By Tammy Lane
Fayette County Public Schools
As a former science teacher, Principal Lester Diaz knows how tangible “green” initiatives can reach students on another level outside the classroom. That’s why he readily accepted the offer for Bryan Station Middle School to be Fayette County’s pilot site for the first annual Green Apple Day of Service.
“I want them to take pride in who they are and where they’re at – to find their place in the community,” he said, noting, “Saving the environment is an avenue to teaching responsibility.”
Students, nearby residents and local volunteers came together Saturday to work on several projects at Bryan Station Middle, which Diaz envisions as “a hub of community action in our neighborhood.” Some put out fresh soil, mulch, ornamental vines and shrubs at the front entrance.
(Photo from FCPS)
“I love getting my hands dirty,” said eighth-grader Hannah Slone, who liked the Earth-friendly focus. “It’s good for the school, and it makes the whole school look better.”
High school students from Locust Trace AgriScience Farm had built and helped install raised beds tucked behind the building, where Bryan Station will grow asparagus, radishes, turnips, chives and mint to start.
“I enjoy the gardening, which has always been interesting to me,” said sixth-grader Camille Harn, whose family tends a garden at home.
The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council sponsored the international Green Apple Day of Service, which supports and encourages healthy, sustainable schools through volunteer engagement in local communities.
“We sometimes overlook the aspect of something so simple and a little elbow grease,” said PTSA president Kelly Smedley, who turned out with her two young daughters.
Smedley also appreciated the addition of colorful knitted art made of recycled yarn and old T-shirts wrapped around campus light poles and sign posts, saying, “It kind of gives us some personality.”
Along with the outdoor projects, Saturday’s activities included a Sustainability Expo spotlighting energy efficiency, weatherization, local food, water quality and recycling. Resources were provided by Whole Foods, the Lexington Farmers Market, Good Foods Coop, Farm To School, Seedleaf, Bluegrass PRIDE, the Kentucky National Energy Education Development project, and the Sustainable Communities Network. Locust Trace AgriScience Farm, Michler’s florist and greenhouse, the U.S. Green Building Council, the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Seedleaf and FCPS also offered support and donations.
“School is a community place, and we want people to get more involved,” said Andrew Werner, a math intervention teacher, who coordinated the day on behalf of Bryan Station Middle School.
With experience as an AmeriCorps worker with Seedleaf and a volunteer at the East 7th Street Community Center’s Kids’ Café, Werner also wants to make sure students venture outside and realize they can grow their own food.
“This is only three (garden) beds, but it might make a difference,” he said. “Especially in an urban environment, it’s really valuable for their learning and development.”