Wheaton Christian Grammar School has always been intentional to teach Christ’s calling on our lives to be good stewards of all we have been given. As a leading educational K-8 institution of 79 years, WCGS has strived, particularly for the past 10 years, to build, implement, and model efforts to care for creation. This calling is instructed to us in the first chapter of Genesis. After God created the world, He put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to take care of it, work it, and be responsible with the earth’s resources (Gen. 1:26,28). God entrusted His creation to His beloved, made in His image. We have the responsibility as Christ-followers to manage what God has gifted to us in a way that points others to Him (1 Pet. 4:10).
We are honored to have been selected as a 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, as the award recognizes our commitment to stewardship! According to the article from the Department of Education announcing the award recipients, “Across the country, 27 schools, three early learning centers, five districts, and five postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.” The article continued, “The selectees include 24 public schools – among them, five charter schools and one magnet school – as well as three nonpublic schools” (U.S. Department of Education). To learn more about this award from the U.S. Department of Education, continue reading their article. This is our second recognition from the U.S. Department of Education, as Wheaton Christian Grammar School has also been named a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, as an Exemplary High Performing School. A Blue Ribbon is the highest award a school can receive and is granted for renewal every 5 years.
To be selected as a 2021 Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education is a distinct honor, achieved through the collective efforts of our faculty, staff, students, and families! When our school was built in 2010, WCGS made an intentional effort to reduce our school's environmental impact. One of the ways we accomplished this included the installation of a geothermal energy system that allows 72% of our energy needs to be met by this renewable energy. Our heating costs have also been reduced through building construction including energy-efficient glazing and insulation. Our school also installed low-flow toilets and a well on site that is used for the Community Garden and soccer fields.
Our efforts to be faithful stewards of God's creation did not end with the building of our new facility! In 2010, 41% of the 34-acre property was set aside for natural wetlands, stormwater control, habitat development, and instructional use. In 2016, we installed a 300-square-foot Community Garden that the students maintain through Creation Care Club. In October 2016, we installed two water bottle fill stations. In 2017, we worked with a local landscaper and installed a 300-square-foot Bee Garden. Our STEAM program also began maintaining a Tower Garden inside for instructional purposes. In 2019, we installed new thermostats that are programmed to increase the temperature during school hours and reduce the temperature when no personnel or students are in the building. In 2020, our parking lot lights were switched to LED lights, and our plan is to change all interior lights to LED over the next two years. Our interior classrooms, offices, and bathroom lights have motion-activated sensor lights. Regular maintenance is a priority at our school with HVAC filters being changed quarterly. These are just some of the many initiatives our school community has pursued to help care for God's creation!
The WCGS student body is very involved in the ideation and execution of stewarding God’s creation. It is valuable to us that students graduate from WCGS with the skills necessary to care for the environment. Sue Macaluso, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at WCGS, shared,
“As our students develop into strong Christ-centered critical thinkers, they have a wonderful opportunity to worship our Creator God through their care of His creation. This award further inspires WCGS students as the generation to change their lifestyles to be more environmentally friendly and healthy, engage in creation stewardship, and transform their world in Jesus’ name.”
Through involvement in Creation Care Club (C³), students care for the Tower Garden, Community Garden, and Bee Garden and promote and educate the school on how to recycle, compost, and limit garbage. The Robotics Team has also participated in wise stewardship, working on limiting landfill contribution by starting monthly zero-waste days. On these days, we saw a 60% decrease in garbage, a 50% increase in compost, and a 41% increase in recycling! Our junior high has service days each year when students engage in trash pick-up near our waterways, reseeding the prairie, and maintaining, planting, and harvesting the Community Garden. Each of the past 5 years, we have had a Walk4Water event to bring awareness to the need for clean water throughout the world. We have raised $8,317 for this initiative! Our STEAM Coordinator, Mrs. Jaqueline Lauriat, joins K-8 classrooms regularly to enhance and integrate STEAM into the curriculum. In addition to engineering-focused exploration, STEAM instruction engages recycling, composting, and urban and rural gardening. Students throughout the grade levels experience growing food using the aeroponic Tower Garden and Community Garden. Collaboration with teachers at every grade level promotes environmental literacy and sustainability. Mrs. Lauriat expressed,
“Instructing students in how to care for and cultivate the earth is important because it allows them to see how creative and purposeful God was in the design of His creation. It brings me joy when students make connections to where their food comes from or inspire their classmates to conserve our God-given resources. Ultimately, my goal is that students honor God by becoming responsible stewards of creation.”
WCGS is immensely grateful for Mrs. Lauriat and her loving investment in the lives of students, teaching them how to care for creation with a Christ-centered heart and mind. She has played a valuable role in many of WCGS’s conservation initiatives as well as in the receiving of the 2021 U.S Department of Education Green Ribbon.
All things have been created by and are sustained by God (Colossians 1:16 – 17), and He has entrusted us with abilities, resources, and opportunities, all of which we have been called to faithfully steward. All of creation displays how amazing God is and points to Him (Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20). It is our prayer that students will take their learnings about stewardship and environmental care into their futures, as they take care of God’s creation to worship Him, give Him glory, know Him, and make Him known!