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'Earth Day Olympics' Sets Tone for Barnesville School's 50th Anniversary
Posted 04/22/2019 10:39AM

Barnesville School of Arts & Sciences students participated in an “Earth Day Olympics” festival followed by a surprise birthday party to commemorate the School’s 50th Anniversary where the Head of School committed to additional student-driven “Green” initiatives.

Earth Day Olympics activities were planned by the seventh grade class with the goal of exposing classmates to a variety of different sustainability and ecological issues. Working with Middle School Science Teacher Elizabeth De Leon and Naturalists at Black Hill Regional Park, the students planned a variety of ecology-themed games. Seventh graders were also responsible for setting up and running the activity stations at the annual school-wide Earth Day festival.

Before kicking off the games, Ms. De Leon led students in a discussion about what it means to be a steward of the environment. Then, students rotated through five 20-minute activity stations in Buddy Groups, with older students helping their younger Buddies, earning points along the way. At each station, seventh graders explained the environmental issue that inspired the game.

Activities included:

  • Drip, Drip, Drench -- like Duck, Duck, Goose, but wet! (clean water is a precious resource)

  • Build a Beaver Dam -- a miniature construction challenge (beavers are ecosystem engineers; dams act as natural water filters)

  • Mudslide -- select items for a natural disaster safety kit (climate change is making natural disasters like floods and mudslides more frequent and extreme)

  • Animal Scavenger Hunt -- search for local wildlife in Explorer Woods

  • Polar Bear Despair -- race to escape melting ice caps (polar bears’ natural habitat is shrinking due to global warming)

At the end of the morning activities, teams of “Earth Day Champions” were awarded trophies students had made of recycled materials. Photos are on Facebook and the School’s Instagram #GreenSchool Highlights.

In the afternoon, the Middle School students went to the Monocacy aqueduct for a community service trip to pick up litter. Lower School participated in Earth Day Yoga, where Kindergarten Teacher Jodi Popielaski led them through poses including the “Hero” pose with a brief meditation about recycling. They enjoyed a picnic lunch before hiking around campus, picking up any litter that had blown onto the grounds.

The day concluded with a surprise birthday party in the gymnasium to commemorate Barnesville School’s 50th anniversary.  The School originally opened as a preschool in April 1969, coincidently one year before the first Earth Day celebration, in the heart of what is now Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve.  Students were treated to cupcakes and everyone received a gift of a stainless steel reusable water bottle that honors the spirit of Earth Day by reducing single-use plastic containers.

Head of School Susanne Johnson used the occasion to announce actions the School will be taking in response to different student group requests that align with Green School ideals.

  • The School’s carpool pick-up line is now a “No Idle Zone” -- First, second, and fourth grade Buddies noticed that cars leave the engines running while waiting in the pick-up line. In recent weeks, they made posters asking that parents turn off their cars while waiting for the end of the school day. Mrs. Johnson is honoring their request and will be asking families to comply with the new rule.

  • Earlier in the week Preschool students wrote Mrs. Johnson a letter asking for a new outdoor recycling bin between the front entrance and the  gym. They are also working on posters to put all around campus to remind everyone how and what to recycle. Mrs. Johnson said the School will add the needed additional recycling bin.

  • Third and sixth grade Buddies recently raised concerns about the use of plastic in the lunchroom, and eighth grade students similarly voiced concerns about the use of plastic straws. Mrs. Johnson announced that the School will be eliminating single-use plastic in the lunchroom.

  • Student Council is working with Mrs. Johnson and the facilities team to study the feasibility of having water bottle refilling stations installed on campus.


About the School

Barnesville School of Arts & Sciences is an independent private school in Montgomery County, Maryland offering innovative preschool through 8th grade programs. Cross-curricular teaching encourages students to explore how subjects relate to one another, helping them to make connections that spark inquiry and deepen understanding. Small classes enable skilled teachers to engage each child in an academically challenging environment. Our 30-acre campus is our extended classroom, and we integrate nature into everyday learning. Barnesville is certified as a Maryland Green School by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, demonstrating achievement in curriculum and instruction, community partnerships, and best management practices.

About the School’s Annual Earth Day Celebration

In 2016, Barnesville faculty and naturalists from Black Hill Regional Park teamed up to create a Flying WILD Festival, an entire day of fun outdoor and environmental education activities related to birds, their habitats, and their migration. In the years since, our partnership with Black Hill has continued, and Barnesville seventh graders have planned similar Earth Day festivals for students at the school ranging from 3 years old through eighth grade.

An independent private school in
Montgomery County, Maryland
offering innovative preschool
through 8th grade programs.

Barnesville School

21830 Peach Tree Road
PO Box 404
Barnesville, MD 20838

p: 301.972.0341
f: 301.972.4076


We offer a vigorous academic program for students as well as engaging, hands-on learning experiences.


Our positive, supportive learning environment promotes imagination, exploration, personal growth, and achievement.

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