JOLIET – Students from eight schools celebrated the planet and their roles in protecting it at the annual Earth Flag Awards at Rialto Square Theater.
It is the 20th year that the Land Use Department has done presentations at Will County schools.
The awards are sponsored by the Will County Land Use Department’s Resource Recovery and Energy Division. This year 48 schools earned the designation.
Students were welcomed by Nick Palmer, chief of staff for Will County Executive Larry Walsh, who congratulated the students for their efforts, calling them “the leaders of tomorrow.”
Palmer said, “We want to continue to collaborate with our schools and continue to learn from one another. We want to keep recycling relevant and think of new ways to reduce our overall waste footprint in order to care for our planet.”
Joan O’Keefe, the county’s Environmental Educator, and colleague Tim Anderson presented the awards on Wednesday, May 9. To qualify, a school must complete four of 13 qualified Earth Tasks, two of which must be recycling at least two materials, and inviting O’Keefe to speak with one grade level or club.
Prior to the event, O’Keefe said, “Whether it be an assembly or visiting schools room by room, I encourage students to keep recycling-- and more importantly start reducing waste. Students are encouraged to stop wasting at home and at school and to look at how they contribute to filling up our landfills.
“If schools want more graphic real-life experiences, lunch time waste audits can be performed with a student group. Students help sort lunch waste and observe what kind of wastes are prevalent at their schools. If possible, after the audit is complete all students come back to the lunch room to see just what is going into those garbage receptacles.
“Suggestions are gathered from the student body on how they can make a difference. Some schools opt to do school yard composting and classroom vermicomposting - with worms. Students observe worm anatomy and witness the decomposition of organic wastes.
She said some schools do art fairs where all projects are designed using found objects and trash. Schools also have a choice to go above and beyond the county’s benchmarks. For example, Laraway School put on an afterschool Earth Day event for students and their families in April. Attendees learned about planting gardens and had fun running a recycling relay and coloring monarch butterfly cutouts.
The eight schools which attended were: Carl Sandburg School, Joliet; Elwood School, Elwood; Richland School, Crest Hill; Minooka Intermediate School, Minooka; Holy Family School, Shorewood; Hufford Jr. High School, Joliet; Kenneth L. Hermansen School, Romeoville; and Taft Elementary, Joliet.
Peotone Junior High placed first in the TREX paper bag challenge, collecting 1,674 pounds. Taking second place was Frankfort Square School in Frankfort. Third place went to Elwood School. Collectively, all participating schools collected 5,120 pounds of plastic. TREX uses the bags in its outdoor furniture.
Other schools which earned Earth Flags this year were: St. Dennis, Lockport; Montessori School, Joliet;
Ludwig Elementary, Lockport; Arbury Hills, Mokena; Walker Intermediate, Tinley Park; Oster-Oakview, New Lenox; Frankfort Square, Frankfort; Plainfield East High, Plainfield; Caroline Bentley, New Lenox and Reed School, Homer Glen;
Also, Robert C. Hill, Romeoville; William B. Orenic, Plainfield; Anna McDonald, Manhattan; Lincoln-Way Central, New Lenox; John R. Tibbott, Bolingbrook; Victor Andrew High, Tinley Park; Irene King, Romeoville; Arlene Welch, Naperville; Peotone Junior High, Peotone; and Reed Custer Middle, Braidwood;
And Apple Tree Pre-School, Plainfield; Liberty Elementary, Bolingbrook; Plainfield Central High, Plainfield;
Bolingbrook High, Bolingbrook; Chelsea School, Frankfort; William J. Butler, Lockport; Spencer Crossing, New Lenox; St. Rose, Wilmington; William Young, Homer Glen; and Pioneer Path, Channahon.
Lastly, A. Vito Martinez, Romeoville; KLA School, Plainfield; Walsh Elementary, Lockport; Central School, Plainfield; Marycrest Early Childhood, Joliet; Freedom Elementary, Plainfield; Haines School, New Lenox;
Kensington Pre-School, Naperville; Rockdale Elementary, Rockdale; and Laraway Elementary, Joliet.
“In all, we are so proud of all our schools for giving our natural environment a special lesson in the classroom,” said O’Keefe.