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Longfellow Teacher Wins Award for ‘Green’ Teaching

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Longfellow Teacher Wins Award for ‘Green’ Teaching
Posted on 09/08/2015
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Richard Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary School, has been named as the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) 2015 Outstanding Educator for his work helping students learn about ecofriendly ways to do yardscaping and protect a local watershed.

The award recognizes an educator in Cumberland County who has shown consistent dedication to teaching the importance of understanding and conserving our natural resources. Johnson will be presented with the award at the CCSWCD’s annual meeting, to be held on Oct. 21 at the Flaherty Family Farm in Scarborough.

Johnson, a 26-year veteran of the Portland Public Schools, stressed that the watershed project was a collaborative effort with fellow Longfellow fifth-grade teachers Patrick Connolly and Lara Pratt and others.

For the past two years, fifth-grade teachers and their students at the school at 432 Stevens Avenue collaborated with the CCSWCD to learn about the Capisic Brook watershed and its importance to the local environment. The students participated in the Youth YardScaping Program, where they learned how to properly take care of yards without having a negative impact on the local watershed.

The students researched ecofriendly ways to take care of yards – including their schoolyard. They learned about the benefits of rain gardens and created one on the Longfellow school grounds.

The project included a walking field trip along the Capisic Brook watershed. Students identified trash, pollution, and lawn care practices that negatively impact the watershed. They also identified ecofriendly landscaping in their neighborhood. The field trip included a visit to Capisic Brook, where Portland’s stormwater director described the city’s efforts to improve the health of the stream. As a culminating event, students shared their research with the community during Longfellow’s annual spring fair.

“We thank you for your efforts to create clean water stewards in Portland. Your support and enthusiasm is essential for providing meaningful programs like Youth YardScaping to the fifth-graders at Longfellow Elementary School! We hope that this year’s collaboration was as rewarding for you and your team as it was for us here at CCSWCD,” wrote CCSWCD Board of Supervisors Chair Carol Anne Jordan, in a letter to Johnson announcing the award.

She continued, “We have made great strides towards creating greener yards and a cleaner stream in the neighborhoods within Capisic Brook watershed in Portland. Your participation in the Youth YardScaping program, as well as your students’ thorough and professional presentation at the Longfellow Spring Fair, have contributed to this success. We look forward to continuing this work with you in future years.”

The project was a collaborative effort that not only included Longfellow’s fifth-grade team but Kelsey White from the CCSWCD, and Amy Segal, a Longfellow parent and landscape architect from Terrence J. Dewan and Associates. In addition, the project received the following assistance from local business:

• Lowe’s – supplies for the YardScaping project

• Garbage to Garden – compost

• Broadway Gardens – discounted perennials for the rain garden

• United Way – volunteers to prepare the rain garden space for plants

Planting of rain garden at Longfellow Students and Richard Johnson plant raingarden