Earth Heroes: Northshore teacher, students to receive awards
By ANDY NYSTROM
Bothell Reporter Reporter
April 20, 2012 · Updated 9:59 AM
One teacher and a crew of sixth-grade students may have been singled out to receive King County Earth Heroes at School awards, but it turns out that school-wide environmental-conservation efforts catapulted these people into the spotlight.
At Skyview Junior High in Bothell, teacher Tom Nowak has spearheaded the compost program and salmon-release project, but students and staff members alike have been with him every step of the way.
Across the parking lot at Canyon Creek Elementary, the sixth-graders got the entire school on board with recycling programs through presentations, posters, videos and leadership by example in filling the bins in the cafeteria and classrooms.
Executive Dow Constantine will present awards to these Earth Heroes and a handful of others on April 26 at Maplewood Greens in Renton.
“These stewards of the environment are our heroes — for conserving resources, protecting the environment and spreading the word about sustainable practices,” Constantine said. “I am proud to recognize them for their hands-on commitment to the planet.”
Nowak (above with Green Team students on the school trail) helped get the compost program rolling last year after taking a cue from Leota Junior High, and notes they are now decreasing lunch waste by an average of 80 percent by eliminating liquid, recycling and food scraps from general solid waste. Through this, they are minimizing the school district’s pick-up fees.
A $1,000 Parent Teacher Student Association grant funded bins and signs, and Cedar Grove employees collect the compost after volunteers get it ready to go.
When Nowak was gone from school for three months on maternity leave, special-education teacher Stephanie Escott, her support staff and students picked up compost in classrooms.
“It’s empowering students, it’s helping the custodial staff and it’s building a community, where people know that they’re impacting the world,” Nowak said of the job-share.
During the recent salmon-release project at North Creek, 65-70 students let 240 Coho salmon fry free into their new habitat. Students received the fry from the Friends of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery (FISH) and they hatched at school in mid-January.
Members of the school Green Team and others then measured the speed of the North Creek stream, the temperature of the water and the amount of oxygen, nitrates and phosphates that was present.
“We are not alone, humans are pivotal pieces, but we are interconnected with the world around us,” Nowak said of the salmon project, adding that it’s important in “getting kids out of the classroom and seeing science.”
Skyler Grant, a seventh-grader, said the two projects are “interesting and fun, and you get to see other people working together.”
Added fellow seventh-grader Marianna Gilbert: “It’s really important because we feel we need to give back, and this is our way of saying ‘Thank you.’ Through the composting, we don’t spend as much on the school budget on trash pickup, and with the salmon release, it’s nice to rebuild the populous of salmon in our world.”
It’s been a passing of the recycling torch from last year’s sixth-graders to this year’s bunch, according to teachers Chris Brush and Rodeen Peterson. And in turn, the students are mentoring the younger Canyon Creek kids in the ways of recycling, which makes it a team effort all the way.
“The end result was they reduced the garbage amount by 50 percent,” Brush said. “It’s cool to see them because it’s a real project for them — it’s not a worksheet. It’s something where they could affect change in their environment — right now — and they have some power, and they don’t get a lot of that in their lives.”
Added Peterson, as she watched students dump items into the correct recycling bins in the cafeteria last week: “We’re trying to teach these kids to be responsible citizens. They’re very excited, and they really are trying to be very conscientious and they’re trying to think of new ways (to recycle).”
She praised sixth-graders Cameron Bellusci and Aqib Rasheed for learning that Capri Sun drink packets can be recycled by the company that produces them; they mail the pouches off to Kraft Foods and have raised more than $100.
“It’s really great. We want to organize it so it goes in the right spot,” Bellusci said.
Added Rasheed: “To see how many kids are contributing to this wonderful recycling program is just awesome.”
Fellow sixth-grader Kylie Monson said that students have come a long way in making recycling a part of each day.
“I watch every day how people come up and they’re recycling, and at the beginning of the year, they would waste a lot more,” she said. “Now that they’re aware of the fact that they need to recycle, it’s pretty cool.”Contact Bothell Reporter Reporter Andy Nystrom at email@example.com or 1-425-483-3732 (ext 5050).