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School Board Honors Longfellow Teacher Richard Johnson

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School Board Honors Longfellow Teacher Richard Johnson
Posted on 10/08/2015
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Richard Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary School, was honored by the Portland Board of Public Education this week for his work with students around environmental studies.

Johnson 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. He’ll receive the award at the CCSWCD’s annual meeting on Oct. 21, to be held at the Flaherty Family Farm in Scarborough.

The award recognizes an educator in Cumberland County who has shown consistent dedication to teaching the importance of understanding and conserving natural resources. 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.

Speaking at the school board’s Oct. 6  meeting, Interim Superintendent Jeanne Crocker described the award-winning project:

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.

Johnson was recently featured in a Maine Sunday Telegram story about what his students are doing this year to learn about sustainability across the curriculum.