A group of elementary school children at Lipscomb Academy are making a difference across the country and around the world as they shared their environmental stewardship program with a delegation of 24 educators from Japan.
The visitors from Japan traveled to Nashville as part of the Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development.
"We want to see the kinds of projects and activities that students are doing at Lipscomb Academy that we can learn from and take back to our schools," said Takashi Yasumi, administrator director of the Japan-United States Educational Commission based in Tokyo. "It's great to see students this involved and excited about the environment. We want to involve students in projects that are sustainable through time and to help them develop a love for caring for their environment. This also gives teachers an opportunity to collaborate and share ideas."
The program is administered by Fulbright Japan and jointly funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and the Japanese Government's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Next week, a delegation of teachers and administrators from the United States will meet up with the Japanese delegation in San Francisco and will travel to Japan in June to learn about ESD efforts there. Throughout the program two groups of educators will collaborate on joint projects that can be implemented in both countries.
A 2013 U. S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, Lipscomb Academy Elementary School has received numerous state and national awards for its integration of environmental sustainability into its curriculum and culture. Yasumi said the group wanted to visit Lipscomb Academy because of the success of the program and because there are many portions of the program that can be implemented in Japan.
The delegation toured portions of the elementary school campus including an outdoor classroom equipped with a sundial, a fishpond, a math patio, a butterfly garden, and a covered pavilion. Each grade level maintains a garden, including a pizza garden, a healing garden, a flower garden, a "five senses" garden, a gourd garden and a square-foot garden. Students also maintain a National Wildlife Foundation-certified Monarch butterfly way station, which provides a habitat for Monarch butterflies as they migrate through Tennessee.
In addition, the Japanese educators met with kindergartners in one of the school's gardens and learned how they harvest food for use in the cafeteria. Guests enjoyed refreshments, including kale chips, artichoke dip and vegetables made from produce grown in the school's gardens. Students who are part of the school's "Green Team" also met with the group to answer questions about the program and to get the "student perspective."
"It is interesting to see how a different culture teaches sustainability," said Kimiyo Vanase, a teacher from Kinjo Gakuin Senior High School in Nagoya, Japan. "We have a student council at our high school who does green projects. I'm very interested in what students do at an elementary school level."
Ginger Reasonover, science coordinator for Lipscomb Academy Elementary School, said she is pleased that the school's program is a model from which others can learn.
"It's exciting to see the impact that these young children from a small private school in Nashville are having on their city and around the world," she said. "At Lipscomb Academy Elementary School students see environmental education in action. The children are learning to reduce waste and reuse items so that less refuse is sent to landfills. They understand ecological connections between the needs of butterflies, other creatures, plants, and people. While working in the square-foot gardens, students experience the joy of growing and consuming their own vegetables. As these environmental practices become automatic to them, they become better citizens, using thoughtful practice with appreciation for their responsibility in the natural world. When you change a child, you change the world. Having a delegation from Japan who want to learn what we are doing is evidence of just that."
Just last month, a group of students, parents and administrators from a charter school in Rochester, N.Y., visited the elementary school to learn more about how to achieve Green Ribbon School designation.
"We are impressed with the fact that other schools want to learn what we are doing with our environmental stewardship program," said Jonathan Sheahen, Lipscomb Academy Elementary School principal. "Being recognized for the quality of our program leads us to share with others. It shows how our students can make a difference and are leaders in this area. We want other schools to implement programs like this because everyone can play a role in caring for the environment."
Lipscomb Academy Elementary School is quickly becoming a model for other schools. In addition to its Green Ribbon designation, the school is the 2013 national award winner for the National Energy Education Development Project's 33rd Annual Youth Awards for Energy Achievement Primary Level School of the Year and the 2013 Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Office of Energy Program's Primary School of the Year.
In 2012, the school's third-graders earned first-place honors in Tennessee as part of Disney's Planet Challenge. Lipscomb Academy was the eighth-ranked elementary school in the nation out of 1,900 schools entering the contest nationwide. Last year the school also received the 2012 SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Environmental Excellence Award in its category along with a $10,000 grant to help fund an environmental initiative at the school in recognition of its School Children's Recycling Action Program (SCRAP). The school was also named Tennessee's 2011 Recycling School of the Year. In 2009, the school received the Governor's Award for Excellence in Green Schools - K-12.