Starside students prepare for ‘green’ future
Going green at Starside Elementary isn’t just about saving the earth, it’s an education in math, science and history.
Students at Starside have learned how being green will benefit them in the future, while also learning science and math through calculating energy from the school’s solar panels.
Over the summer, the school installed ed solar panels to aerate the school’s pond.
“Last year before the solar panel was even put in we had an assembly where a speaker explained to students how solar panels work,” said Paula Henderson, Starside counselor.
“She brought a panel to show to the students and explained electrical current. The solar panel aerates the pond by shooting water into the air. This demonstration of the power of the solar panel to the students is a powerful science lesson.”
A grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has allowed the school to further their conservation this year by increasing the number of recycle bins and replacing Styrofoam lunch trays.
“We are going to purchase larger, vertical standing recycling bins for classrooms and work areas. Our trash cans have gotten very small and our recycling bins have gotten bigger as the students have gotten more and more excited about recycling,” Henderson said. “There aren’t many things used in a school setting that are thrown away and not recyclable. We are going to replace our Styrofoam lunch trays, which are used occasionally, with a biodegradable lunch tray. After this tray is used, it is thrown away, goes to the landfill and with in three months it biodegrades. Styrofoam is chemically produced and never goes away.”
One addition to the school that students are particularly excited about could be characterized as creepy and crawly – vermicomposters.
Vermicomposters are stackable trays where red worms eat food scraps, newspapers, and even junk mail.
“The casting from this process is called ‘black gold’ and is a rich fertilizer.” Henderson said. “This fertilizer we hope to use in future green projects.”
Last year students brought in scrap pieces of foil that built Bob the Ball. This year, Betty the Ball has taken center stage.
“I think they are more excited about Betty than they were about Bob at the first of the year last year,” Henderson said. “It took awhile last year for the aluminum foil ball to be given a name and become our unofficial mascot. This year, they were excited about Betty the first day of school. Every morning many students bring in foil and they call it Betty food. She is growing; in fact I have an idea she is going to end up much bigger than Bob. Betty is 18 inches in diameter now, and growing rapidly.”
Starting students early on the idea of conservation is important to their future, Henderson said.
“When this year’s kindergarten students graduate from high school a third of the jobs that exist now will be gone and half of the jobs remaining will be green collar job,” she said. “We need to start now to focus on our students being prepared for the world they will graduate into and with the skills and knowledge to be productive citizens.”
The students at Starside aren’t just being taught about conservation but want to make a difference in their school and community.
“Starside’s green programs are all student driven; they have come from us listening to student’s suggestions. The feed back from parents and the changes that have happened in most homes is really incredible,” Henderson said.
Recycling and conservation doesn’t just have to happen at Starside, the entire De Soto community can do its part, Henderson said.
“They can do very simple things,” she said. “They can bring their recycling to Starside or the De Soto recycling area by the old Apple Market.”
Last school year, Starside recycled 9 tons of material that would have otherwise gone to a landfill.
Other simple changes that residents can make include changing out light bulbs, turning off water when not needed, purchasing green products, picking up litter and buying local food.
“All of these ideas also save households money,” Henderson said. “De Soto is lucky to have a beautiful community where you can walk to a lot of places, walk instead of driving.”