Promoting Professional Development and Best Practice in EE
K-12 Educator of the Year
2007 K-12 Educator Award
John Sammons, Greenbrier Intermediate School, Chesapeake, VA
Three environmental projects that exemplify the definition of environmental stewardship, developed under the leadership of John Sammons, are the cornerstones of the environmental education project at Greenbrier Intermediate School.
Beginning in 2004, John was instrumental in converting the underused, weed-covered school courtyard into a self-sustaining scale model of a watershed network. It now flourishes with indigenous plants, birdfeeders and birdbaths, a pond with waterfalls and fish, rain barrels to recycle the rainwater, a composting area, and places for the students to sit and work. This SECRET (Studying the Environmental Characteristics of a River Ecosystem Together) Garden has been recognized as an Official National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat Site for three years in a row.
To expand the outdoor learning experience indoors, John consulted with local gardening experts about developing a hydroponics program. He then applied for the 2004 Hooked on Hydroponics Award, and it was granted. With the initial hydroponics setup, valued at over $1,000, the students once again were given the opportunity to continue their hands-on studies with ecological activities related to their curricula. Greenbrier Intermediate’s hydroponics garden was featured in The Growing Edge Magazine, "Bringing Kids and Plants Together," by Barbara Richardson, Vol. 18, No. 1, September/October 2006.
Another ongoing environmental project at Greenbrier Intermediate School is the LEGO (Learning Environmental Gardening with each Other) Rain Garden. The research and planning began in 2005 as a result of the school's FIRST LEGO League team competition challenge problem. With John's facilitation, a rain garden was created on the school's playground to act as a bioretention area, filtering sediment and other particulates from the water as it is slowly absorbed by the soil. Phase 1 of the rain garden is now planted with over 400 native Virginia species, including perennial favorites such as Cardinal Flower, Virginia Sweetspire, White Turtlehead, Southern Blue Flag, Great Blue Lobelia, Boneset, Lizard’s Tail, Blue Vervain, Red Chokeberry, and Sweet Pepperbush.
As a result of the intense commitment to advocating for a pollution-free watershed network, John and the LEGO team were selected by the Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council to receive the 2005 Institutional Education Award.
John C. Sammons, along with the insights and help of numerous volunteers, has succeeded in expanding the environmental education opportunities for the students at Greenbrier Intermediate School. Through his huge ongoing endeavors, he continues to awaken pride in the school's grounds and has modeled the definition of environmental stewardship for the school's population.