Schools go green in Northern Virginia

by Jessica Haney on January 18, 2012

If you’re looking to go green in Northern Virginia schools, this is an exciting time. Last night, Arlington Public Schools held the first meeting of its new Sustainability Committee, one of the Advisory Committees that report to the Superintendent. Made up of 15 community members (13 of them with children in APS), the committee will review data at its next meeting regarding energy use, water, solid waste, products used in schools, and recycling. Once the members have a clear understanding of where things stand in schools and across the district, they will begin deciding on priorities to research and present in recommendations to the Superintendent in the fall.

With a little luck and a lot of community support, in a few months, this soggy spot will be home to the Campbell Elementary Wetlands Learning Lab

Arlington County Energy Manager Cathy Lin said there was great interest in the committee. Those selected to serve on the committee for at least one year represent schools and neighborhoods across Arlington and bring with them many years of work in environmental policy and law. The committee, which has one teacher from Washington-Lee High School, is looking for student representatives from each of the three county schools plus, the H-B Woodlawn program and the alternative programs as well. APS parent, former School Board candidate and anti-styrofoam advocate Miriam Gennari, who has been working for years toward getting APS to have an environmental coordinator or a committee like this one, emerged from the meeting very hopeful about the work that can be done by this “outstanding group of people who seem very committed and well-informed.”

One of the members of the group was Arlingtonians For a Clean Environment president Elenor Hodges, who is also working for the group NoVA Outside. On March 3, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the group will hold an expo at George Mason University to showcase programs and opportunities for outdoor education in Northern Virginia. NoVa Outside was co-founded by Elaine Tholen, who works in Fairfax County as the Environmental Education Manager, a position Arlington doesn’t have. Lin did note that Arlington Planetarium director Jonathan Harmon will be putting together an inventory of what green efforts are happening in which schools while the planetarium is undergoing construction.

Yours truly piped up about her own home-grown effort: this Saturday’s Wetlands Benefit Concert to raise money for construction of a wetlands learning lab at Campbell Elementary School. The south Arlington school sits on top of Carlin Springs, and the fact that it was paved over decades ago is doing no favors to the Chesapeake Bay or the muddy swatch of the schoolyard. The new wetlands learning lab, designed by Nancy Striniste of EarlySpace, will take care of the water problem in grand form: by creating a wildlife habitat and natural landscape that will provide learning and play opportunities.

Donations from family, alumni and the community have been pouring in, so the Campbell PTA is hopeful that it will be able to tell contractor Green Earth Landscaping the school can take the company up on its offer to do the work for a discount this winter. Saturday’s event will have plenty of items up for bid at a silent auction plus musical guests Forty Miles Home folk/roots band at 2:00, Groovy Nate at 3:15, a Music Together (TM) Sing-Along by Little Steps Music at 1:30, four Bolivian dance performances, and storytime.

Hours are 1:00-4:00 p.m., Saturday, January 21. Tickets are $10 per family. Campbell is located at 737 S. Carlin Springs Rd., Arlington, VA 22204. The event will take place in the Multipurpose Room and the gym (park in back, enter school in front).

When she’s not fundraising, Jessica Claire Haney blogs at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, writes for her Washington Times Communities column, “Ingredients for Healthy Living,” and for All Things Mothering.

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