ShaileenJohnson2 Big Picture High School student Shaileen Johnson (pictured above) will be honored for her environmental stewardship at the King County Earth Heroes at School awards ceremony on May 5. Shai proposed, planned, developed and has been facilitating a ‘Green Team’ that meets once a week to focus on reuse and recycling. Under Shai’s leadership, the Green Team began a campaign to educate students on the benefits of recycling and the proper way to do it. They surveyed the campus and identified areas that needed recycling bins and signs. Shai is now planning a green spirit week. Solid Waste Division Director Pat McLaughlin will present the awards on Thursday, May 5 at 4:30 p.m. at Maplewood Greens, 4050 Maple Valley Hwy. in Renton. “Earth Heroes inspire others to create their own projects that conserve resources, protect the environment, and educate others about how simple, everyday actions can contribute to a healthier planet,” reads an announcement. The program recognizes actions in:

  • Waste reduction, reuse, or recycling
  • Food waste prevention or food waste collection for composting
  • Sustainable gardening
  • Climate change education or greenhouse gas emissions reduction change
In 2012, then-Big Picture student Sandy Zimmerman was also given this award. The 2016 honorees include 10 students, four student environmental clubs, seven staff, three teachers, and four schools. Twelve school districts are represented. Examples of Earth Hero projects are below:
  • Building a garden to serve as an outdoor community learning space and donating the harvest to school families and the local food bank.
  • Collecting paper towels from the school bathrooms and sending them to the compost center.
  • Connecting special education and leadership students in the operation of the recycling program.
  • Having middle school students teach elementary school students about food waste prevention and other environmental topics.
  • Producing a “We Create Change” fundraiser for the protection of wildlife and ecosystems.
For more information about the Earth Heroes at School Program, contact Donna Miscolta at[email protected] or 206-477-5282. Here’s the full list of winners:


Climate Change

Students Sun Hong and Alexis Lolley, Green Gables Elementary School – Federal Way Public Schools These two active Green Team members have contributed to the weekly Green Tips of the Week, helped write the school slogan Think Clean, Think Green, wrote a school chant and shared it at the monthly assembly, launched a water conservation poster contest, and helped produce a “We Create Change” fundraiser for the protection of wildlife and ecosystems.

Food Waste Prevention or Collection for composting

Schools Highland Middle School Green Genius Team – Bellevue School District In its campaign to reduce cafeteria waste, the school conducted a number of activities to ensure proper collection of food items for composting. It made daily announcements about the importance of sorting, posted stickers on recycling bins and trash cans with reminders, and rewarded students who properly sorted cafeteria waste and recyclable materials with an Excellent Eagle reward. The school competed in and won first place in their category of the City of Bellevue’s Cafeteria Challenge. Spiritridge Elementary School Green Genius Team – Bellevue School District This team of staff, teachers, parents and students ran a broad campaign to reduce food waste and to properly sort cafeteria waste for recycling and composting. They encouraged parents to send lunches in reusable containers; made educational posters, training videos, and slide shows; and kept the school community informed through newsletters, morning announcements, and the website. The school competed in and won first place in their category of the City of Bellevue’s Cafeteria Challenge. Staff Nick Charles, Meadow Crest Early Learning Center – Renton School District Nick has been the force behind the center’s food waste prevention and collection effort. He collects the food waste containers from the classrooms, staff lounge, and kitchen and empties them into the outdoor compost dumpster. Uneaten food is brought back to the kitchen to be logged and sorted by hand by Nick. The center has cut its waste by over 60 percent and was recognized by King County as a Sustainable Green School for 2015-16. Students Juanita High School Earth Corps Team – Lake Washington School District The school’s Earth Corps, sponsored by teacher Jim Clark, registered as a King County Green School to receive assistance for its cafeteria recycling and composting program. The students created a rap-style video about waste reduction which they presented to the student body and later to the Kirkland City Council. They are making another video about environmental stewardship. Their efforts have resulted in reducing lunchroom waste by half.

