Sustainability Spotlight: Green School Activities at Donald D. Sherrill Education Center

This month’s Sustainability Spotlight is shining on the Green Schools Recognition Program activities happening at Donald D. Sherrill Education Center!

Therapist team leader Jamie Austin and psychotherapist Ross Rausch have led their elementary-age students through a number of activities already this school year, with even more planned for 2024. 

Austin serves as this school year’s Sustainability Champion, and said that Rausch has been instrumental in identifying and planning activities for Don Sherrill’s Student Government and Pledge students. This group consists of about a dozen students who have demonstrated ongoing improvement in their behavior and academics.

Jaime Austin (L) and Ross Rausch (R)

The chance to participate in sustainability-related activities has helped motivate students to consistently grow in both of these areas. “I’ve personally heard more students say, ‘I want to get up on Student Government, I want to get on Pledge to do some of those activities,’” Austin said.

The first activity students participated in was a water waste poster-making campaign. “The kids met it with such enthusiasm,” Rausch said.

After they completed their designs, students worked together and decided to hang the posters in places where their peers and Don Sherrill staff would see the water conservation messages.

With momentum from the poster campaign, Austin and Rausch planned a community litter cleanup. The group donned high-visibility vests and worked in teams to pick up litter on and around the school grounds. 

The activity served as a great way to embody Don Sherrill’s core values of working together to succeed and taking pride in both yourself and the building.

“These activities… are an opportunity for them to demonstrate or practice their leadership by giving back to the school and giving back to our community.”

Rausch said that Keep Lincoln & Lancaster County Beautiful’s Mary Carol Bond affirmed these values after the cleanup was complete. “She goes, ‘This is leadership in action, you guys are the leaders of the building,’” Rausch said. “And that’s one of the things that I think we want to connect for the kids.”

Don Sherrill is also one of seven schools in the district taking part in the Hefty ReNew Bag pilot program. Austin says that this addition has opened up even more conversations about sustainability. “We’re starting to see some crossover of teaching our staff,” she said. “It’s not just about the students learning.”

For 2024, Austin and Rausch have plans to continue extending Don Sherrill’s reach into the community. 

Student Government and Pledge students will use donated t-shirts to create dog toys for the humane society, families will be invited to attend a Nature Night in February, and staff are exploring possibilities for the school’s raised garden bed.

Rausch’s advice for schools hoping to get started with Green Schools Recognition Program activities is simple: “Pick one,” he said. “Then lean on the people who know what they’re doing.” 

For the team at Don Sherrill, this expertise has come from community partners, the LPS Sustainability Department, and even from within their building. 

“It’s kind of a collaborative learning between teacher, student, and therapist,” Rausch said. “It’s a shared experience and that, I think, has been why we’ve got the juice or the energy.”

Flyer requesting t-shirt donations

We’re so excited to see the ways the Don Sherrill team is incorporating sustainability in their building! They are well on their way to earning sustainability funding through the Green Schools Recognition Program and are helping their students build connections and confidence in the classroom and beyond.