At Houlton Elementary School in the Hudson School District, passion and purpose drive sustainability efforts. Houlton received a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award in 2017 and was recognized as a Sugar Maple School by Wisconsin Green & Healthy Schools in 2015. Their work focuses on three critical efforts: student leadership, health and wellness, and environmental and sustainability education.
Houlton students actively participate in leadership groups advised by a team of adults to support students in becoming independent and responsible thinkers, collaborators and problem-solvers, and positive role models. Three current leadership groups directly support efforts to be Green and Healthy: R3 (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) Squad, Health and Wellness Crew, and Garden Club.
Health & Wellness
The school has a Health and Wellness Committee and holds an annual Family Fun and Fitness program where local businesses donate prizes to recognize student and family efforts to be physically active.
Additionally, the schoolyard has several low-impact games like bowling and cornhole for students with limited mobility to enjoy the outdoors. A parent group raised over $40,000 for a new playground structure with handicapped-accessible standalone pieces. “We wanted to update our space for kids to swing, climb, jump, laugh and have a great time with their friends and schoolmates. It had to allow for little kids and big kids, as well as kids who have physical challenges. I think we accomplished what we set out to provide,” said parent Dana Cahoon.
Environmental & Sustainability Education
Houlton has worked with the township, local foundations, state agencies, and community volunteers to develop a long-range plan for enhancing outdoor learning spaces. The spaces include gardens, a restored prairie, a challenge course, and nature and fitness trails that connect to a larger trail part of the St. Croix River Crossing Project.
Students are also exposed to a variety of outdoor learning opportunities, including trips to Camp Sandstone Audubon Nature Center, writing outdoors, observation and scientific experiments, study of biomes and habitats, field trips to county and state parks, tree farms, and an apple orchard.
It is the school garden, however, that is central to their green efforts. The school has constructed a larger greenhouse with increased functionality to support gardening projects year-round. The garden club is active March to November and allows students to work with volunteers during lunch recess to prepare soil, turn compost, plant seeds, pull weeds, and harvest vegetables. Each grade level has a gardening project supporting core curriculum, and families volunteer to weed, turn and screen compost, and harvest vegetables each week of the summer when school is not in session.
Want to become a Green Ribbon School?
If Houlton’s story inspired you to take take action, you can learn more about how to become a Green Ribbon School at the DPI’s Green Ribbon Schools website: https://dpi.wi.gov/environmental-ed/green-ribbon-schools.