When students at Briarwood Elementary School scraped the leftover food from their plates after lunch they were doing more than just clearing the cafeteria table.
They were contributing to a greater — and greener — cause: sustainability.
That effort, and the efforts of 10 other elementary and high schools in the Shawnee Mission School District, was noticed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
The agency awarded the school district 11 “Green Schools” grants totaling $43,462.
The grants will fund efforts at 8 elementary and three high schools.
Eight of the schools are involved in a sustainable art project in which the district has collaborated with the InterUrban ArtHouse. The program brings local artists into the schools to work with students on some green-themed art projects ranging from painting to poetry.
Other schools are involved in recycling efforts and expanding the recycling mindset throughout the district. Students from 20 district schools, particularly those at Briarwood at 6701 W. 83rd St. in Overland Park, are also involved in the cafeteria food waste composting effort.
Briarwood students have been composting since 2008. And on top of their food waste, students are engaged in vermiculture, which involves composting with worms.
“This district has a long history of green schools and green grants,” said Joan Leavens, coordinator of sustainability and community engagement for the district.
In the 2001-2012 academic year, Brookwood Elementary was the first Kansas school to be awarded the national Green Schools designation by the U.S. Department of Education. The following year Bluejacket-Flint Elementary was awarded the same designation. Both schools won the designation for a variety of ongoing schoolwide sustainable efforts.
Leavens said most of the sustainable projects going on in Shawnee Mission schools started with students, teachers and parents at the school level. Now the district is making an effort to coordinate the projects, and has made sustainability one of the themes of the district’s strategic plan.
The other schools recognized in the grant program were Apache, Comanche, Crestview, John Diemer, Overland Park, Rosehill, Trailwood, Shawnee Mission East Shawnee Mission West and Shawnee Mission North.