Celebrating green through a screen
Burleson Elementary observes Earth Day digitally
By Lauren Jackson
For the Enquirer
Sustainability and green living are taught regularly at Burleson Elementary. From gardening and recycling to composting and various activities in the certified outdoor classroom, students learn about being ecofriendly year round – but especially through special programming and trips planned for Earth Day.
Despite being restricted to distance learning because of COVID-19, students at Burleson were able to participate in green activities from home for Earth Day this year. Debra Queen, principal at Burleson, said it was important to still be able to give students the hands-on learning activities they look forward to each year.
“I think it was just as successful or even maybe more successful because of all the parent involvement,” Queen said. “A lot of parents can’t get off work or can’t come to the outdoor classroom events, and possibly since a lot of them are home, there was more parental involvement – just to make them more aware of our vision.”
Queen said faculty at Burleson worked to make educational videos about the environment and gave students various activities they could do from home, such as a nature scavenger hunt, gardening, making nature collages and more. Student were encouraged to share photos of those activities on social media.
“Kids are so hands on, and we have always wanted to teach the whole child, socially and emotionally,” Queen said.
Sustainability has been a passion for Queen at the school. Earning the status of a Green Ribbon school in 2014, Burleson is committed to green living year round. The school began composting to eliminate some of the food waste from the lunchroom and uses the outdoor classroom for supplemental activities throughout the year. Queen said adding those activities brings new possibilities to learning.
“You can teach every subject using our outdoor classroom,” Queen said. “You can teach science and math, geometry, geography and reading. A lot of kids will find something and write poetry or journal. It lends itself to teach every subject as a supplement to enhance.
“You can bring the world into what you are teaching and help them grow in the future.”
Although Earth Day looked different this year, Queen said it was important to give students the opportunity to learn about nature.
One of the topics students learn about is pollinators. The school helps tag monarch butterflies each year and teaches students about protecting the species by not using harsh chemicals and by planting nectar plants such as milkweed. Each year the students get to observe caterpillars and watch their life cycle, as the caterpillars transform into butterflies.
This year science teachers Josie Styles and Susan England made videos showing where the eggs had been laid and where caterpillars had begun to emerge. Styles and England also visited a student whose family keeps bees and made a video about bees’ role in pollination.
In addition to taking part in nature–based activities, students were encouraged to wear their Earth Day shirts from previous years.
Queen said although she wishes the students had been able to participate in their regular Earth Day activities, she was pleased with the participation from the students and feels it was still a learning activity that will stick for years to come.