Lipscomb Academy elementary receives award from SeaWorld and Busch Gardens

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Lipscomb Academy’s elementary school has 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.

Lipscomb Academy Elementary School received the award in recognition of its School Children’s Recycling Action Program (SCRAP).

“We were the only elementary school to receive this honor. The really neat thing is that it is based on what we have already done to make a difference in our environment not based on what we are going to do in the future,” said Ginger Reasonover, science coordinator for the elementary school. “They recognized that we have an integrated approach to teaching our students about how to take care of the environment in all aspects of our curriculum, not just in our science instruction.”

The SCRAP program is one that begins at the kindergarten level. Becky Collins, Lipscomb Academy kindergarten teacher, said the goals of the initiative are to instill in children from their kindergarten year the importance of recycling, to demonstrate to early elementary school children how to lead environmental service projects and that these projects can have a positive impact, to encourage increased participation and ownership by children in school-led recycling efforts, and to model to other Tennessee schools how to be a leader in community recycling efforts and helping other schools to implement similar programs.

“Our students accomplished each goal and have truly learned to reduce waste and reuse items,” said Collins. “They play a significant role in collecting, counting and sorting the items that are recycled at our school.”

Recycling at Lipscomb Academy’s elementary school is a school-wide effort.

“All grade levels actively participate in efforts to reduce waste in the classrooms, cafeteria and other areas. Teachers, in turn, continually make connections between those efforts and the environment. A keen awareness of the need to be good stewards of our planet has become a strong characteristic of the school’s culture. If we can help the children see how we can take care of God’s world, they will see that they can change the world. They are our future leaders. At Lipscomb, taking care of the environment is not something that we do … it’s something that we are,” said Reasonover.

Reasonover said that as a result of the elementary school’s recycling program, the school is effectively keeping recyclable and previously non-recylcable waste out of Tennessee’s landfills. Through its various programs, the elementary school’s recycling actions decrease the amount of carbon pollution in the state, as well as the levels of medications in the area’s water supply. These efforts also greatly contribute to energy conservation. For example, the energy that was saved as a result of the 55,566 aluminum cans the elementary school has recycled would power a television set for 166,698 hours.

This summer, Reasonover, Collins and other representatives received an all-expenses paid trip to SeaWorld to receive the award at a special ceremony.

“We were thrilled to receive this award,” said Reasonover. “Being recognized at the national level is great validation of what we are doing and teaching our students. It also shows that a small Christian school can make a huge difference … and not have to spend a lot of money doing it.”

The grant money will be used to purchase recycling bins for the cafeteria and outdoor areas and to build a turning composter, among other items.

“We’ve been recycling for years. We started this because we wanted to show our students how to make a difference because we wanted to make a difference in our environment,” said Collins. “It’s been like a ripple effect in a pond. The effects are spreading. But, we did it because it’s a way to teach our kids to make a difference. It’s the right thing to do. And, it’s a way to give back.”

Lipscomb Academy’s elementary school is quickly becoming a model for other schools. Earlier this year, 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 schools in the nation, earning first place in Tennessee. Including the middle school division, 1,900 schools entered the contest nationwide.

In 2009, the school received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Green Schools - K-12. The elementary school has several outstanding elements in their approach to environmental education. One key element was the creation of an outdoor classroom for students, which includes an amphitheater, math patio, a human sundial, weather station, frog pond, birding equipment, rainwater collection system and an area for vegetables, butterflies and Tennessee native plants.

In addition to providing a publicly available recycling receptacle in their parking lot, the school also recycles plastics, aluminum, paper, cardboard and does its own composting. Since January 2010, over 60 tons of mixed recyclables have been collected at Lipscomb and kept out of the landfill. Due to its many accomplishments, the elementary school has achieved Performer Level in the Tennessee Pollution Prevention Program. It was the first K-4 school in Tennessee to attain highest-level Performer status.