Unity Charter School’s mission: to teach “the importance of protecting and improving the environment by educating our students on the principles of sustainability, ecology, and diversity in a way that celebrates and honors this planet and all its inhabitants.” At Unity Charter School, the mission is embedded in our charter. Principals of sustainability are intertwined into everyday lessons. While Unity focuses on the environment, I thought this definition of a sustainable community, from Scientific American, was worth sharing. Do you look forward to Unity Charter School’s annual science fair? In the midwest, one teenager went beyond the school science fair and designed a device to reduce fuel consumption by school buses. The GreenShields Project has received a lot of media attention in its local area. It’s never too early to be an innovator.
Much of the success of any school is based on strong home-school-community partnerships that support student learning in and outside of the classroom. Having parents that are engaged and active members of the school community is one of Unity’s hallmarks. Over the years, many parents have continued to volunteer and stay involved long after their children had graduated. Last month, I attended Unity Charter School’s Volunteer Tea to recognize and thank the hard working volunteers who have given back so much to Unity. Having parents in the school throughout the day contributes to the friendly, open atmosphere. Although a volunteer may be serving lunch in the kitchen, they have an opportunity learn the name and the culinary preferences of each student. Kitchen volunteers are critical to maintaining Unity’s vegetarian, zero-waste lunch program.
Mendham’s Schiff Natural Lands Trust will host a green-themed film festival on Friday and Saturday, 1 and 2 June. The fourth annual Wild and Natural Film Festival will have documentaries on everything from rock climbing in Chad, to the monetization of water, to one family’s effort to keep plastic bottles off a California beach. Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased through Schiff’s web site.
Whether planning for extended Aftercare or a lunchtime play date, Unity Charter School parents know that half-days require special planning. Those approximately two half days a month are one of the school’s defining features. And yet parents and community members unfamiliar with their purpose might bristle: why early dismissal? Behind the scenes, Unity staff uses that time in its own unique way: for multi-faceted staff training and meetings that allow faculty and administration to identify needs, set goals and measure results. “We ask our teachers, what can we offer you so that you can be the best at your craft?” said Director Carolyn Mungo, and the response helps form the agenda of each staff development day.
On Saturday April 21st, I attended a family workshop on how to make a rain barrel. This was one of those tasks that I knew I could handle on my own, but I wasn’t getting around to it. The workshop was the perfect way that, once again, Unity pushed my good intentions into real actions to help the earth. We lucked out weather-wise, and met outside on the Unity Charter School playground. Families with kids young and old each received a blue food-grade barrel and a rain barrel kit. Joe Dunn, from the Morris County Soil Conservation District, walked us through the process step by step.