Moriarty students’ green thumbs help earn national designation
Norwich Bulletin. Ryan Blessing. May 26, 2017.

NORWICH — Youngsters at the John M. Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School are rightfully proud of the healthy vegetable garden they tend to on the school grounds.

The garden, along with a butterfly garden and outdoor classroom, are part of what recently earned the Norwich elementary school a 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools designation.

Green Ribbon Schools are honored for their efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness and provide effective environmental education, principal Rebecca Pellerin said.

“This Green Ribbon award is a dream come true for our school,” Pellerin said. “We made it a long-range goal as soon as we transitioned to a magnet school. It is evidence of all the hard work of our staff and students and the commitment of our families and the Norwich Public School district as a whole. We couldn’t be more proud.”

“Potatoes, onions and flowers,” grow in the garden, fourth-grader Aliza Vanhaitsma, 10, said. The students planted them.

They also helped plant a “Monarch Meadow,” a grassy area in the schoolyard to attract wildlife and be a haven for monarch butterflies.

“We planted 18 plants around here,” third-grade student Kingson Tassy, 9, said.

A pie-shaped “pizza garden” is used to grow herbs and spices, some of which wind up on pizza, the children said.

Moriarty’s composting and recycling program diverts about 35 percent of its lunch waste from going to the landfill. The school also collaborates with Food Corps, Norwich Public Schools Food Service, and FRESH New London to teach proper nutrition and provide healthy food and drink options.

Students also learn about health, school energy management, composting and recycling, tapping the expertise of the Food Corps, Norwich Public Utilities and The William W. Backus Hospital, among others.

Moriarty School was nominated for the designation by the Connecticut Department of Education.

Across the country, 45 schools, nine districts, and nine postsecondary institutions were honored for their efforts. The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states and the Department of Defense Education Activity. The selectees include 39 public schools, including five magnet schools and one charter school, as well as six nonpublic schools.

Forty-four percent of the 2017 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body and 14 percent are rural. The postsecondary honorees include three career and technical and community colleges.

Since 2013, Connecticut has had 13 schools and one district honored by U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. Connecticut has 112 schools that participate in the Connecticut Green LEAF Schools program, which helps schools grow greener.

“We are thrilled to have Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School receive the Green Ribbon School designation,” Norwich Superintendent of Schools Abby Dolliver said. “The staff, students and families work hard to create and maintain healthy learning environments.”

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