Littlebrook Elementary is one of six schools selected from 18 in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania to win a competitive award from the regional arts-in-education program, Young Audiences (YA) of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania .
The program is supported by the Princeton-based electricity company NRG Energy, Inc., which has donated $74,500 for this second annual NRG Energy Creatively Green Awards. The competitive awards aim to use art to educate school children and their families on issues relating to sustainability.
The award, which is worth up to $10,000, will allow the school to host a “Creatively Green Family Arts Festival” on Thursday, June 12.
YA project manager Jackie Knox is currently working with a team of teachers and parents at the school on Magnolia Lane in preparation for the festival.
So far, their plans are to have the school’s young artists create a windsock for a “Windy Day Parade;” record a video postcard for “Messages in Motion;” silkscreen hand towels; construct and play instruments for an “Amazing Junk Jam,” and bring their creativity to bear on cereal boxes.
With the help of high school art students, there will be activities inspired by the school’s garden, such as rain barrel painting and assembling small fencing units from recycled bamboo and other natural materials.
“Our Garden Manager Mrs. Hayes will have a 3D sculpture workshop and NRG is planning to bring an electric car to display for the students as well as a solar panel demonstration,” said School Principal Annie Kosek. “Sustainable Princeton will be joining us and there are a number of other community partners who have expressed interest and are working out the logistics of their workshop.”
The school was prompted to apply for the award during a meeting with Maureen Heffernan, director of arts and education at Young Audiences NJ. While discussing the school’s Family Arts and Creativity (FAC) program, they learned about the festival. The school has been a participant in the Family Arts program, an evening event open for third grade students and a parent, since 1998.
“The family arts program is designed to strengthen child-parent relationships, build parent-teacher partnerships, and enrich the school community,” said Ms. Kosek. “The notion of having a family arts festival, which was school-wide, seemed like an opportunity we simply could not pass up and the concept of being “green” ties in directly with our K-5 garden and science curriculum as well as our composting initiatives.”
This will be the first time the school will receive funding for an event that brings together art and recycling. Littlebrook has a tradition of bringing awareness of environmental issues into its classrooms.
According to art teacher Colleen Dell, the school-wide festival will draw upon a collection of recycled materials that have been gathered for use in art activities.
At Littlebrook, “every student has a hand in the planning, growing, harvesting, and general care of their school garden,” said Ms. Dell. “Our school has integrated garden activities into our student’s curriculum and is a member of TerraCycle as well as participants in the Green Schools Program, the Alliance To Save Energies, the Princeton Garden School Co-Op and Sustainable Princeton.”
Through Terracycle “brigades,” Littlebrook students collect all types and brands of reusable containers, plus lids and foil tops. The school receives money in return for mailing these items to Terracycle. The money supports programs such as Littlebrook’s Joe Fund, which provides need-based scholarships for extracurricular activities and summer camp opportunities to any Littlebrook student in need.
Ted Holsten, the ESL teacher and the school’s Terracycle coordinator, reports that in the past six years collections at the school have garnered $1,252 for the Joe Fund.
Items collected, as of February 2014, include: 21,801 energy bars wrappers; 19,834 drink pouches; 7,731 dairy tubs; 7,563 snack bags; 2,670 candy wrappers; 2,239 cookie wrappers; 1,199 toner cartridges; 602 lunch kits … and the list goes on.
In collaboration with Terracycle, the school has demonstrated ways in which small personal changes in habits can drastically impact the environment and community. Fifth graders have created public service announcements about the importance of TerraCycle collections. “The students learned iMovie on the ipad, did some research to plan their persuasive points and then churned out some very creative projects in science class with their science lab teacher, Mrs. Friend,” said Ms. Kosek,
Other award-winners are Albert M. Greenfield School in Philadelphia, Pa., Deerfield School in Mountainside, N.J., Kellman Brown Academy in Voorhees, N.J., Ocean City Intermediate School in Ocean City, N.J. and Zane North Elementary School in Collingswood, N.J.
Winning schools in the NRG Creatively Green Awards will receive a unique opportunity to host an engaging and dynamic community festival for parents, children, and teachers, and provide communities an opportunity to engage on multiple levels.
This will be the program’s second year of creating two-to-three hour family arts festivals focusing on the importance of protecting the environment with hands-on art making workshops that promote sustainability.
Last year, the festivals reached over 1,400 students, family members, and educators.
“We received many compelling applications from schools across New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania each demonstrating exciting ‘green’ initiatives and programs,” said Ms. Knox. “It was really encouraging for us to see so much interest in bringing sustainable education to students and families.”
“Young Audiences is always looking for strategic partners who believe, as we do, that the arts are a powerful tool for learning,” said Larry Capo, president and CEO of Young Audiences. “NRG has given us a great opportunity to link art-making with protecting our planet’s environment. Their funding is allowing Young Audiences to produce multiple family arts festivals that bring together children, parents, educators, and artists focusing on what each of us personally and collectively can do to preserve our planet.
To learn more, visit www.yanj-yaep.org. For more on NRG, visit: www.nrgenergy.com.