The Going Green Club wins prize at showcase


Michael Tatum

Mr. Treakle helps to create organic fertilizer for the Courtyard Garden on May 8. He recently won the FCPS teacher of the month award.

Michael Tatum, Writer

The Going Green Club was awarded $800 at an environmental showcase at George Mason University on April 23 to work on their rain garden project. This is one of several recent projects the club has worked on, such as a wind turbine and solar panels.

Going Green is an RCMS after school club led by Mr. Kirk Treakle, Mrs. Elena James and Mr. Alberto Barrueco. It is meant to spread environmental awareness in the school and the public, and they do this by working on innovative and impactful projects.

“Our mission is to promote sustainability in our school and wider community and we do that by educating ourselves, educating others and then taking direct action,” said Mr. Treakle, an RCMS librarian and one of the Going Green Club leaders.

The showcase the club attended is called the Student Environmental Action Showcase or SEAS. Students all over the area participated in the showcase and presented a variety of environmentally conscious ideas. A number of environmental groups also came to the event and worked with the students on their projects.

“We had students put up posters and trifolds and examples of what they had made over the course of the year in the Going Green Club,” said Mrs. James, an ESOL teacher and one of the Going Green Club leaders. “And it is just a really, really fun event.”

The Rain Garden project is a garden meant to capture excess runoff and limit pollution. It is in the pre-construction stage and is led by a team of seven students.

“With the rain garden, we’re going to go down three, maybe three and a half feet to capture excess runoff to infiltrate the soil more naturally, instead of carrying sediment and pollutants to the local creek and onto the Potomac and the bay,” said Mr. Treakle.

The researching and designing process of the garden took a few months and there were many factors to take into account while planning it. The students worked in collaboration with Mr. Daniel Schwartz, a soil scientist of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, who advised them on the project.

“One thing we had to do is we had to put the little wire flags to mark off the area,” said Mr. Treakle, “then we had to call Miss Utility to come and check that no pipes or electrical or anything was going underneath that area.”

Miss Utility is a local government agency meant to advise people on any electrical wires or pipes underneath an area where they are digging. The club has focused much of its attention on the garden project, but they have recently been working on several different activities.

Other Going Green Projects

Another project the Going Green Club has been working on is the courtyard garden project. The project was started by Mrs. James and Mr. Barrueco with their ESOL students and was made into its own club. The club would eventually merge with Going Green because of its similar mission.

According to Mrs. James, “Many years ago, Mr. Barrueco and I were reading a book called ‘Seedfolks’ with our new students. And we decided that to give them a real experience, we would actually make a garden in our school.”

The book “Seedfolks” is about people of many different cultures and backgrounds coming together to make a garden, which is why it inspired the RCMS teachers to create a garden with their students.

Along with the garden projects, the club is also focusing their attention on ways to produce clean energy. In past years, the club installed solar panels on the school roof, a task which was started as a science class project and was finished by the Going Green Club.

“They’ve been running for over eight years now and they produced over 30-megawatt hours of pollution-free energy, enough to power my home for more than three years,” Mr. Treakle explained.

Members of the club are working on numerous other projects, including a food sharing program, which is meant to provide the less fortunate with unopened food that would otherwise end up in the garbage. Other projects include limiting plastic and pushing for recycling.

“I’ve been working on a project teaching Carson students to recycle more,” said Simon Dockstader, a 14-year-old eighth-grader and member of the Going Green Club.

A future project the club has planned is setting up a wind turbine. The project has raised money and is currently in the planning process.

“It would be similar to solar panels in that it would supply a small amount of pollution-free electricity, alternative energy, renewable energy,” said Mr. Treakle.

All three of the club’s leaders are very passionate about helping the earth in many different ways. While they feel the projects they are working on are very important in preserving the environment, communication is what they believe is the most important part of the club.

“If we just did it and never communicated what we’re doing,” said Mr. Treakle, “we would still have an impact, but a much lesser impact.”