Students at Crystal Lakes Elementary
School wrote to the governor, seeking his support for local
Everglades restoration efforts.
Hidden Oaks Middle School students made artificial reef
balls to increase the oyster habitat in the Indian River
Felix A. Williams
Elementary School students released a bug that's a natural
predator of the exotic, invasive melaleuca trees overtaking
native plants around the school.
The projects — organized on a volunteer basis by classroom
teachers at nearly every school in Martin County — are
creative methods of teaching environmental science in a
"It's those kind of things that help the community and the
world, truthfully," said Sandy Pisano, a fifth-grade teacher
at Indiantown Middle School and a coordinator of the Green
School awards program. "We've probably accomplished close to
For nine years, the Green School awards have motivated
students and teachers to integrate environmental education
into the classroom and community service projects.
On May 12, the schools that have met the criteria of the
program will be recognized for their dedication to the
Demma Bailey, who retired last year after 20 years teaching
at the Environmental Studies Center, said she visits the
schools to ensure they've completed at least four projects and
that the entire student body participates.
"Last year, a lot of schools participated with monofilament
(fishing line) recycling. Now it's reef balls," she said. "It
became uncool not to be a green school."
When the program started, only eight county schools
participated. This year, all but one — Challenger — joined in.
The award ceremony — where Pisano said she has presented
birdhouses or books to each participating school — is funded
by grants and the Environmental Studies Council. It requires
no school district funds.
"Environmental education was much more on the forefront 10
years ago than it is now," Pisano said. "Nobody (in the state)
really took the leap and maintained it like we do. We're
Crystal Lake Elementary science teacher Becky Dulin said
her students have created a butterfly garden, written to the
governor about the Everglades and improved the native habitat
by removing exotic plants around the school.
"Learning about the environment is critically important,"
Dulin said. "It's really important for the kids to be aware of
what's around them, to learn at an early age that what they do
can affect the environment."
Besides, Pisano added, "the kids just love it."