How did you become involved with the Pathways to Green Schools Program and Green Building United?
SS: I learned about the program by talking to my colleagues from other schools across the Red Clay District as well as reading about what others had done in the Delaware State Education e-News. As I attended institutes in the summertime and listened to descriptions of the activities my fellow teachers implemented at their schools, I realized we are doing very similar things at Brandywine Springs to educate our students to respect the environment, recycle and conserve water. I then looked into the Pathways program last summer. The program has allowed us to expose the rest of the school to green pathways and give more thought to the green programming at our school.
How have your students’ views on sustainability changed since joining this program?
SS: I have noticed that students are very concerned and interested in learning about sustainability and becoming more actively involved. Our school’s Energy Expo was an example of multiple grade levels coming together to actively discuss current and future energy demands and sources through a number of hands-on activities.
Overall, the students have also been more diligent when it comes to identifying energy monitors and turning off lights. They have thought about things such as turning off the power strips that charge the Chromebooks they use during the day in order to save energy.
Have you implemented any specific programming that highlights sustainability and nature?
We also created “The Outdoor Classroom” this year, which has intrigued many students. Teachers now have a "safe" place to bring students outside so students can interact with nature and respond to the quieting, soothing sounds of the chimes and natural sounds of nature (without playground distraction). This space gives students the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate nature. It also adds to their understanding of how powerful their personal "quieting response" is and how it is integral to their self-control.
Do you have any other exciting initiatives underway?
SS: Next year, I am excited to see how the students’ ideas become a reality. We’ll be looking to expand the gardens and bird habitats in our inner courtyard, playground, retaining pond and vegetable garden. We're looking forward to expanding the Energy Pathway and replacing the solar panels that are on our rooftop with the latest technology.
For the community, we look forward to holding an Energy Conservation Night – similar to the Energy Expo – but for a larger audience where local companies can present their energy efficient products. Lastly, we're looking forward to enhancing and creating student and staff quiet/ meditation spots, buddy benches as well as expanding “Healthy Eating and Exercise Programs.”
How has Green Building United’s involvement helped you?
SS: Green Building United has been tremendously helpful! The organization and materials they provide have assisted me in moving the Green Schools initiative forward in a very precise and purposeful manner. The program has given me a plan and a focus.
About Sonia Saunders
Sonia is a fifth grade teacher at Brandywine Springs School in Delaware’s Red Clary School District. With experience in NGSS/DE Science cohort, DE Math Leadership Initiative and Meaningful Watershed Environmental Experience (MWEE), Sonia has been prepared to understand the immense responsibility to teach students the importance of "sustainability.”