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Green Rangers Talk About Their Busy Year

An active group of fifth and fourth grade students have been working to encourage their classmates and parents to adopt healthier habits and have a lighter ecological footprint.

From reducing the number of idling cars outside their school to getting more kids to walk and eat their vegetables, to building a portable "pizza" garden, the Needham Public Schools Green Rangers have had a busy year.

The student group, made up of Needham fifth and fourth graders, will talk about their work at a community open house this evening, scheduled for 4-6 p.m.at . The event, presented by the district-wide Eco-Explorers Leadership Team, will include a tour of the Outdoor Learning Center at Mitchell and a look at several green projects being carried out across the district, such as the work of the Green Rangers.

Previously known as the "Green Kids," the Rangers expanded their efforts this year as they tackled projects that would impact their school and community as well as have a global reach. Many of their efforts were made possible by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as the support of others in the community, such as Trevor Smith of Land Escapes, who helped the kids design a portable A-frame garden.

"This green group has put in many hours of hard work to help their schools, their community and the world become a healthier and cleaner place to live," said Elise Coughlin, a teacher and advisor for the Green Rangers.

Recently, Needham Patch got a sneak peek at the kids' presentation for June 7 and talked to the students about what they've been up to this year. Here's what they had to say:

Portable garden: "The Green Rangers and Trevor Smith from Land Escapes helped to plant, grow and harvest vegetables and herbs from our A-frame garden," fifth grader Stephen DeMaio said. "The A-frame garden will be given to the so that they can have their own garden. The A-frame can be rolled from one classroom to another and planted over and over again. The NEDP [Needham Extended Day Program] helped us to keep the A-frame garden watered. We also grew tomatoes, herbs and basil seedlings that we donated to the Needham Community Farm. The Needham Community Farm will then harvest and donate them to the ."

No idling: "The Green Rangers made announcements, posters and signs to encourage parents not to idle their cars in front of the school," said Newman fifth grader Maya Osman.

Healthy diet: The Green Rangers, with cafeteria director Steven Farrell, designed a game to keep track of the number of kids who ate at least three colors of the rainbow at lunch, called the Eat the Rainbow Game. “Students were given Green Ranger points by Mr. Farrell for each day that they ate three fruits and vegetables that are different colors of the rainbow, "Osman said. Prizes were awarded to the classes with the highest number of students who ate the colors of the rainbow.

 • Walk to School Day: The Green Rangers counted the number of walkers on Walk to School Day each month. "We chose a different charity each month and collected items from the walkers and their parents on Walk to School days to donate to each of these charities,” said fifth grader Morgan Bilodeau. “The Green Rangers also helped make and deliver golden and silver sneaker awards for classes that had the most amount of stamped walking passports from students.”

Starting in November and continuing through the spring, the Green Rangers have tracked their classmates’ progress on the various challenges with a “Chart of Change”—counting and graphing statistics such as how many kids walk to school each month, how many cars are seen idling, how many kids have been eating more fruits and vegetables and how many students have been spending more time outdoors, said Charlotte Silverman, a Newman fifth grader.

Green Rangers member Yoojee Kim, a fifth grader, said the group was surprised to find that the largest number of students participated in Walk to School Day in December—a sign of the mild winter.

The Rangers have also seen a reduction in the number of cars idling during student drop-off, from 21 cars idling in November to three to five cars idling more recently, according to fifth grader Nicolas DiMase.

“Idling is when people keep their cars running when not being driven. An idled car produces carbon dioxide, which is released into the air and is not healthy for people to breathe—and contributes to global warming,” DiMase said. “The number of cars has dropped greatly this year. We believe this is due to our constant reminders to not idle this year.”

As for the Eat the Rainbow contest, the first graders have consistently brought in the largest number of points, according to Green Rangers member Alex Warner. But the fifth graders have shown the most change over the school year in terms of their eating habits.

Along with these projects, the Green Rangers prepared an entry in the Disney Planet Challenge, earning recognition as Honorees, and were the youngest speakers at the Cambridge Science Festival at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in April, Coughlin said.

So why become a Green Ranger?

“I joined because I wanted to be helpful,” fifth grader Sebastian Davis said. “I wanted to be a use to the school and not somebody sitting back in the crowd just watching.”

Want to learn more? Visit the open house this evening at Mitchell School, from 4-6 p.m. Details are included on a flyer in the gallery above.

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