RecycleBank grant allows Woodcrest Elementary School to rebuild garden

In 2009, Woodcrest Elementary School created its first Peaceful Garden, an area near the school’s rear entrance where students could apply lessons in science, nutrition and the environment in a practical manner.

Later that year, the garden was badly damaged by vandals, forcing the school to clean it up and try to start over.

Last week, the school took a huge step in the beautification process, as it received a $2,914 grant from Recyclebank from the organization’s Green Schools program.

Woodcrest received the grant thanks to a cooperative effort by the school, township officials, Sustainable Cherry Hill and the community.

In the Green Schools program, residents are asked to donate Recyclebank points to fund the school’s environmental projects. Woodcrest was approved for a grant when it brought forward the idea of restoring its garden.

The garden was originally paid for through a $5,000 grant in 2009. Principal Beth Anne Kob said the idea was not just to have the kids learn in a more practical manner, but to also teach them responsibility.

“We decided we wanted to have a respectful and responsible garden,” she said.

When the garden was originally created, the students said they wanted to have classes out in the garden.

Since then, the wheels have been turning to increase environmental awareness at the school. A green team was established and the students were encouraged to get involved with the school district’s environmentally friendly initiatives.

The school was able to get the ball rolling on the fundraiser with help from the Woodcrest PTA. The organization reached out to the neighborhood, asking for residents to donate their points to Woodcrest’s fundraiser. More than 160 households would donate toward the cause.

This grant is not the first time Recyclebank has selected a Cherry Hill school for the honor. Previously, Beck Middle School and Cherry Hill High School East received grants. Recyclebank has had a working relationship with both the township and the school district for a number of years.

“Our goal is to inspire people to take every effort to be green,” said Denise McVeigh, a representative from Recyclebank. “Our major initiative is to focus on recycling.”

After residents donate Recyclebank points, the organization matches the number by donating that amount of money. Woodcrest met its goal and is one of 29 schools nationwide to receive a grant this year.

Superintendent Maureen Reusche commended the students and community on achieving their Recyclebank goal, saying she hopes other schools in the district will follow their lead with similar fundraisers.

“What a terrific model of teamwork, the way a school can come together with households in the community,” she said.

As for the future of the garden, Kob said the grant will help to further beautify the garden. The biggest difference between the school now and five years ago is the proactive approach the students have taken toward maintaining the garden.

Kob is hoping to supply the garden with tables and chairs so classes can be held there on a regular basis. She added the school is looking at a cost-effective way to maintain the garden.