Mulching project promotes environmental awareness

Winston Park K-8 Center volunteers turn Christmas trees into mulch.

Mulching isn’t part of the curricula at Winston Park K-8 Center in West Kendall. Nevertheless, it became a learning step to help promote environmental awareness for middle school students on Jan. 14.

That is when a volunteer crew turned out on a brisk Saturday morning to turn a week-long collection of tinsel-stripped Christmas trees into plastic bags of mulch, soon headed for Kendall gardens and flower beds.

By noon, nearby residents were alerted by an overhead sign at the school’s entrance to stop by and help themselves to a free bag or two.

“Anything left over will be scattered on garden beds around the campus,” said Suzette Guitian, fifth grade mathematics and science teacher whose leadership has sparked several environmental projects at the school in recent years.

“We want our students not just to learn conservation but to join in recycling as a community service, too,” she explained.

The K-8 Center mulching project will help position the school for recognition in Fairchild Tropical Garden’s Challenge Awards for middle schools.

Each school earning more than 800 points receives a “Challenge Award” from the program initiated eight years ago to encourage environmental sciences.

Winston Park K-8 Center already has won honors twice in the program, and last year was named the top school in Florida in the “Great American Can Roundup,” a nationwide recycling project.

“We’ve already begun collecting aluminum pans for the second year,” said Guitian, who was joined by parents and students in a blue-jeaned crew for a morning of bagging chopped evergreen limbs and branches.

“In February, we’ll be collecting discarded blue jeans in the national Aéropostale recycling project for the homeless,” Guitian added. “Teaching environmental classes is one thing; going to work in a project really brings the need home.”

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