Sustainability Voyage at the Island School

This article first appeared in the Washington Island Observer

By Board Member Margaret Foss

Washington Island School students have been engrossed in a learning voyage about sustainable living, with a heavy focus on soils, composting and agriculture. The culmination of this project-based learning was to share discoveries and knowledge with the community during an open house on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 10.

Mostly families of students began streaming in at about 1:30 p.m. At the high school level, students could be found in the hallways alongside posters and bulletin boards, presenting their newfound knowledge. Topics included soil nutrition, local and global agriculture and products, local and global seed banks (including reports on the Peninsula Agriculture Research Station and the Svalbard Global Seed Bank in the Norwegian Arctic), groundwater, soil quality and nutrients, phosphorus in soils, agronomy and crop rotation, pest controls, and more.

The middle school students had prepared presentation boards pertaining to their learning about compost experiments and findings, as well as their investigations related to pH levels around Washington Island. Soil pH is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity in soils, which influences how easily plants can take up nutrients. Middle school students, dressed in formal presentation garb, offered great detail in sharing their learning.

Elementary students had many different projects on display. Kindergarten children had several garden plant varieties, in various stages of development. There were also project books, recyclable art displays, water cycle posters, landfill diagram posters, and even small model landfills complete with grass growing on top. In the first and second grade, students had created a large and very detailed creation made totally of recyclable materials – fondly dubbed “The Reusable Castle.” These children also displayed handmade paper and a plant station. The third and fourth graders delved into many sustainability topics, including worm composting, the whys and hows of recycling, the effects of landfills, and tracing food back to the dirt. Scattered about the hallway and classroom, the third graders were available to discuss these topics confidently with visitors. Third and fourth graders also performed a lovely rendition of the book “Heartland” by Diane Siebert. Of particular note here were the students’ essays about how they will utilize their understanding of sustainability practices now and in the future.

Teachers at the Washington Island School were thrilled to take a “back seat” as students became the teachers during this presentation day. If the Island is to have a sustainable future, our youth are clearly evidence for great prospects. 

Russell Rolffs from Gathering Grounds is checking in on the elementary school composting project that he helped the students start. Aidan Goldstein was the expert at telling parents the steps to composting at the Sustainable Living Voyage open house.



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