Norman Rockwell Elementary is one of the many LWSD schools that is putting sustainability in action. The students are Rockwell have an outdoor classroom and garden boxes where they plant produce. Photo courtesy of Lake Washington School District

Norman Rockwell Elementary is one of the many LWSD schools that is putting sustainability in action. The students are Rockwell have an outdoor classroom and garden boxes where they plant produce. Photo courtesy of Lake Washington School District

Sustainability in action at LWSD

Rockwell elementary’s outdoor classroom is one of many ways schools are going green.

The Lake Washington School District (LWSD) has been named a 2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Award recipient.

LWSD was nominated by the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and is one out of 35 schools, 14 districts, and four post-secondary institutions in the United States to receive the honor.

Since the 2005-06 school year, the district has reduced electricity usage per square foot by 30 percent and domestic water usage was reduced by 30 percent per student, according to a release.

In efforts to become more green, LWSD relies on the participation of every student and employee, and with parents, community organizers and volunteers as valuable partners. The district’s vision is, “Every Student Future Ready.”

“Our students and staff are leading by example in their cafeterias and classrooms,” Superintendent Dr. Jane Stavem said in a press release. “With the help of supportive parents and community members, Lake Washington School District is doing its part to protect the environment for students today and in the future.”

Sustainability efforts in LWSD contribute to future readiness. LWSD implements a comprehensive district-wide resource conservation management program; green building practices; kindergarten through 12th-grade curriculum and student learning focused on sustainability/environmental concepts; and professional development for teachers and staff, according to the release.

In Redmond, Norman Rockwell Elementary School is one of the many schools putting sustainability into action.

Principal Michael Clark said their outdoor classroom has “really taken off” this first year. Coming to Rockwell, Clark said he knew he wanted to do something with what was once open land outside the school. He said he had a vision for that beautiful space.

“I wanted the kids outside so that they could actually get their hands dirty and work in the earth and be part of nature and [also] have science lessons outside,” Clark said.

The vision was to have an outdoor classroom that looked like a campsite where teachers could teach lessons, grow produce in the garden boxes and more.

Through LWSD’s Innovation Grant Program, Rockwell Elementary was able to build an outdoor classroom and planters. The outdoor classroom seats 30 kids in a bench style that wraps around a “mini deck” where teachers can teach their lessons. The outdoor classroom is also right next to the green belt, surrounded by trees. Clark said they plan to build more garden boxes in the upcoming year. Next year, they want to grow more vegetables to donate to charities like Hopelink.

Clark said the students and staff are enthusiastic about the outdoor classroom. When the weather permits, teachers take the opportunity and teach outside. And it’s not only the science teachers that use the outdoor classroom, Clark said. The outdoor classroom is used for writing, English and math classes too. The staff also uses the space for program like Big Buddy Little Buddy, in which fifth graders work with kindergartners. For the upcoming year, Clark said his goal is have the outdoor classroom be used several times a day.

Having an outdoor classroom and planting produce comes back the the district and Rockwell’s goal, Clark said. At Rockwell, their vision is that every student will develop the knowledge, skills and personal attributes needed to become a successful member of the community and of the world.

“Sustainability means being a successful member of our community,” Clark said. “The lessons they learn now like growing vegetables and produce, giving back to the community and literally getting their hands dirty in the garden, they will take that through their whole life…I think [sustainability] it important because we are getting them ready to be part of the community.”

What just started as an outdoor classroom, Clark said has turned into a service opportunity for the kids.

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