From a butterfly garden and bluebird boxes, to a new outdoor classroom among the trees, has spent the last two years working to become a certified Maryland Green School.
In honor of the award, presented by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, hundreds of students, faculty and family members picnicked on school grounds Wednesday afternoon.
"The children could invite anyone they wanted to the picnic," said Assistant Principal Cherie Whittaker, who greeted parents and grandparents during much of the event. Many students dressed in green and played board games while eating their sack lunches.
"It has been a long and difficult process, but we are ecstatic about the progress of the school," Whittaker said.
To gain certification, schools must complete a two-year application process, including extensive documentation, environmental instruction, faculty training, in-school conservation efforts and ongoing school-community partnerships, according to the MAEOE website.
Kem Price, a kindergarten teacher, and Dannie Frisone, a first grade teacher, spearheaded the application.
"I think it was rewarding for us to become involved in something that makes the students more environmentally aware," Price said. "Now they know about recycling, energy conservation, they're aware of the bay—they're lifelong environmentalists."
"It was already an excellent school, in terms of academics and behavior, but this further improves the overall quality of the education here," Frisone added. "The students now know exactly what it means to be green."
Certification has produced real changes in the behavior of students and teachers, they said. Teachers find more opportunities to take the children outdoors, and trash-free lunches, where reusable dishes replace plastic and styrofoam waste, are becoming the norm.
David Cole, a third grade student, joined the school's recycling club this year. "I go around and pick up the recycling bins," he said. "It's fun. I'm proud to go to a green school."
His mother, Melissa Cole, said she supports the school's new environmental programs. "He's very green and we're encouraging that. We want him to know that it's important."
"It's been really good. They've been recycling in the cafeteria and building bird houses," said Beth Mueller, whose daughter, Maddie, is in second grade.
"We've done stuff that we wouldn't have gotten to do if we hadn't tried to get the green school certificate," said Emma Evans, a third grade student.
Her grandfather, Richard Nolet, said the students' education could have worldwide implications. "We've all got to share the same planet and it's got to last a long time," Nolet said.
Parents and family members played an important role in earning certification, Frisone said.
Janet Dillon, Dominic Dunnigan and Jean Marie Krygowski each served on a committee to help green the school. PTA members took responsibility for maintaining the school's entrance garden and Tyler Cogar, a student whose sister attends Kingsville, has worked to build nature trails around the school for his Eagle Scout project.
The next step is maintenance, Frisone said. "We earned it but now we can't let it fall to the wayside," he said.
Recertification occurs every two years. "This project isn't just going to end," Price said. "Because it's theirs, they've taken ownership."
School officials will receive a Maryland Green School flag during a ceremony on June 3 at Sandy Point State Park.