According to reports from UrbaniteBaltimore, Baltimore’s grade-school students like the idea of having a planet to call home for a few more years. “Just because we’re young doesn’t mean we don’t care,” says Kayla Adams, a sixth-grader at the Stadium School, a small public charter middle school in Waverly. The Stadium School is one of sixteen Baltimore City schools that won thousand-dollar Sustainability Challenge grants in December to facilitate recycling, reduce waste, and create green spaces in their schoolyards. The grants came through a partnership of the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability, Baltimore City Public Schools, the Baltimore Community Foundation, and the city’s Cleaner, Greener Baltimore initiative.

Many of the Stadium School students participating in the Sustainability Challenge are also involved in a project-based class called Green Neighbors. “It’s important to recycle here at school because we waste a lot of good materials every day,” says seventh-grader Antrel McDowell. Kamryn Taylor adds, “I see all the garbage and think, ‘Is this what people think of the planet?’”

Some schools have taken eco-education a step or two further. Take the Green School, another public charter school located in the old Shrine of the Little Flower Catholic School in Belair-Edison. As the name suggests, the fundamental three “r’s” of education have been expanded to include three more—reduce, reuse, recycle. “Each grade has an anchor project called an investigation that involves science and social issues tied to the local environment,” says Green School director Kate Primm. Kindergarteners study pollinators; first-graders raise terrapins to be released in Poplar Island, a small island in the Chesapeake Bay that is being rebuilt using soil dredged from the Baltimore Harbor; second-graders grow underwater grasses that are transplanted in the Chesapeake Bay; and fifth-graders grow an organic vegetable garden. Each of these projects integrates traditional subjects with hands-on learning methods. For example, when planning and creating a garden, students must diagram and map out a site and calculate the cost of plants and other supplies—all activities that utilize math. “The students’ investigations are authentic applications they can apply in real life with meaningful context,” says Primm.

The Green School and thirteen other city schools have been awarded “Green School” certification by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education. Both public and private schools are eligible for the program. Schools qualify for this seal of eco-approval by demonstrating activities such as waste reduction, water-use reduction, habitat restoration, and community involvement.