Sustainability may be a new word for most of the students at Thurman G. Smith Elementary, a school in Springdale Arkansas, but it is a practice that this school is familiar with. Conserving natural recourses and creating ecological spaces has been an ongoing priority for T.G. Smith Elementary. For example the school has a 20 year old nature trail that was established by Susan Jones, resident art teacher, who continues to maintain the wooded habitat. Kathy Short, 5th grade teacher, started the school vegetable garden three years ago after seeing the positive affect a field trip to the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market had on the students.
T. G. Smith Elementary is an E*STEM+2 (Economics, Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Art, and Literature) school. E*STEM is a national vision designed to improve and develop skills in the above fields by incorporating real-world lessons and academic concepts. Many of the “green” projects going on at the school are directly linked to the E*Stem+2 initiative.
With big ambitions and little free time the school decided it needed a Sustainability Coordinator. Almost two years ago T.G. Smith Elementary chose Kendra Sager, Arkansas Energy Corps Member, to fill the position. Since then Ms. Sager has done her best to help the school reach their goals.
With all the support of the school including, Kim Simco, the principle, Tonya Woods, the assistant principle, and Kathy Short, 5th grade teacher and Energy Corps Site Supervisor, Ms. Sager has helped the school reach some of their aspirations.
A few of the sustainable developments at T.G. Smith Elementary include:
- Expanded the school/community vegetable garden to 4,500 square feet
- Converted garden to no-till
- Created a Smith Stallion Farmer’s Market
- Held Three Rain Barrel Work-Shops
- Summer school students, parents, and teachers helped build nine Rain Barrels for the school/community garden during one of these work shops
- Recycling Program
- Cut outgoing trash from school down by more than 50% this year
- Started building a “Straw Bale Constructed” Tool Shed with a “Green Roof” to house the supplies and equipment for the school/community garden
Arkansas Energy Corps Member, Kendra Sager graduated from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (U of A), in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental, Soil and Water Science. She was a member of the 2009 and 2010 U of A Soil Judging Team, and is certified in environmental education through Project Learning Tree, Project WET and Project WILD. Ms. Sager has served the Sustainability Coordinator at T.G. Smith Elementary School for two terms. In her two terms she has written and received four grants that have helped fund the expansion and conversion of the school/community food garden to no-till. Two of these grants are for the newest project at the school, a “Straw Bale Constructed Tool Shed” with a green roof. If Ms. Sager isn’t in the garden with students or at her desk writing grant proposals, she is more than likely helping with the new recycling program, doing public outreach for the school or teaching environmental education.