Polly Muller and Jessica Conte, teachers in Monroe Public Schools, have received Zalesky Classroom Conservation Awards in the amount of $400 from the Pilchuck Audubon Society for classroom projects involving composting, gardening and recycling.
Muller has taught nine years at Sky Valley Education Center and currently teaches grades 4, 5, and 6. The students have already been working on a garden. They have grown strawberries, raspberries, carrots, herbs, mushrooms, kale, cabbage, chives, and broccoli, and have started a worm bin. They have been making and eating salads on a daily basis. They grew sunflowers to attract birds.
“It’s primarily a research garden,” says Muller. “The students are researching and learning, even when things don’t work out. It doesn’t look like a community garden. There are weeds in it because we are studying roots and want them to overwinter so we can look at the roots.”
Muller applied for funds to purchase books to help identify the birds they hope to attract to their garden and a composter to compost lunch scraps.
Conte, who teaches kindergarten at Frank Wagner Elementary and is in her 10th year of teaching in Monroe, applied for a worm bin and books on recycling. “The worm bin makes a good way to talk about recycling,” she says. “We talk about nutrients in the ground and how we can use worms to help.”
Conte does a big recycling program in April in conjunction with Earth Day, and the books she will purchase from the grant will help her teach students how to take care of the environment.
“It’s neat that Audubon does this to help teachers to teach science in the classroom,” says Conte. “I wanted to apply for something that matches our curriculum to help the students get excited.”
“We liked their programs,” says Carolyn Lacy, spokeswoman for the Audubon society. “Our primary concern is birds and habitat for birds, which branches out into other habitats.”
The grants are made possible through a generous gift from former teachers Phil and Laura Zalesky and are awarded annually to teachers in elementary schools in Snohomish County and Camano Island to assist them in bringing conservation programs to their students. Ten grants are awarded every year, and the Pilchuck group received 24 applications for 2013.