It’s a brand new school year, and we are excited to share Jemicy’s sustainability mission through our brand new blog, GreenJemicy. We will be posting weekly stories, announcements, and updates on sustainability initiatives on both campuses, in and around classrooms, and through different departments. You can find us linked on the sustainability page of Jemicy’s website, or click the follow button below.
If you would like to become involved in our effort, share resources, or get more information, please contact Emily Stanley.
I Group science students have been studying different simple machines while also rummaging through trash receptacles for materials to construct “trash cars.” Today they tested the functioning of their improvised wheels and axles. One more way to reuse, have fun, and practice some engineering skills!
Jemicy classrooms are multi-use spaces. They are places for learning, eating, socializing, building, playing, and exploring, making it a constant challenge to keep these environments clean and healthy for all of us.
In addition to being our primary recycling agents, the Star Group team has taken on the challenge of helping to switch from the use of chemical wipes to a new system. Each homeroom now uses a set of washcloths and environmentally friendly cleaner to wipe down tables after snack and lunch, which are then laundered weekly by faculty volunteers. Many thanks to Star Group and all of the homerooms that have adopted these new cleaning practices!
Along with being responsible stewards of our own campus, Jemicy encourages our community to help maintain the health of the larger watershed. Last spring a group of Jemicy folk – teachers, students, and their families – gathered for a Litter Blitz to collect trash along Herbert Run in Ellicott City.
Many of the same energetic group and several new participants showed up this fall weekend to tackle a new section of the Patapsco that is prone to dumping. Under the guidance of Patapsco Heritage Greenway organizers, volunteers filled dozens of large bags with both trash and recyclables from the stream banks, while numerous tires were hauled out of the river itself.
You just never know what you’re going to find…
We look forward to our next stream-cleaning event!
Jemicy’s single-stream recycling program accepts the bulk of our paper, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and glass. However, there are other many items that it cannot handle, such as most commercial packaging from school lunches. Fortunately, a company called TerraCycle provides the means to dispose of these items responsibly through their free recycling program. Jemicy middle school students completed surveys to find out which TerraCycle items they would be most likely to recycle.
Juice pouches and chip bags were the top choices, so these are now deposited in designated bins in the lunchroom.
So far this effort is proving very successful at keeping these recyclables out of the trash dumpster, and we hope to expand this program to the lower school soon.
Every Friday is pizza day on the Jemicy LMS campus. This means that, along with lunch, we get 20 boxes to dispose of.
While most of the boxes are recyclable (except those with food stuck to them), they are also eminently reusable. Dumpster diving for reusable project materials is a long-standing Jemicy tradition, but given the regular influx of this particular resource, we have begun to collect and warehouse the pizza boxes for our project-based classes. This adds to our efforts to collect other reusable cardboard, such as shoeboxes, egg cartons, and tubes, which are used for everything from dioramas to rock collections to the marble rollercoasters constructed by Y Group physics classes.
Upcycling means taking a material that has already been used in one way and reusing it in another so that its value increases. Cardboard is a particularly useful resource in STEAM-based classes where students experiment, solve problems and display concepts through engineering, construction, and art-infused projects. It is sturdy but flexible, able to be manipulated by kids of all ages.
In the past, pizza boxes have been used for dioramas, gliders, solar ovens, pinball and operation games, and numerous other designs.
This fall, the boxes have already been used in Star Group science to make lunar rovers, and in the JE science classes for building boats. You never know where cardboard may be upcycled next!
With last year’s compost added to the garden beds, we’re trying out some cool-weather crops. Brussels sprouts, swiss chard, and cabbage seedlings are getting a head start under row covers, while clover seed will establish a cover crop to help replenish the soil in other beds.
We’ve hired some assistants to help with Jemicy’s composting: red wigglers! As their name suggests, these worms are quite active, a trait that enables them to quickly break down compostable food waste into nutrient-rich soil for our gardens. We currently have two worm farms in operation: in Liz’s M Group homeroom, and in Emily’s science room.
Each of these indoor habitats is able to handle a small amount of compost daily, and we hope to transfer growing worm cultures to our outdoor compost bins very soon. Not only do these worms help us with composting; they are also a window into the unique life cycle of creatures we rarely see aboveground.
Jemicy LMS art teacher Nancy Curran walked into her room one day to find a dozen mannequin heads awaiting her. The unexpected donation sparked a project for her middle school art students: “Make an environmental statement.” The resulting group pieces utilized all manner of found and collected objects, giving voice to students’ feelings about the human relationship to the earth.
How can we reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging that we use?
I Group science classes approached this question by comparing the amount of packaging in two different potato chip bags: family and snack size. While snack size bags may seem more convenient for student lunches, is there a more sustainable alternative?
Groups of students dissected chip bags and calculated the total area of packaging for each variety. They discovered that snack bags produced four times the waste of using larger, family size bags whose contents could be distributed in snack-size reusable containers.
One more reason to aim for a trash-free lunch!
Students in the lower school worked this week to identify ways to reduce the amount of waste from lunches that ends up in our school trashcans. After discussing the options for different kinds of trash, we practiced sorting items into appropriate containers: trashcan, recycling bin, and compost.
This activity made it clear that packing small amounts of food in reusable containers (not ziplock bags) would reduce the most trash ending up in the landfill. Here are some tips from SuperKids Nutrition to help plan trash-free lunches.