Get Out the Vote: Belmont Schools in Race for Recycling Award

Photo: From left, Emma and Chloe Ellis along with Brady Chan and Brent Hudson recycling milk cartons at the Wellington Elementary School. 

After they finish their lunches, the last thing students at the Roger Wellington Elementary School on Orchard Street do is head for the refuse barrels.

But before they throw away anythings, students will be pouring out the milk and water from the containers into a pail then tossing the boxes along with papers and plastic boxes into a blue recycling bin.

“The more you do, the more it helps the earth,” said fourth grader Rachel Hudson.

Recycling is not just a lunchroom activity at the Wellington, but an activity that goes on throughout the day.

“It’s a big initiative at the school. Our school is very earth-minded … and we have been recycling almost since I started here,” said Wellington Principal Amy Spangler, noting the building was constructed to promote natural light and geothermal heating in an environmental-friendly way.

There are recycling bins in every classroom where children have a responsibility bringing to major receptacles and helping each other to be as diligent as possible in reprocessing material, participating in a six-week “Tray-less Thursday” program in the cafeteria that highlighted best menus to serve to reduce food waste and attending all-school assemblies that incorporated art from recycled material, presentations and taking part in national contest focused on sustainability.

“The Wellington is the model for the other schools. The staff, the parents, and the children, have been wonderful here,” said Mary Beth Calnan, the part-recycling coordinator with the town’s Department of Public Works.

“They really embrace even the little changes,” said Calnan. Much of the student’s enthusiasm comes from the most basic of reasons.

“Telling elementary students that what they are doing is good for the earth is a simple, strong message,” said Calnan.

“Mary Beth has been a great partner as kids are really conscious of recycling,” said Spangler.


Students who don’t need to be told to recycle; they’re naturals at it: from left, Brent Hudson, first grade; Emma Ellis, first grade; Chloe Ellis, third grade; Rachel Hudson, fourth grade; and Brady Chan, first grade. With the students are (left) Belmont Recycling Coordinator Mary Beth Calnan and Amy Spangler, principal at the Wellington.

The Wellington’s recycling program is part of a district-wide approach to increasing recycling in the six schools in the system that includes a wide variety of programs and events.

Calnan thought the district-wide effort established in the past two years was worthy of attention.

“So I went ahead and nominated the district for a state-wide contest held by MassRecycle,” she said of the non-profit organization which highlighted local, business and school recycling for 20 years. 

In its first year of being nominated, the Belmont School District is one of the three finalists in the K-12 category.

And now until Friday, March 13, Belmont residents and students can vote on-line for the district to be honored with the first prize.

“I am extremely proud of this district’s effort of following the four R’s: refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle to become more sustainable in the last two years,” said Calnan.

The initiative has produced long-term changes in the schools and town, she said.

“The most far-reaching aspect of the recycling campaign has been changing the culture in the schools by way of the PTA/PTO’s,” Calnan said. “The thing I like the best is that the PTAs and PTOs have initiated their own ‘Green Teams’ made up of residents who are concerned about the environment and related issues such as local food and sustainability.”

Last year, the parent’s groups got together to create the Green Schools Alliance, which meets bimonthly with school district leaders to shape a comprehensive approach to environmental issues facing the schools and the wider world.

“We share ideas and success stories as well as programs that weren’t so successful. It’s a place to share,” said Calnan.

Last month, the Alliance and the elementary school Green Teams learned the results of the nationwide Green Cup Energy Challenge in which the Wellington and the Winn Brook schools finished in the top-ten at schools in the Northeast.

“This growth was a combined effort of students, parents and staff from the school and town departments working collaboratively to carry out these green initiatives,” Calnan said.


Moving on Up: Wellington 4th Graders Exit Towards Middle School

IMG_1323It was a bit past 11 a.m. on Friday, June 20, the last day of school for students at the Roger Wellington Elementary School, and the crowd of parents packed the edge of the school’s front walkway.

Smartphones were on camera mode, iPads held aloft and cameras at the ready as the school prepared to bid farewell to their latest batch of fourth graders as they would head up Goden Street next year to the Chenery Middle School with a “moving up” celebration for the “graduating” students.

In the tradition of graduation celebrations at the high school, elementary schools and the Chenery are incorporating final day of school events for fourth and eighth graders to help students transition to their next school, and saying goodbye to teachers and staff (and the school) one last time.

“It’s a very exciting day; he’s very excited to go into the Chenery,” said Rene Hudson, mom of fourth grader Bruce.

“It’s a big transition for him as he’s my oldest,” said Hudson who will be coming to two more celebrations when her pair of younger children move on in the next few years.

Finally, after touring the inside of the school one final time, the fourth graders emerged – many wearing “Exiting Wellington” blue T-shirts – led by Principal Amy Spangler and Gwen Irish was retiring Friday after 42 years as a second grade teacher at the school.

Moms and dads gave out flowers, kisses and high fives to the bemused students alternated between the happy state of being on summer recess and the melancholy of saying so long to teachers and friends.

“It’s sad because you’re leaving your teachers but going to the Chenery is exciting because of new teachers, new friends. That’s awesome,” said fourth grader Talia Fiore, while nearby a few students had tears in their eyes.

As students – now playing in the turf field and eating popsicles – were looking forward to a new school, teachers viewed the day as the culmination of one adventure.

The ocean was fourth grade teacher Samantha McCabe’s theme this year for her class at the Roger Wellington Elementary School on Orchard Street, with her students being her “little sea turtles.”

“I’m with the children at the best times of their lives,” said McCabe.

And on the final day of the school year, McCabe’s pupils finally reached the shore.

“So we’re all pretty emotional because they are graduating and moving on to a new part of their lives and I will always be a part of this moment.”

“It’s the most amazing moment of my life,” said the seven-year veteran as parents and student wanted one final hug with her.

Wellington Elementary Is Also An Environmental Winner

Not only is Belmont’s Roger Wellington Elementary School a winner architecturally, the school also proves its great for environmental learning.

Last week, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan honored the Wellington’s “Environmental & Energy Efficiency Initiatives” along with 26 other energy and environmental education programs across the state at the 20th Annual Secretary’s Awards for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education.

“The ideas, research and knowledge being recognized today show the forward-thinking of our youth and how ready they are for the challenges ahead,”said Sullivan.

Winners competed for $5,000 in awards, funded by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust with the intention to fund further environmental education initiatives at the schools. EEA solicited Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education Award nominations in early 2014. Schools and organizations that voluntarily incorporate environmental education into public or private school curricula are eligible.

In February, the Jonathan Levi-designed building won the coveted Harleston Parker Medal signifying the “the most beautiful piece of architecture” in Greater Boston.