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DCSD gives Timber Trail students a grant to go green

Timber Trail Elementary fifth graders present proposals to reduce waste and conserve energy at the school. Students earned a $2,000 grand from Douglas County School District to help them implement some of their plans.

By Lisa Crockett; photo courtesy of Timber Trail Elementary

As part of its Project Based Learning (PBL) approach, educators at Timber Trail Elementary (TTE) give students opportunities to participate in hands-on, real-world situations as part of their curriculum. Last fall, fifth graders were challenged to solve energy and waste management challenges school-wide.

Students spent time identifying problems at school and then researched possible solutions. They used their findings to make presentations to school administrators and Douglas County School District (DCSD) officials, including Lee Smit and LeeAnn Westfall, the District’s sustainability coordinators.

“We’ve gone to presentations at schools from elementary all the way up to high school, and the presentations at Timber Trail were absolutely compelling,” said Westfall. “The students had talked about viability and presented both the pros and the cons of their ideas. They had also thought about how their programs can continue in the next three to five years, even after they are not at the school anymore.” Smit was similarly impressed.

“All of the presentations met or exceeded our expectations,” he said. “I could really tell the teachers had given the kids a chance to figure this out on their own. They had ideas that were really practical and well-thought out. They had thought about marketing and slogans for their ideas.”

When the presentations were finished, Smit awarded the students with a $2,000 grant to help the students implement some of their ideas – which include removing light bulbs from fixtures near windows, improving rates of recycling at school, reducing paper towel usage and promoting the use of reusable water and lunch containers.

“This has helped me see ways to improve what we’re doing at school,” said fifth grader Katie Fornelius. “I learned about composting here, and now we also have a composter at home.”

As of press time, students were working on implementing their plan and deciding how to spend their grant money.

“We don’t direct how the money is spent,” said Smit. “Our district is one of the first to focus on high-end student involvement. They will decide which sustainability projects to spend their money on.”

Smit and Westfall have created a grant application process for schools to use in pursuing their own sustainability projects.

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