The Authors:

Tracy Gordon,
4th Grade Teacher
Half Day School
Lincolnshire, IL

The Illinois Green Schools Project, launched last summer, connects educators and students with professional mentors in the green building community. In our pilot cohort, 25 professional mentors were matched with 14 participating schools across the state.

As the first cohort of the project wraps up, fourth grade teacher Tracy Gordon shares her experience in the program.

How did you hear about/get connected to the Illinois Green Schools Project?

We were fortunate that a parent in our district brought Illinois Green Schools Project to our attention. She has been working to form a community group to promote more green habits within the school and community and was familiar with the work being done by the Illinois Green. We are thankful for her suggestions and for her involvement in our school community. 

Why did you decide to join the cohort?

Collaborating with others helps create stronger learning communities. I was excited to hear about the Illinois Green Schools Project because working together would allow us to share ideas with other schools and community groups. I enjoy hearing what other schools are doing and how we can improve our own green efforts.

What project is your school team working on?

We are taking over an unused school courtyard and turning it into a beautiful learning space filled with native plants, student-grown gardens, outdoor learning opportunities, as well as creating a space for recycled art made by our students.

Our goal is to have a learning environment filled with nature: created and maintained by students. As we plan our courtyard, we are learning about the importance of native plants, reusing and recycling materials, and how to create trash into treasures. One of our biggest endeavors is to collect enough bottle caps which will be transformed into benches to use in our courtyard. The students are using this remote learning time to grow plants from seeds that will be used to plant in our garden beds. They are also researching ways to use our space and creating blueprints based on this research.

How has the project changed your classroom/students’ attitudes?

Our students are excited about the possibilities that this courtyard can offer our students. They love being part of the design crew and active members of our planting projects. As soon as COVID restrictions are lifted, students will be able to assist with the actual planting and cleaning of the courtyard. Students will be actively involved in creating this space from design to implementation to maintaining the area.

Our students are passionate about the environment and are excited to promote green habits in our outdoor learning space. This is one of many projects our students have taken part in, this project is of the highest interest because they are involved from start to finish and will see the positive impact it makes on our students.

Why should someone be a part of the Illinois Green Schools Project?

We have begun our journey to forming a more sustainable green school. We formed our Green Team a couple of years ago and have made great progress in reducing our waste and creating greener habits within our schools. We want to be part of the solution and want to collaborate with experts to help us continue our journey. We so appreciate the knowledge and expertise this group has provided. Our mentors are knowledgeable and passionate about our projects. They have been incredibly helpful and have offered tremendous support. Learning about the journey of other schools has been helpful as well. Collaborating with other teachers as well as experts in sustainability models has enabled us to make better decisions for our school.

While the spring 2021 cohort is wrapping up, sign up for our emails to be notified when registration opens for the 2021-2022 cohort.