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Fox Creek hoists Green Flag on Earth Week

School is 5th in DCSD, 44th in Nation to earn prestigious sustainability honor

HIGHLANDS RANCH – Members of Fox Creek Elementary School’s Eco Team, including students, staff and parents, eagerly watched as a giant green flag was raised at the building on Monday. The flag raising and assembly celebrated the school’s selection as a Green Flag Award school, a culmination of months of hard work aimed at making the school more sustainable.

During the ceremony on April 20, 2015, Fox Creek became the fifth Douglas County school and forty-fourth in the nation to receive the Green Flag Award.

WATCH: National Wildlife Federation presents Fox Creek Elementary with Green Flag Award.

"I am so excited to be here today, to meet with you and visit your school,” said  David Ellenberger, a regional outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, who presented the award. “Our staff at the National Wildlife Federation is so proud of you and all that you have accomplished this past year.”

The Green Flag Award is the top honor given by Eco-Schools USA. Castle Rock, Copper Mesa, Flagstone and Heritage Elementary Schools have also earned the award in the Douglas County School District (DCSD).

WATCH: The Green Flag is hoisted at Fox Creek Elementary 

Fox Creek has worked on Green Flag initiatives for more than two years.  Part of Gillen’s role this year was to pull together groups of students at all grade levels focused on sustainability.  The Green Flag award compliments Expeditionary Learning in that they both focus on global citizenship, environmental stewardship, and fitness and wellness.

Now the project is school-wide and student-driven.

“The students are really empowered to take responsibility for these projects,” explained DCSD Sustainability Manager LeeAnn Westfall. “The teachers are there and they are facilitating, but the students take charge.”

As a result, it was the students that chose to focus on three of Eco-School’s sustainability pathways:

The Eco Action Team broke up the project by grade. First and second grade focused on encouraging classmates to live healthy lives, making healthy choices in their eating and fitness.;  third grade was responsible for energy conservation; fourth grade implemented composting; fifth grade created marketing asking students to recycle; and sixth grade integrated math and statistics, tracking the progress made with analysis and graphs.

The results were astounding. In a few short months, the school saw ten percent reductions in energy use and ten percent increases in recycling and composting.

“We know you have been working hard toward your Eco Schools goals and in doing so have improved your facility and grounds, you’ve reduced your energy costs and you’ve learned more about science, math, composting and recycling,” Ellenberger remarked, during the ceremony.

DCSD Sustainability Coordinator Courtney Kuntz, who works closely with schools across the District on sustainability efforts, says the sustainability efforts naturally tie to the academics and the 21st Century Skills the students are learning.

“They discover the problem, they develop the approach to the problem, they prioritize how they are going to address the problem and make the action steps. They really own it,” Kuntz said.

At the beginning of the project, Gillen says she and the students thought they were energy cautious. The students conducted an energy audit; however, using equipment provided by the District, they found that there was still a lot of room for improvement.

“We learned about phantom energy,” Gillen said. “We were burning a lot by just having things plugged in. [The appliances] were still consuming energy, like the microwave.”

Third-grade students now patrol the building with clipboards, looking for potential energy issues. Additionally, the school expanded its compost efforts to include snack time and each classroom now has a cup of activities, so students can choose healthy ways to burn off energy throughout the day.

While Fox Creek has made a lot of progress, the school is not finished. On Earth day, the Eco-Action team will continue their work at Cheese Ranch, giving back to the community.  The first grade students will be working in the garden, learning more about composting.

April 21, 2015 | By rmbarber | Category: Sustainability

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