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Greenwich's Putnam Indian Field School Honored As Green LEAF School

Sarah Lusman and Suzanne Zakka watch as a Putnam Indian Field student waters a garden. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
In back from left: Susan Donaghy (Head of School), Marianne Riess (former Head of School and founder of Planting Day) and Elizabeth Lillien. Front from left: Suzanne Zakka, Bill Palmer (Sam Bridge Nursery) and Diane Gordon (Pre-K teacher). Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Erin Dodds with students at Putnam Indian Field School. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

GREENWICH, Conn., -- Putnam Indian Field School received an A+ for its green thumb.

The preschool was recently recognized as the state’s newest Connecticut Green LEAF Schools. A commitment to the environment and environmental education has always been one of the school's guiding principles, said head of school Susan Donaghy.

"It is part of what Putnam Indian Field School has always treasured and that is connecting children to nature and the environment and creating future stewards," she said. "It's also about healthy lifestyle choices and understanding the importance of eating a healthy diet and connecting them to what is actually their food source."

The Connecticut Green LEAF Schools program is a collaborative effort of the Connecticut Departments of Construction Services, Education, Energy and Environmental Protection and Public Health, as well as many Connecticut environmental and educational organizations created to promote green and healthy schools for all. The program recognizes organizations that have made significant progress toward greening their schools, as well as those that are just beginning. The program guides and recognizes schools for striving toward three essential goals: provide effective environmental and sustainability education; improve the health and wellness of students and staff and reduce environmental impact and cost.

Parent Erin Dodds said she was intrigued about the program and believed the school was a natural fit.

"I know that at Putnam Indian Field we really value the outdoors, the environment and teaching the children about healthy food choices and so I knew that these were things that we were already doing," she said. 

The former Head of School, Marianne Riess, who retired two years ago said the school's commitment to being a "green" school was done in stages. During her last year the school - prompted by parents - decided to get rid of all the paper goods after the kitchen had been redone, she said.

"You can imagine how many paper goods we threw out each day with 100 kids for lunch and snacks and bowls and cups and napkins," she said about the school's switch to regular plates, cutlery and glasses and cups.

It didn't stop there as the school moved to green cleaning materials, she said.

"Then the next most logical thing was: 'why don't we plant some of the things that we eat?' " she said.

Planting gardens became part of the school's educational as well as nutritional offering, she said.

Bill Palmer, from Sam Bridge Nursery, helped create the gardens.

The Connecticut Green LEAF Schools project provides a bridge linking a variety of stakeholders across the four Connecticut state universities in the interest of greening K-12 schools. The program started in 2011, with interest from four state offices, five universities, and many education and environmental groups. A representative steering committee created the Green LEAF program, which stands for “Leading, Educating, Achieving and Fostering” healthy green schools for all. LEAF encourages, recognizes and celebrates the greening of Connecticut’s public and private K-12 schools.

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