North Shore school proves it's easy being greenThis spring, NSCS was named a Green Ribbon school, an honor given to only three schools in the state. It recognizes schools across the nation that offer excellent education in a green learning environment.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
It is clear that Rose Chu is a former teacher. When greeting a group of educators and administrators last week at North Shore Community School, she found the crowd's response to her "good afternoon" a little weak.
"Come on, I know you can do better than that! Good afternoon, everybody," she said with an encouraging smile. The group responded with decidedly more enthusiasm.
Chu, the assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Education, was at NSCS for a Green Schools Workshop. This spring, NSCS was named a Green Ribbon school, an honor given to only three schools in the state. It recognizes schools across the nation that offer excellent education in a green learning environment.
The workshop was an opportunity for Chu and educators from around the region to see what makes NSCS a Green Ribbon school. Representatives from many area schools, including Wrenshall, Grand Marais, East High School and Rockford, were in attendance to pick up some green tips.
"Our entire staff thinks it's important to take care of the environment and educate our kids to do the same," said Dayna Phelps, a second-grade teacher at NSCS.
Green strategies at the school include the obvious-- recycling and turning lights off when leaving a room. But there are also more subtle ways in which environmental stewardship is worked into the curriculum.
"We set small goals, like asking each teacher to take kids outdoors once per week," said Dan Schutte, NSCS's environmental educator, who works with the teachers to incorporate environmental education into their daily lesson plans. He added that it’s those small pieces that add up over the long run.
Sheri Camper, a first-grade teacher at NSCS, has put environmental education into action with her leaf critters, incorporating nature into art and science. The students collected leaves during the fall and identified the trees from which they fell. Then, they turned the leaves into art projects with crayons and construction paper, producing "leaf critters."
Jeff Ledermann, environmental and outdoor education coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Education, was also on-site for the workshop. Ledermann, who has visited all three of the Green Ribbon schools in the state, said there’s a distinct pattern in Minnesota schools in which students are learning and doing well.
“The schools that are good at building relationships have the most success,” he said, adding that NSCS has fostered many community partnerships to enhance its students’ education. Community members volunteer in the classrooms and NSCS has longstanding relationships with experts from Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Environmental educator Schutte, said it’s all part of educating kids in an engaging way.
“We ask, ‘how can we take the (education standards) and make them more interesting?’” he said.
Fostering early inquisitiveness is something Chu said NSCS is accomplishing—and she hopes it will continue.
“We just hope that they stay curious and engaged all the way through (their education),” Chu said.
NSCS is a public charter school serving students in kindergarten through sixth grade. It opened in 2002. Prior to that, it was in the Lake Superior School District, the same district as the schools in Two Harbors and Silver Bay. It’s located on the Ryan Road in Duluth Township.