Going Purple to Green

March 30, 2019

Miles Jones is an urban school in the city of Richmond, Virginia. This is a Title 1 school and 100% of the students are on the free lunch program. Approximately 25% of the 650 students are ESL students. Teachers at the school have been trying to raise the awareness of environmental issues and outside opportunities with our students. Positioned near the James River and many city parks, the school has two grade levels partnering with Blue Sky, an organization that specializes in exposing the students to environmental science standards in an outdoor setting. The school is prime for an environmentally friendly project.

Miles Jones signed up to participate in the Connect the Dots Green School Challenge with USGBC. Last year, the school participated in the Challenge and assisted with a project that is currently bringing solar power to a number of Richmond schools. Some of the common goals in this partnership with USGBC are environmental stewardship, community outreach and to compliment curriculum standards. After meeting with school representatives and our assigned mentors, we developed a three-prong project.

1. Recycling Program: We have obtained bins for every office, classroom and copying station to begin collecting recyclables. A team of 15-20 fifth graders are responsible for transporting the recyclables to the receptacle outside.

2. A solar powered pump with a rain barrel: In order to provide a water source to the garden area, we will connect a rain barrel to the modules in back of the school. To continue the solar connection from the previous project, we will install a solar powered pump to the barrel.

3. Enlarge existing garden area, compost and weather station: The project will add additional garden beds to the garden area. It will create a compost bin to enhance the soil. As a bonus, we will also set up a weather station.

We are really excited about our project and how it will benefit the students. The weather station will have a direct impact on teaching science, in particular for second grade where we teach weather and for fifth grade where we emphasize science. The garden beds and the compost will be used by third grade to teach their unit on soil and its composition. The garden beds will be divided amongst the grade levels and will be used to teach botany and life processes. Finally, the recycling program will be student-driven and controlled project leading to a great real life experience for them.

The overall primary impact of this project is to raise environmental awareness and stewardship amongst the students here at Miles Jones. With the many issues facing our planet, such as climate change, pollution, water availability and energy needs, it is essential for educators to instill an awareness and sense of urgency in our students. On the surface, what we are doing may seem small in scale -- garden beds, rain barrels, and some solar panels -- but on a larger scale, it is very important, essential even, to raise the consciousness level of our students to the real dangers of not caring for the environment. So I hope that over and beyond the value this program is to our science curriculum, and the value we add by recycling at Miles Jones , we will succeed if the project helps to impress upon the students that they are responsible for our world and must assume the leadership and responsibility for being its steward.


Students attended


Staff attended


Additional Volunteers attended


Students will be impacted this year

Intended impact of project

Reduced environmental impact

Impact of project

Educated on sustainable skills and practices
Educated on sustainability knowledge
Environmental restoration
Improved environmental & sustainability literacy
Beautification of school/site
Energy and/or water conservation
Waste reduction

More impact of project

The project is ongoing so it is difficult to determine the actual impact at this point. The recycle bins are in place and we will begin our program the week after Spring Break. Grades K, 3 and 4 have already begun growing vegetables in their rooms and these will be transplanted into the garden beds at some point in April or early May. We are anticipating choosing a weekend day to meet at the school and build the deck and put in the rain barrel and solar powered pump.
While we did not generate or collect any original data, the students did research and look at data designed to show the benefits of recycling and gardening in a school environment. The recycle portion of the project will be ongoing in the foreseeable future. The biggest project work in the future will be setting up the solar panels and rain barrel. We plan to establish responsibility and a routine for the garden and compost area that will ensure its ongoing maintenance and growth. As mentioned above, the project will reinforce the science and botany curriculum currently taught in the classrooms. The gardens will provide many hands on experiences in life cycles and ground soil composition and analysis. The weather station will also directly correlate with science curriculum. The project team submitted two Donor Choose projects requesting funding for project needs. Through family, friends and the community at large both projects were fully funded.
Our plan is to involve the company donating the solar panel and battery when we build the wooden platform for the rain barrel. They will also connect the pump to the barrel and make it operational.
The student team that worked on the project researched and prepared a powerpoint presentation about the project. They also created a video using imovie promoting the project.