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In 1992 the Green Classroom was three years old and already brimming with ambition. Not only was gardening a favorite activity for Bobcats, but Carla Marshall was diligently teaching lessons about environmental sustainability relevant to their elementary curriculum. Students measured, read stories and wrote poetry, performed creative scientific experiments, and learned about how Indigenous Peoples planted and cooked food.

Students preparing cleaning solutions

It seemed only natural that together they soon began to look at the Green Classroom in the context of the local environment. Becker lies just inside of the West Bouldin Creek watershed, which flows into Lady Bird Lake and the Colorado River beyond it. So fifth grade students tested the water and were unhappy to find it highly polluted. They learned traditional cleaning products were amongst pollutants found in the local groundwater, harming local flora and fauna. So, naturally, they decided to find a solution to the problem.

Guided by Marshall the students consulted Clean and Green: The Complete Guide to Nontoxic and Environmentally Safe Housekeeping, where they found information and recipes that resulted in their non-toxic household cleaning kits. Each kit included window cleaning solution, scouring powder, a soft scrub, bathroom cleaner, laundry detergent, fabric softener, a dusting aid, a carrying case, and a set of instructions for making more of each product. The main ingredients were baking soda, borax, vinegar, vegetable oil, and salt. Not only did they work weekends to measure, mix, and bottle their own environmentally friendly cleaning products, the fifth graders took to the streets, knocking on doors to explain their work to Becker’s human neighbors.

Although they only made seventy five cents per kit, the students were rewarded with the first of three President’s Environmental Youth Awards, a $2,000 grant for the Green Classroom, and a trip to Washington, DC.

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