at Gorman Crossing, Lee Ayers, worked with students to create a small poster that was then displayed by all of the sinks around the school.  Signs were placed in staff bathrooms, student bathrooms, and near classroom sinks.  All teachers were given guidelines to speak to their students about the purpose of the signs.  Students were asked to use water more efficiently around the building.  Teachers spoke to them about water as a limited resource and the importance of using it wisely.  Awareness was raised and the posters continue to hang around the school to serve as a constant reminder to both children and adults.

Storm Drain Stenciling Project

On May 7, 2011, teachers, parents, and students from GCES will partner up with Girl Scout Brownie Troop #1365 to stencil all storm drains on our school's property with the following message, "Don't Dump!  Chesapeake Bay Drainage".  We've already obtained permission from our principal as well as the Department of Public Works to complete this project.  We've also submitted the application to borrow the materials for this specific weekend.  Upon completing this project, our school will have taken a major step towards improving the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.  The attached picture is a sample of what the storm drains will look like on our school's campus.

Water Conservation Tip of the Week

In an effort to make the community more aware about the necessity to conserve water, the green school committee included a weekly water conservation tip in the school's newsletter, Gator News.  Our goal was to increase awareness and persuade the community to make a greater effort toward conserving water in their homes.

Responsible Transportation

On-site field trips

First Tee - Howard County

During a May afternoon the First Tee of Howard County came to Gorman Crossing to help instruct the students on golfing skills, as well as the importance of respect and good sportsmanship in sports/life.  With the help of the First Tee instructors, the students had the chance to practice using various types of golf clubs and the skills that come along with those particular clubs.

Kangaroo Kids

Part of the Kangaroo Kids organization visited Gorman Crossing to put on a show/presentation of their routines and jump rope skills they have practiced and learned.  Not only did the Kangaroo Kids perform, but they had volunteers from the audience come to the stage to jump along with them.  The show was put on at the end of the student's jump rope unit/Jump Rope for Heart event in Physical Education. 

HC Conservancy - Owl Outreach Program

On Friday, January 28, 2011, the fourth grade students enjoyed a fabulous presentation given by the Howard County Conservancy.  Our speaker focused on owl adaptations, hunting techniques, and habitats of the Barred Owl.  Topics also included defense mechanisms, as well as how to care for the Barred Owl in captivity.  Our students were fascinated to learn about the relationship between the owl and his caretaker.  Many questions were addressed and the students were able to make meaningful connections between the presentation and the science curriculum.

MINC-P Classroom Visits

MINC-P set up regular classroom visits once a month with Ms. Julia to come and do kinesthetic learning lessons with the students.  Ms. Julia incorporates song and movement into her lessons to keep the students actively engaged in learning.  Through coming to the students once a month, she exposes students to a different learning opportunity and saves the gas and transportation costs that it would otherwise require to transport a class full of students to her location.

Walking Field Trips

In art, the fifth grade class went on a walking fieldtrip around the school in order to take photos for an art show titled CLICK. The photos needed to exemplify the school community at GCES.  Click! was this year’s media-based themed exhibit at the Department of Education Gallery.  The exhibition highlighted traditional and digital photographic works of K-12 students.  The exhibition ran from Thursday, January 6th, 2011 through Wednesday, February 24th, 2011. Student work was in the form of  digital photography, student quotes, and photographic responses.

For this exhibition Howard County visual art students  were asked to create personal visions of their experiences and interactions with communities through the use of traditional 35mm and digital photography.

Promote Responsible Transportation

At Gorman Crossing, our committee felt that there were too many parents driving their kids to school instead of using a more responsible form of transportation.  Because of that, periodically throughout the school year, members of the green school committee went outside to promote carpooling, walking, and riding the bus to parents and students at GCES.  One person counted cars in the carpool loop in the morning and then again in the afternoon.  These numbers were reported to parents in the form of a graph in our school newsletter, Gator News.  Another person held up a sign at the beginning of the carpool line to let parents know how many cars had come through the loop the previous day so that they could get immediate feedback and see if the numbers were going down.  Finally, we had another committee member standing at the drop-off location with a sign to promote alternative forms of more responsible transportation.

Howard County Transit Presentations

On Tuesday, February 15, 2011, Roberta Jackson and Traci McPhail came to Gorman Crossing to speak to our students about responsible transportation.  In grade level presentations, Traci spoke to students about Howard Transit efforts to transition the fleet from diesel type buses to hybrid buses.  Roberta spoke to students about alternative modes of transportation, such as carpool, vanpools, cycling, walking, and riding the bus.  She also spoke about the county's effort to reduce our carbon footprint and save the planet.  Their presentations inspired our school to make a greater effort to promote carpooling and riding the bus in our community.

Staff Carpool

Throughout our process of becoming a green school at GCES, we worked very hard to increase awareness about responsible transportation.  Our efforts encouraged many staff members to begin to commute to work together.  Although our carpools may only make a small difference, we set a positive example for our students and we've helped to raise awareness around the community about alternative options for transportation to work.