J.C. Parks honored by NOAA as Ocean Guardian School

December 5, 2016

parksstudentsThe J.C. Parks Elementary School students and staff were honored last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through its Ocean Guardian School program. Parks is the first elementary school in Maryland to be recognized as an Ocean Guardian School for its efforts in conservation, protecting the environment, improving local watersheds and promoting green efforts. During a recognition ceremony held Nov. 21, student members of the Parks Green Team introduced some of the conservation efforts coordinated at the school and why it was important for them to be involved.

Under the direction of Parks science teacher Deanna Wheeler, the Green Team helps to maintain the wetlands and outdoor classroom area on the Parks campus, participates in the school’s Green Apple Day of Service, studies local watershed areas such as Mallows Bay and Chapman’s Landing and helps to place gabions, or fencing, used to help control erosion. In their science classes, students also helped to raise more than 400 yellow perch freshwater fish and released them in to the wild.

Wheeler encourages all students to give back to the environment. “We work on several projects to make sure we help protect the environment, improve watersheds. This is our second year in the program but our first banner year for meeting the requirements,” Wheeler said. During the ceremony, Green Team members gave a visual presentation about what happens to rain water collected at the school, and how it eventually leads to the ocean.

To receive recognition through NOAA’s Ocean Guardian program, schools must first apply and submit a community-based project as part of the application. The program supplies grant funding to help support conservation projects. Parks first received $4,000 in grant funds last school year to help with several environmentally driven projects at the school, such as a Wetlands Day and to support a solar powered fountain. Parks is in the second year of participating in the program, which is a program new Parks Principal Greg Miller fully supports.

“We have a very important mission. Research states kids who learn about science and taking care of the environment learn skills that are important for any future career field. Let’s continue our hard work and help each other learn,” Miller said.

Samuel Orlando, a member of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuary, presented Wheeler with an official Ocean Guardian School banner to honor the students for their efforts. Orlando also highlighted the overall goal of the program and said it ultimately benefits students by introducing them to learning through doing. “This program helps kids learn about environmental stewardship. Students learn through various hands-on activities, such as working in local watersheds and visiting National Marine Sanctuaries. Your school is also the first elementary school East of the Mississippi River to receive this recognition, and one of only two schools in Maryland,” he said.

The second Ocean Guardian School in Maryland is North Point High School, who was first honored last school year with a program banner for their environmental conservation efforts. North Point will be honored for meeting the program requirements for the second year in a ceremony planned for this afternoon at the school.

Grant funding is provided annually once Ocean Guardian Schools meet goals outlined in community service projects identified by the school. To learn more about the Ocean Guardian School program, visit http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/education/ocean_guardian/schools.html.