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Composting, Gardening, Green Schools, Katonah, Recycling, Sustainability

Going Green at Katonah Elementary School

by K.E.S. “Hot Bloggers” and Heather Flournoy

4th and 5th graders at KES in the Greenhouse

KES students show off their new water bottle refill faucet

A variety of water containers that happened to be on hand in our classroom

Katonah Elementary school has a theme for the year: “Make a Difference.”

This means making the school a better place, improving yourself, and among other things, helping the environment by doing things at the school like recycling and reducing the use of materials like paper, says student council member Isabella.

First, who are these “Hot Bloggers”? They are eight 4th and 5th graders from Katonah Elementary School who are participating in a “Do the Write Thing” workshop on blogging, led by yours truly. The subject? Sustainability in the KES school. The newbie bloggers?  Mikey, Marc, Isabella, Aiet, Hiya, Julia, Beatrix, Reed are in the house!

First we looked at some local blogs:, A and Then we looked at an example of a popular blog by a young person, 14 year old Orren Fox who has been blogging for a couple of years: Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs.

We then talked about what a weblog is, what motivates people to write blogs, and what would motivate members of the group to blog about. The answers varied from Xbox to Technology and Gadgets to Ancient Roman Mythology.

As an aside, I just wanted to thank everyone for their enthusiastic assistance in helping me with my first use of a SmartBoard. These things are pretty awesome tools and a lot of fun to use!

For much of the class we addressed some pretty serious topics. The class invited assistant principal Terry Costin in for an interview.

Mr. Costin has been a quite leader in moving KES to reduce its waste and consumption and to engage parents, students, other schools, the town and outside professionals in continuing dialogue about what the school can do to achieve the goals that has made it a leader in the Green Schools Coalition. Mr. Costin told the story of water bottles and his search to find out how many water bottles were consumed in the school district. The conclusion may surprise you: 9,000 per month! Mikey quickly tallied that meant 90,000 per year based on a 10 month school year. Mr. Costin shared that this means that there are over $135,000 in water bottle sales per year. Beatrix was right on top of the issue when she asked how much money the school makes on those sales, and she was aware there was a vendor involved in the sales as well.

Everyone agreed that this represents a lot of unnecessary waste and they support solutions like bringing refillable water bottles to school. The school has a pilot Water Refill Station outside the cafeteria, the purpose of which is to see if an faucet whose shape is designed to make it easier to fill a water bottle will increase student use of refillable water bottles.  So far it seems well-used, but there are a few problems. Reed and Marc reported that they have heard students complain that they didn’t like the taste of the tap water. Beatrix did a quick survey of some students and found that so far most of the 5th graders she asked said they didn’t like using the fountains. Mr. Costin added that there was a slightly higher than suggested sodium issue at one point, but that has been resolved so perhaps the water tastes better now. He also said they are lucky at this school because the water quality is high and consistently monitored.

Every member of the group reported having their own reusable water bottles at home.

Julia, Beatrix and Isabella asked Mr. Costin how students could get reusable water bottles with the KES logo on it. He replied that they would be available during April at the PTO store, and added that April is “Earth Day every day” month, and the school would be highlighting various green initiatives throughout the month. Beatrix suggested that there be an announcement made the day prior to the bottles being available so that students could bring money with them the next day.

Next up: The Greenhouse Program

The group moved to the school’s greenhouse and greenhouse facilitator and master gardener Cathy Clare led a discussion on Cow Pots, er… grow pots that look like peat pots but are made from cow manure. The pots fertilize the growing plant and then get planted right into the ground with the plant. Aiet and Miss Clare led a discussion the economics of the pots: where they come from, how they get processed, transported, distributed and brought to market before coming to the classroom. The greenhouse plays an important part in the KES curriculum and keeps students alert and interested in what they are learning, as well as giving students insight into where their food comes from and the biology of plants. Miss Clare is involved in the greenhouse and also the school’s edible garden.

Recycling and Composting

Julia noted that this past fall’s Halloween Fair was green and they reduced their garbage by 67% by recycling and composting. Mr. Costin related that paper consumption at the school has been drastically reduced in the past three years.

A Few Notes

The group agreed that they wanted this post written as you see it, rather than using first person quotes from each of them. This is a blog, and hosting is free.  To participants: If you have comments, please post them below. You will need an email address in order to do so, so if you don’t have one of your own, perhaps your parent can log in, and let you write a comment. Please identify yourself by first name if you do. And please let me know if you decide to blog, and feel free to ask me any further questions you may have!

Here’s to making a difference!

About Heather Flournoy

I am a writer, social media connoisseur, environmentalist and professional marketer. My personal blog is and my professional website is I love people's stories, and a passionate cultivator of connections, both for myself and helping others to connect. Tell me who you are, what your story is, and I'll tell you who you should talk to. In my own view, I know some of the most interesting, colorful and profound people in the world. You know who you are. Besides all the above, I am proud to say I am a working class single mother who raised a beautiful daughter. I connect deeply with animals, especially horses. I love music, coffee shops, farmer's markets, growing my own food, sustainable agriculture, broad thinkers, the healing arts, and dive diners.


3 thoughts on “Going Green at Katonah Elementary School

  1. Go KES!! 🙂

    Posted by Beatrix | March 24, 2011, 7:16 am
  2. Great article! it starts with the young. Thanks for sharing your day at the Katonah Elementary School.

    Mardi Welch Dickinson
    Kymry Group

    Posted by Kymry ~ A look in time.... | March 24, 2011, 8:40 pm


  1. Pingback: Media Coverage of Do the Write Thing « KES PTO - March 25, 2011

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