Sustainable Gardening

School Lakota Middle School Integrated Environmental Sustainability Academy (IESA) – Federal Way Public Schools The IESA built a garden as an outdoor community learning space. The first-year harvest yielded nearly 600 pounds of produce, which was donated to school families and the local food bank. The goal for 2016 is to produce and harvest 1,000 pounds of produce. Academy students are educated in farm-to-table practices, and the community garden provides opportunities for them to understand the economic, social, and ecological interdependence in their local community. Staff Alicia Sullivan, St. Luke School – Shoreline Alicia designed the plans for a school garden to be maintained by students. She lined up donations and grants, organized volunteers, and set up a curriculum on soils, plants, and composting. The first harvest of vegetables was shared at a school lunch. Alicia continues to support the project by lining up grants and workshops, distributing seed packets to all school families, and gathering a library of resources for the gardening curriculum. Teacher Katherine Stewart, Montessori Children’s House (MCH) – Redmond Each day Katherine leads more than 50 students through the school garden, helping them apply their classroom lessons on plants, food, and the environment. She also leads cooking classes, demonstrating the seed to table journey using the harvest from the garden. During Katherine’s five years with MCH, 500 students have participated in the garden program. Many of the school’s graduates consider their garden education one of their most meaningful experiences.

Waste Reduction and Recycling

School Pacific Cascade Middle School Green Team and Courtney Peterson and Joanne Donovan – Issaquah School District This team of students, teachers, and the custodian has reduced lunch waste by increasing recycling and composting. Activities include promoting the use of a share table to reduce the amount of wasted food, making video announcements to encourage participation in waste-free Wednesdays, and recognizing a weekly super recycler. A district audit determined a 70 percent recycling rate for the lunchroom. The project has increased awareness among the 1,050 students about reducing waste. Staff Will Chromey, Discovery Elementary School – Issaquah School District After hearing about a project to compost bathroom paper towels at another school, Will began a similar project at his school. He also initiated the switch from disposable to durable utensils in the lunchroom. Will joined the Green Team advisory committee and on his own time attends district-wide Green Team meetings. He helps run Waste Free Wednesdays each week and weighs the garbage to keep track of results. Kim Foerster, Renton Park Elementary School – Renton School District Kim directs the Renton Park student Green Team, which oversees proper sorting of lunchroom waste, and the RoadRunner Recyclers who collect recyclable materials from classrooms and other areas in the school. In the past five years, Kim has grown participation in the programs from five or six students to 60 students. Kim also coordinates the parent volunteer effort and serves as the PTA liaison. These efforts increased Renton Park’s recycling rate to 50 percent. Michael Getty, Sunset Elementary School – Issaquah School District Mike is a strong supporter of the school Green Team efforts and is always on the lookout for ways to reduce and prevent waste. When the school replaced its risers, rather than send the old ones to the landfill, Michael located a scrap metal recycler to pick them up for free. Michael also assists the school’s Waste Watchers team in directing lunchroom waste to the proper bins for recycling and composting. James Haney and Vasiliy Mocharnyy, Camelot Elementary School – Auburn School District Custodians Vasiliy Mocharnyy and James Haney tirelessly maintain the school recycling program. With Vasiliy on the early shift and James on the afternoon shift, they work to keep Camelot green around the clock. Their insights and expertise helped the school to seamlessly transition from a green-ish school to a true green school. Their commitment to recycling further ignited enthusiasm among students and teachers to rethink their consumption of resources at school and at home. Students Molly Bricker, Tahoma High School – Tahoma School District Green Team member Molly Bricker is a teaching assistant in the special education classroom. She took the lead on training special education students as lunchroom docents to answer questions about recycling, composting, and proper sorting of waste. Molly planned and carried out the lessons, and created a schedule for lunchroom coverage that involved both the student docents and leadership students. Molly’s efforts contributed significantly to the school’s waste reduction successes. Cottage Lake Elementary Green Team – Northshore School District