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Gulf Trace students find it's easy being green

From left, Alex McCarty, 8, Cameron Williams, 7, and Thor Stephan, 8, debate which items found in a scavenger hunt are recyclable or reusable Tuesday at Gulf Trace Elementary.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

From left, Alex McCarty, 8, Cameron Williams, 7, and Thor Stephan, 8, debate which items found in a scavenger hunt are recyclable or reusable Tuesday at Gulf Trace Elementary.

HOLIDAY — Seven-year-old Carrington Adler crouched on the ground, clipboard in hand, and contemplated the future of the plastic coffee cup lid he found on the trash-riddled field at Gulf Trace Elementary.

"So what do you think; is it garbage or is it reusable?" he asked his cohorts.

"It's reusable," Eric Orth, 8, said.

"No it isn't," Scott Cassidy, 9, said. "Because someone put their germs on it."

"Garbage," the three agreed.

They wrote that down on the clipboard, put the lid in the bin labeled "garbage" and moved on.

Students at Gulf Trace Elementary spent Tuesday — Earth Day — racing around picking up plastic bottles and bags, soda cans, newspaper pages and other trash that had been strewn across their playing field on purpose, just so they could apply what they have learned about recycling.

Since they moved into the new school in January, students have been learning what it means to be green in an osmosis sort of way. Their environment has been a wonderful teaching tool, said principal Hope Schooler.

The carpets are made of recycled windshields. The walls are painted with low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint. And there are dual flush toilets (up for No. 1, down for No. 2). Mulch in the flower beds came from the trees that were taken down to clear the land, and the site was replanted with indigenous plants.

Gulf Trace Elementary is one of the first Green LEED (Leadership and Energy and Environmental Design) schools to be built in Florida, and the first school in Pasco to earn LEED certification.

The school, which was designed to use less energy and water than most schools, is a prototype for future Pasco schools such as Veterans Memorial Elementary, which is slated to open in August in Wesley Chapel.

The school's first Earth Day was a big deal, with most students and faculty members wearing at least a splash of green or sporting Earth Day T-shirts. The school's Earth Patrol appeared on the morning news show to provide green trivia questions.

And as part of the school's Earth Day blackout to conserve energy, students tended to their school work by the natural light that poured in through classroom windows. The cafeteria ovens were shut off, so students munched on cold breakfasts and lunches of salad, sandwiches, yogurt and milk.

Not a problem for 6-year-old Ricky Martin Hall, who said he really liked his peanut butter and jelly sandwich — a welcome change from his usual hot lunch.

"I'm never a lunch-boxer," he said, adding that he was having fun on Earth Day, "picking up trash and recycling."

Health assistant Bette Jo Simon, who was working on her computer in the darkened school clinic, said she rather enjoyed it.

"It's actually very nice and pleasant," she said. "Nice and relaxing. Very cool."

Even without air conditioning.

Gulf Trace students find it's easy being green 04/22/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 9:16pm]
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