Grant Helps Florida School Make the Grade in 'Going Green'

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Two years ago, Equestrian Trails Elementary School in Wellington, Florida, set a goal to become a high-performance green school. With the help of a Green Grant from Pratt & Whitney, the school's green dream has bloomed into a huge success.

"Being green has become a way of life for everyone at our school," said Michele Johnson, principal of Equestrian Trails. "Our Green Team includes teachers, staff, students, parents and a number of local businesses and community organizations, including the Wellington Garden Club."

"Students are never too young to learn how to care for the environment," said Maura Heffernan, manager, Environment, Health & Safety at Pratt & Whitney in West Palm Beach, Florida. "I am proud to work for a company that is a recognized leader in green technologies and environmental sustainability, and an avid supporter of environmental awareness activities in the community."

In May, Equestrian Trails was named a Green School of Excellence, the highest recognition awarded to green schools by the School District of Palm Beach County and the Florida Atlantic University Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in West Palm Beach. In April, Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam presented Equestrian Trails with a Florida Farm to School "Golden Shovel" Award for Best Revitalized Garden.

"We are honored to receive these coveted awards," Principal Johnson said. "Winning these awards was made possible, in large part, because of the generous grant from Pratt & Whitney and the Wellington Garden Club, which administered the grant on behalf of Pratt & Whitney. The grant funded numerous green classroom and schoolyard activities throughout the year."

Students planted flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs in the school garden and a Cassia tree on the school grounds to attract sulphur butterflies. They also painted pots for evergreen seedlings, made compost, set up a planter box garden, built a hydroponic garden and planted 80 grow bags. Indoor green classroom activities included reading books, learning songs, drawing posters and writing poetry about nature as well as creating sculptures using recyclable materials.

Funding from Pratt & Whitney also was used to purchase new picnic tables made of recyclable material for the school's trellis butterfly garden. "The garden has become a popular spot for outdoor classes," Principal Johnson said.

"It is exhilarating to see how excited the students get when they are involved in nature projects," said Silke Kiesewetter Corredor, a Green Team volunteer and mother of two students at the school. "They are learning an important lesson – caring for our natural resources is an everyday activity, which takes responsibility, commitment and teamwork."

"A big shout out to Pratt & Whitney, the Wellington Garden Club and all those who played a role in our green success story," Principal Johnson said. "Equestrian Trails is paying it forward, helping other schools go green."

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