On Wednesday, Sept. 17, French Elementary School turned "green." After completing the first level of the Green Flag Program, French students were presented with a national recycling award and a vibrant green flag to hang at their school. Along with only 10 other schools across the country participating in the program, French Elementary "detectives" investigated environmental health issues within their own school. More specifically, they looked at the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides, indoor air quality and recycling practices. The students served as detectives alongside teachers, administrators and parents to complete their investigation.
Lois Gibbs, the housewife/activist who 25 years ago fought toxic chemicals in Love Canal, N.Y., founded the Green Flag Program to teach young people how the environment can affect their health. It is part of her national Child Proofing Our Communities Campaign, which reported that in hundreds of schools, children are experiencing environmental hazards that are making them sick. The skyrocketing rate of asthma among young people is a major indicator of increasing environmental risks for them.
Gibbs also worked with Bob Kochitzky and Melanie Dickersbach of the Mississippi 2020 Network to incorporate her program with their organization in Mississippi. "Environmental health is a different issue for kids," Dickersbach warns. "Kids are smaller and are affected a lot differently and a lot more than adults. It's a more hazardous thing."
According to Melanie Dickersbach, program manager at Mississippi 2020 in Jackson who presented the award to French, the Green Flag Program "fit nicely" with their own initiative regarding environmental health called the Clean Green Healthy Schools Manual. The Clean Green Manual was also used by French Elementary for its specific lesson plans and ideas to help them meet the goals listed by the Green Flag Program.
After the ceremony, the students went outside the school and raised their new Green Flag under the American flag. French now will tackle the second level (out of a total of three), which will focus on the issue of reuse and recycling.
For more information on Mississippi2020 and the Clean Green Healthy Schools Manual, see http://www.mississippi2020.org