Green Wave of Change

By Karen Luning, Reading Specialist, Crestwood Elementary

Crestwood Elementary School in the Lindbergh School District is amidst a green tidal wave! Crestwood students who are part of a group called the Planet Protector Squad, the school’s environmental club, have been campaigning to turn the school and its community more “Green.” Crestwood has been a proud participant in the Green Schools Quest, which is put on by the U.S. Green Building Council – Missouri Gateway Chapter (USGBC-MGC), for the last three years. Our journey started with a small group of fifth grade girls who wanted to help save our oceans from plastic and help the school learn how to be more “Green. They worked almost weekly on an initiative to educate the school on what to recycle amongst other activities and then hosted a Planet Palooza event to educate the community. We submitted our final Green Schools Quest project and received first place! Fast forward to present day, there are 32 committed Crestwood students from second through fifth grade that meet weekly to discuss projects and activities to help not only Crestwood school but also the St. Louis community. We have many parents that volunteer at our events along with our fabulous Green Mentor, Jaclyn Jezik, who was nominated this school year by Lindbergh School District as a Lindbergh Leader. 

With the help of USGBC-MGC and our Green Mentor, students are learning how to make changes in their lives that will lead to a greener future. This year, we have multiple projects! Students are learning how to live more sustainable lives using the Rainbow of Sustainability as a framework for integrating sustainability principles into their activities. Ask one of our students what it means to live green and they might say using less plastic, conserving water or shopping at the farmer’s market to support local food and businesses. 

The Planet Protectors participate in activities, such as a nature scavenger hunt, that are rooted in important principles such as Importance of Place which are found in the Rainbow of Sustainability. Another principle, Respecting Limits, was put in action during a group activity that utilized candy. Students also learned about recycling through a fun sorting relay, discovering the importance of reducing new raw material consumption and watching a video that gave them a tour of our local Materials Recovery Facility. Later that winter, we hosted our second community electronics recycling drive. While the youngest Planet Protectors greeted our community members with cheering and handmade “Thank You” signs made of repurposed cardboard, our parent Planet Protectors were busy helping recoup an entire moving truck worth of electronics, keeping them out of the landfill!

Our Planet Protectors also learned all about Systems Thinking & Cycles as January’s sustainability principle. We welcomed amazing Saint Louis Zoo employee, Amy Niedbaldski, and she spoke to the students about birds, bird migrations (as a form of a cycles), and the harshness they can encounter foraging for food in the winter months. With this knowledge, the Planet Protectors made suet bird feeders to hang from their trees at home using pinecones, peanut butter, bird seed and ribbon.

Crestwood students have had so many rich discussions about these various principles including exploring the difference between linear, recycling, and circular economies; how to be a global citizen; and what environmental social justice means for our community. With the help and collaboration of our USGBC-MGC, Crestwood students are learning a lot and are making a difference. Just check out the creek by Crestwood Elementary that they have cleared of trash and recyclables. Thanks to Crestwood students’ hard work, their future is so green, “they gotta wear shades!”

Learn more about this year’s Green Schools Quest projects and winners at the 15th Annual Green Schools Event on April 28th, and find out how you can participate in the program as a school or mentor at www.GreenSchoolsQuest.org.