by JIM CULLEN
Leading the way in the Hays Consolidated ISD move to environmentally sound practices, Susie T. Fuentes Elementary School received the Texas Green Ribbon School Award this fall. About the award, Stars Principal Regina Butcher said, “I am so proud of our students, our teachers, our staff members and all of our families. This was definitely a dream of mine when I came to Fuentes and we have only just begun the journey!”
Butcher came to the campus just over a year ago following a stint as Assistant Principal at Negley Elementary. She quickly shared her zeal for things environmental and that enthusiasm naturally dovetailed with the portion of Hays CISD’s 5-year strategic plan that addresses conservation. Strategy 6 in the plan says, “We will infuse instruction with environmental stewardship and integrate sound environmental practices into facility design, constriction, and operation.”
That charge is increasingly prioritized in the district and Fuentes Elementary is one of the most visibly and demonstrably committed sites in the district. According to the awards website, the Green Ribbon School Award, went to only 16 elementary schools in Texas, recognizing “schools participating in activities that promote and encourage a healthy environment.”
The recognized activities must fall under the award’s “Four Cornerstones,” those areas including Eco-Campus, Health and Fitness, Nature Adventure and Natural Classrooms. The seven-member “Fuentes Green Team” of Butcher, librarian Alma Medina, and teachers Kris Brown, Karee Bursiel, Kelsey Haltermann, Candace Robertson and Jayme Salinas oversee the ongoing efforts to touch each of those areas.
During the 2010-2011 school year those campus efforts included lessons on what they could do about overconsumption, what landfills are, and activities titled Waste Free Wednesdays, Green Hour, Schoolyard Scavenger Hunt, and teacher, staff and student health and fitness challenges in Fitness Stars. The Stars’ Natural Classroom included field investigation with a tree journal and “forest for learning” as well as nature electives titled “Be a Rockhound” and “Caterpillar Finger Play.”
Butcher and her fellow Fuentes Green Team members said their participation in the Green Ribbon Schools program allows “health, education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills, technology and ‘being green’ to combine to propel an entire school towards a happier, healthier and smarter future.”
The outward signs of this green wave at Fuentes aren’t hard to spot. The school’s Star mascot is now portrayed in the campus logo as a blue and green, star-shaped earth, with a sprig of greenery growing around its girth. Not too coincidentally, the Hays CISD slogan, “A Place Where Ideas Grow,” also sports a budding green leaf. By design, receipt of the Texas Green Ribbon School Award recognizes that Stars at Fuentes are being brought into the 21st century fully cognizant of the growing needs of the planet.