Danielle Whittington, a fourth-grade teacher at Columbia Elementary School, was among a dozen teachers from across southern Mississippi who were recognized this week as recipients of a special environmental grant awarded by Mississippi Power for the 2020-2021 school year.
Whittington and her students claimed a share of the nearly $19,000 grant to assist their environmental science lessons with equipment and supplies. Whittington is using the grant funds to provide hands on experiences for her fourth-grade students.
“We’ve had to adapt and modify for the last two years due to COVID, so they’ve had fewer chances for real experiences,” Whittington said. “Using these grants for things like experiments, replanting trees, watching seeds grow, learning about forces and magnets and more is helping them understand abstract concepts.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted more than ever just how critical a role teachers play in the lives of their students and our communities,” Senior Environmental Specialist Patrick Chubb said. “They’ve continued the learning process, both in-person and virtually, through unprecedented times. We’re proud to support these committed educators and hope these grants will spur creativity and innovation in their classrooms.”
This is the fifth year that Mississippi Power has awarded teachers with Environmental Education Grants. Since the program’s inception in 2015, more than $105,000 has been awarded to more than 200 teachers.
Evelyn McQueen established the Eco Warriors Club at D'Iberville High School last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic. One of their first goals was to increase the amount of recycling by students and staff at the school.
With the Environmental Education Grant that she received in January, the Eco Warriors placed 20 large recycling bins around the school. Classrooms that typically fill their smaller cans a few times a day, the teacher’s lounge and the library were given a 23-gallon receptacle. A 44-gallon recycling bin was placed in the copy room for the large amounts of paper and boxes that the school goes through.
According to McQueen, in January, the school recycled about 1,900 lbs. of materials. In February, that jumped to more than 3,200 lbs. that was recycled.
“Adding these bins has made recycling more accessible schoolwide, which we anticipate will promote both students and faculty to recycle even more items than before,” McQueen said. “With students eating in the classrooms, they throw their trash away in the hallways. This typically includes their water bottles and milk jugs. With there now being a bin at every water fountain, it has made it much more convenient for them to rinse and recycle all in one spot.”
McQueen added that there is now nearly a 1-to-1 ratio of trash cans to recycling bins at the school.
In addition to Whittington, the other recipients of the 2021 MP Environmental Education Grant were: Traci Barrientos – Lighthouse Academy; Letha Boudreaux – St. Stanislaus College; Billy Carroll – Moss Point High School; Brandon Davidson – Russell Christian Academy; Melanie Davis – Pass Road Elementary School; Maggie Farrell – Sacred Heart Catholic School; Brandi Hoxie – Popp’s Ferry Elementary School; Evelyn McQueen – D’Iberville High School; Steven Singley -- Lamar School; Connie Skrmetta – Delisle Elementary School; and Victoria Waaga – Pearl River County Endeavor School.