The Green Team has continued its waste reduction efforts begun in 2014 and has maintained its 60 percent recycling rate through outreach activities such as weekly reminder announcements; school-wide recycling pick-up; recycling signs and posters; paper-reuse boxes; and reminders to turn off light switches. Green Team members also make classroom presentations about reducing, reusing, and recycling. These efforts have increased awareness and action both at school and at home. Abdul Malik Ford, Todd Beamer High School – Federal Way Public Schools Malik facilitated his school’s application to the King County Green Schools Program. He interviewed school custodians about current practices and inventoried the garbage and recycling bins. Malik encouraged the use of classroom recycling bins by working with leadership teachers and the student body. Malik attends the district Green Coalition meetings to share his school’s initiatives. He recruited juniors and sophomores for the Green Team to continue these initiatives after he graduates. Enumclaw Middle School Leadership Students – Enumclaw School District Last year, Karl Karkainen’s leadership students began delivering presentations on food waste prevention and recycling to fourth and fifth graders at district elementary schools. This year, the students are leading presentations on energy, hazardous waste, agriculture, and recycling. Leadership students demonstrate their understanding of environmental topics by teaching them to others. When the younger students enter Enumclaw Middle School they will already be grounded in its sustainability ethic and practices. International Community School (ICS) Green Team – Lake Washington School District The ICS Green Team introduced composting collection at the school in April 2015. The team worked closely with the custodial staff, did waste audits, made an instructional video, and created signs on proper sorting of waste. The waste audit prior to composting collection showed that 80 percent by weight of the school’s garbage was compostable. Since the program was established, nearly all food waste is diverted to make compost. Shaileen Johnson, Big Picture High School – Highline School District Shai proposed, planned, developed and has been facilitating a Green Team that meets once a week. The meetings raise awareness of green issues with a focus on reuse and recycling. Under Shai’s leadership, the Green Team began a campaign to educate students on the benefits of recycling and the proper way to do it. They surveyed the campus and identified areas that needed recycling bins and signs. Shai is now planning a green spirit week. Nautilus K-8 students – Federal Way Public Schools Dasha Biryukova, Amelie Pulido-Ayala, Emma Ross, Steven Ross, and Myla Warden were each nominated as an Earth Hero by a classmate. Dasha helps others take their recycling bins to the disposal site. Amelie works hard and takes out several recycling bins at a time for emptying. Emma always puts the bins back in the right spot and always has a smile on her face. Steve helps others with their bins when he is done with his own. Myla sorts, cleans, helps, and is polite. Teachers Hank Klein, Challenger Elementary School – Issaquah School District As the school’s Green Team leader, Hank initiated the use of durable utensils and dishware in the cafeteria. He also introduced a program to collect paper towels for composting. He backs up each of his initiatives with data on cost savings. He promotes waste-free lunches and encourages students to reduce waste and recycle at school and at home. Hank’s efforts have helped the school earn Level 2 in the King County Green Schools Program. Elizabeth Wing, Carnation Elementary School – Riverview School District Elizabeth’s goal is to teach students to be stewards of the environment by engaging in conservation practices every day. Her third-grade Green Team has made paper reuse trays for each classroom; created a pledge, a video, and posters to remind others to rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle; and provided recycling presentations in the community. The school was recently recognized by King County as a Sustaining Green School.

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2 replies on “Big Picture High School student to be honored as King County 'Earth Hero'”

  1. Congratulations Shaileen! Love hearing of your and the other students leadership in this program. Our earth is such a wonderful place. Thank you for everything you are doing to keep it healthy and beautiful!

  2. I think it’s very sick and disgusting to see these kids being brainwashed by adults with the incessant green environmental senselessness and outright lies.
    Hay thanks kids for collecting paper towels from the school bathrooms and sending them to the compost center. It’s a dirty job but you’ve been well trained!

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