Commitment to “Green” Principles, Responsible Environmental Stewardship and the Development of Sustainable Local Economy
In 2011, Prairie Moon Waldorf School/Okanis Garden was named a Kansas Green School of the Year for 2011 by the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE). The school was honored at a presentation dinner on April 1, in Topeka and was presented with a Green School banner at the May Music Festival on May 7. Waldorf Association of Lawrence president Rick Mitchell was a speaker at the KACEE annual conference in Goddard on July 29, 2011 and served as a consultant for the Kansas School Gardens Initiative, a portal on the Kansas Green Schools website.
In 2009, Prairie Moon Waldorf School received two grants that enabled the school to develop initiatives related to environmental education, water conservation and local organic food production. A grant provided by the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund of the Douglas County Community Foundation supported the establishment of the Okanis market garden at the school. The garden involves students, teachers and volunteers in organic fruit, flower and vegetable production for the local market. The school operated in 2009 a CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription program and continues to sell, in its fourth year of operation, produce to the Community Mercantile Natural Foods Grocery. A second grant provided by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and administered through the Kansas Association of Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE), supported the writing of a Waldorf inspired environmental education curriculum for use at the school and for various water conservation techniques to be put into practice. The school built a system for rainwater harvesting and storage for use in garden irrigation. Awarding of this grant qualified Prairie Moon Waldorf School to be designated Douglas County’s first official Kansas Green School and one of the first three Green Schools in Kansas.
Okanis Garden partners/affiliates/cooperators now include the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund at the Lawrence Community Foundation, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Kansas Association of Conservation and Environmental Education, the Community Mercantile Natural Foods Grocery, Checkers Food Market, Downtown Lawrence Farmers Market, the KU Center for Sustainability, Global Partners for Local Organic Foods (joint project of the Kansas Rural Center and the Center for East Asian Studies at KU), Citizens for Responsible Planning, and the Native Plant Medicinal Garden of the University of Kansas.
Top Ten Reasons Why Prairie Moon Waldorf School is a “Green School”
10. Recycle: PMWS recycles everything the Lawrence Recycling Center accepts
9. Conservation: The faculty and staff model conservation behaviors for the younger children and actively teach conservation techniques to the older children.
8. PMWS is surrounded by farmland on 7 acres of prime soil with lots of vegetation for green exploration.
7. Okanis Garden work for older children: Gardening is regular part of the grades curriculum. Students plant and nurture seeds under grow lights and transfer them to the school’s garden in the spring. Volunteers keep the garden through the summer and students work in the garden throughout the autumn. See Article by the Lawrence Journal World.
6. Compost: PMWS composts food waste and vegetation from the property.
5. Daily Gardening for early childhood: Younger children, including nursery-aged children, garden in the early childhood playground. In the fall after harvest season, the children put the garden to bed for the winter.
4. Natural materials: PMWS uses only natural materials such as wood, wool, cotton, silk, sand, beeswax, and clay to provide sensory experiences and appreciation of natural substances.
3. Organic: When possible, PMWS uses local or regional organic ingredients in snacks and meals prepared at school.
2. Outside Time: During an average school day, PMWS early childhood students spend 2-3 hours outside– 1 1/2 hours for the grades.
1. Curriculum: The Waldorf curriculum is itself nature-based and fully integrated. Nature is recognized in every subject as the basis of all learning.
In Spring 2009, Prairie Moon Waldorf School became one of the first three official Kansas Green Schools in the state as designated by Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE). The school received a water quality grant for 2008-2009. The Okanis Garden received support under the grant.
The project contained these goals:
(1) to develop an environmental education curriculum, including garden curriculum, which would teach about non-point source pollution. Ms. Teresa M. Woods met with Prairie Moon faculty during the last month of the 2008-09 school year to enact school curricula. Ms. Woods is Coordinator, Kansas State University/Olathe, Kansas, Educational Partnership; Ph.D. Candidate in Curriculum and Instruction, Kansas State University; and Curriculum Coordinator for the Botanical Society of America.
(2) to offer a Prairie Moon Water summer session, including instruction about water quality and water conservation. Prairie Moon grades teacher Mr. Bret Schacht participated with Ms. Woods to develop the Elementary Water summer session (p.54, Prairie Moon Waldorf School Nature Curriculum Working Document). Other summer camp session instructors led students in garden work and activities.
(3) to construct a rain barrel system for watering the garden and other beds and plants on the school grounds. Several Prairie Moon community members and students attended a rain barrel workshop offered by Hillsdale Water Quality Project. Additional research was conducted online.
(4) to engage in other water-saving practices in the Okanis Garden and around the school grounds. A number of in-kind or matching contributions have provided materials and labor for conserving water.
In addition, A Prairie Moon Waldorf School Nature Curriculum Working Document was developed by Ms. Teresa Woods.
For the past three years, PMWS has participated in the United Way of Douglas County’s Summer of Service program. This program provides opportunities for Middle School and High School aged students to volunteer time working in the Okanis Garden at Prairie Moon Waldorf School. In 2012, four students work each Friday in the garden from early June through the middle of August.