Goodbye concrete jungle at Dickinson East

By Ian Perrotta

Its colors may be teal and orange, but Dickinson East Elementary might as well change them to green.

Currently, the school’s staff and students are working on a project to create green space on the school’s grounds and help it become more environmentally-friendly overall. The project started when the school began a recycling program to turn milk cartons into benches – the first and only kind in the area – and has been evolving ever since.

The original plan was to pay for the project with money from the Safe Routes to School program, but unfortunately that fell through. However, the students themselves have been working to raise money through a variety of fundraisers and have collected over $4,000 to date.

According to the school’s Restorative Practices Coordinator Sarah Dajani, who has been working on the project along with science teacher Jennifer Bradley, by having the students raise money themselves it allows them to take ownership of the project and helps them have a stronger connection to it.

“It’s important for kids to understand ways to respect the environment and to learn to be a little more responsible,” says Dajani.

The project has an open-ended completion date, which is understandable considering the scope of its plans. In addition to tearing out the concrete near all the entrances and then replacing it with garden space that includes ground cover, shrubs and trees, a number of benches and tables will be added to create an outdoor learning environment. Moreover, large planters will be placed at each entrance, the playground will be resurfaced and the playscape replaced and relocated.

So far the work has come along nicely. Last Thursday (Nov. 4) new lines were painted in the parking areas, and the next day (Nov. 5) students were outside spreading topsoil in the new garden areas. And at the beginning of this week, students planted flowers and bulbs.

“People will see a significant difference by spring,” says Dajani. “And hopefully by then we’ll have another bench!”

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