Kent County Middle School student Katelyn Cox takes a turn giving a presentation at the Sultana Education Foundation's headquarters in Chestertown Tuesday, May 23 as part of the Watershed Watch program.
Kent County Public Schools is a growing a community of environmental leaders, with teachers and students completing eco-friendly projects.
The State of Maryland requires environmental literacy programs as part of each local school system's curriculum.
Teachers here create lessons that provide real-world, hands-on learning experiences about the environment.
"Our teachers understand the importance of environmental education and teaching about human impact on the environment. They help students understand environmental citizenship concepts and what this looks like and means for our area," said Amelia Markosian, coordinator of accountability and science instruction for Kent County Public Schools.
Administrators and teachers have taken this approach above and beyond classroom instruction and received recognition for their efforts during the 2022-23 school year.
Galena Elementary School and Kent County High School earned the Maryland Green Schools designation from the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education. The two schools join a national and international community of sustainable green schools, according to the association.
Teacher Jessie McGee said Galena Elementary School staff and students worked hard to attain the Maryland Green School designation.
"We are diligent in recycling and have continued to grow our composting program," McGee said. "Students participate in many environmental lessons and take the lead in keeping our school grounds free from litter."
The Maryland Green School award represents a school-wide commitment to environmental literacy for students, staff and the broader community.
"We can't wait to continue finding ways that our school can leave this planet a better place for future generations," McGee said.
The Chestertown-based Sultana Education Foundation helped Kent County Public Schools in the certification process.
The organization also is a big partner in Kent County Public Schools' environmental education programming.
In May, Kent County Middle School students completed the Watershed Watch program with presentations at Sultana's Holt Education Center.
Through the annual Watershed Watch program, students learn about Radcliffe Creek and how the surrounding community affects its water quality.
The middle schoolers in science teacher Katie Hughes' class spoke at the Holt Center about their trips to Radcliffe Creek with Sultana.
The students discussed what they learned about water testing and monitoring and offered solutions on how to be good stewards of the environment.
Also at the middle school, students in science teacher Karen Carty's class completed an Action Project on climate change.
They wrote about rising sea levels, increasing storm damage, wildfires, floods and more — all tied to climate change.
They offered everyday solutions to help mitigate climate change, like taking shorter showers, switching to LED lightbulbs and recycling.
"The effect on climate change is already threatening our health, our communities, our economy and your children's future," the students wrote.
Kent County High School teachers Joe Evans and Jennifer Kuhl-Depp and their students took action this year to help the environment.
In May, they planted a pollinator garden to help sustain monarch butterflies and other species at the county-owned Worton Park next to the high school.
Kent County High School students help plant a pollinator garden for monarch butterflies and other species at Worton Park. The environmental action project was led by teachers Joe Evans and Jennifer Kuhl-Depp.
The teachers forged several partnerships through the project, among them ShoreRivers, a local environmental advocacy organization.
"Jenn Kuhl-Depp and I wrote a grant to the University of Kansas Monarch Watch program and received 40 milkweed plants. ShoreRivers provided pollinator plants and mulch," Evans said. "The county generously gave us a bit more than 400 square feet at Worton Park and tilled up the soil for us."
Having previously been a science teacher at the middle school herself, Markosian knows the value of students getting these kinds of hands-on environmental experiences.
"Using real-world examples and having our students gain insight on environmental issues through field experiences are not only necessary to fully understanding the next generation science and environmental literacy standards, but also imperative to becoming a well-informed, conscientious citizen," Markosian said.