Modeling Sustainability at Horace Mann Elementary

Check out the eco-cool things this Redmond school has been up to and what it takes to integrate similar programs at a school near you.

ONE EASTSIDE SCHOOL trailblazing new sustainable measures is  on Education Hill in Redmond.  Leading these effort with support from the Lake Washington School District is fifth grade teacher and her fourth, fifth and sixth grade Green Teams.

By interest, Hartford is more the artist and ballet type. Her first environmental classroom project was raising salmon from eggs.  Caring for and nurturing them brought out what she calls "the naturalist in me."

Keeping the conditions right for raising the salmon was tricky at times, especially keeping the pH just right.  At one point, it involved kids hauling 5 gallon buckets of pond water (located at corner of school property) and mixing it with a certain ratio of tap water to obtain the proper pH.

Hartford's current classroom of students is raising frogs. "This type of frog, red legged frog, is native to this area," Hartford said. Currently she is working with the district and city to seek permission to introduce the frogs to the school's pond. If the project is approved, it would be timed perfectly with certifying the school as a wildlife friendly site. 

Who would create the right habitat for the frogs and wildlife around the school? The design and implementation of habitat will be a collaborative effort between the elementary students and Redmond High students. 

This is not the first Sustainable Project that Harford has spearheaded at Horace Mann. Her green teams have successfully implemented and are working on the following projects:

  • Reusuable Cafeteria Trays: One of the first Green Team's projects. It started when Hartford asked the cooks to save the trash for one week, then had it laid out on a tarp for the kids to see. She asked them, "What do you notice?" They noticed there was a lot of styrofoam in there. She then gave them some facts about styrofoam. All of a sudden, the kids were taking ownership in the problem and offering to clean the trays themselves if they could go to reusable trays. She said it is good for kids to be involved in this type of work, what she calls "authentic work." The switch to reusable trays has spread out through the entire LWSD now.
  • No Idling Zone: Kids tabulated how many cars were idling and for how long. The school now has a "no idling zone" in effect for student drop-off. Recently, Horace Mann students went in front of City of Redmond's transportation department with the result. The city's transportation department has also offered free transportation for students to present their "no idling zone" story to other schools.
  • Walking School Bus: Parents take the role of Captain or co-Captain and lead a group of students, walking, to school. The fourth grade green team students just met this last week to plan Horace Mann's next Walking School Bus day.  
  • Energy Conservation: The kids made signs signaling where energy could be saved. They switched some of the classroom lights to energy efficient lighting. The hallway lights have every other light on now.  
  • Wildlife Friendly Habitat: As mentioned above and , the school is currently certifying to be a Wildlife friendly schoolyard. By providing Food, Water, Cover, Places to Raise Young and Sustainable Practices schools, businesses and homes can certify as a Wildlife Habitat.
  • Parnership and Sharing Ideas with Other Schools: Initiated by Horace Mann students, a partnership with has grown and will soon include the pond restoration. Horace Mann students have recently initiated with for collaboration in future projects.  There has also become a sharing of ideas between schools including  in Redmond and Mark Twain and Juanita Elementary in Kirkland, to name some of them.
  • Other programs: such as reuse, recycling and having a worm bin on site. 

Seeing these great programs in effect left me wondering how can these types of sustainable measures, measures that are strong in community effort, be transferred to other schools, so I asked the following question. For teachers, parents and students who wish to start these or similar programs at their schools, what is your "secret sauce" to make it happen? 

Hartford's response can be summed up in four steps.

  1. Get to know your community and what its interest/needs are. For Horace Mann, it came from an observation by the kids that the outdoor were smelly on rainy days due to more parents dropping kids off and the extra exhaust smoke. Since they had many cases of Asthma, this became an important project health-wise as well.
  2. Get parent and PTSA support.
  3. Be patient and positive with the school principal.
  4. Work with the departments. For Hartford, that has been LWSD facilities. The Resource Conservation Manager Program Lead, Chuck Collins, was able to find Horace Mann a planting grant if they were able to cut the energy by 5 percent during a few month time period.  

Also check to see if your school already has a Green Team in action. Usually they are happy to have volunteers oversee planning and project sessions as well as bringing in new ideas.

Stay tuned for these future sustainable article topics: spotlighting a Bellevue business, office supply retailer, a local pizza chain and a district-wide look at schools on the Eastside!

Until then, as Hartford would say "Thank you for your hard work. We are moving forward with higher energy efficiency, lower emissions and a greener school yard [Eastside Community!] all because of you."


Darsi Fouillade operates the EcoEastsideBlog. For updates on future posts, follow darsif on Twitter.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kristen Moore March 18, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Oh yay! I want to get some of these great adopted at my boys' school too.
Darsi Fouillade March 19, 2012 at 08:07 PM
You and me both!


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