Our Green School Programs

Green School & PIERS

Swan Meadow received recognition as a Governor’s “Green School”  in 2006 and Re-Certification in 2010. We are currently participating as a “Partners in Restoration and Ecology of Schoolyards” (PIERS) school. Environmental education has become an integral part of Swan Meadow School’s instructional program.

Environmental instruction is woven throughout our daily school curriculum. It can be found in our science and math classrooms as we collect and analyze data from our many projects. Graphs, tables, and research are seen throughout the school. Evidence of our love of nature is seen in our language arts classrooms in student’s poetry and short stories. The computer lab displays spreadsheets and matrixes used to tally data. Artwork reflects the many nature themes we study. Woodworking classes construct bluebird houses for each elementary school and cold frames for our garden projects. The library and classroom book corners include wonderful and informative nonfiction texts.

Environmental Investigations: SEEK (Swan Meadow Environment Education Kids) 
Friday, April 24, 2009

During National EE Week we conducted several investigations in our schoolyard habitat. Students rotated through streamside stations that focused on water quality. We explored such topics as our local watershed, water quality monitoring, how vegetation affects the movement of water over land and collecting and keying microinvertebrates. We also designed SEEK T-Shirts (Swan Meadow Environmental Education Kids) with stream & meadow themes. Check out our photo on the National EE Week website:
Keying Microinvertebrates                                                

Rain Garden

    Swan Meadow School is growing native wildflowers in a rain garden beside the school building. In the past five years we have designed, constructed, planted, weeded, deadheaded, and studiedour garden of native species. The plants are watered by rainwater falling off the roof into two connected barrels, then through the irrigation lines to the wildflowers growing on a gentle slope below.

    Our rain garden helps our schoolyard’s ecosystem by providing a buffer between the school and nearby Cherry Creek, providing nectar to Monarch butterflies for our Monarch Watch project, and providing shelter and food for many other insects, birds, and butterflies. We collected seeds last fall and broadcasted them in  a new section of our wildflower meadow. Our efforts are visible this summer in the meadow with new black-eyed susan, blue aster and bee balm growth.

Small Animal Sanctuary & Animal Blind

On our annual Spring Planting Day, April 28, 2005, parents David Swartzentruber and Calvin Schrock erected the Animal Blind located at the edge of the Small Animal Sanctuary. This Animal Blind was purchased with money from our Chesapeake Bay Grant and the PTO.

The  Animal Blind is a camouflage netting stretched between two PVC pipes. From behind the blind students observe, collect, and record data concerning the wildlife in our Small Animal Sanctuary.

 Bird & Butterfly Garden
 We have a beautiful garden in front of our first and second grade classroom and office windows. Each spring we rake, mulch, and plant new flowers. We plant two different kinds of flowers. One kind comes up every year on its own like black-eyed susan and butterfly weed. The others we put in each spring, like pansies.

     Birds, insects and animals love to visit our garden. We take turns feeding the birds each week. We have four bird feeders. Three hanging feeders and a window feeder. We feed the birds sunflower seeds and thistle seed. We also provide sugar water for the hummingbirds in the spring and summer months. 

    Chickadees, cardinals, sparrows, goldfinches, and nuthatches come to our feeder often. We observe them from our classroom window. We even have a fat, red squirrel who eats our birdseed. He is fun to watch. We release the monarch butterflies we hatch from caterpillars in our garden in the fall. This spring we will be observing and collecting data on the insects in our garden. We hope the offspring of some of our monarchs will return!





Since 2004 we have been maintaining two different compost-filled containers. We spread the compost of recycled materials on our Rain Garden, Bird & Butterfly Garden and Willdflower Meadow. As we learn about helpful practices like composting, we improve our schoolyard by recycling waste materials and giving our plants good nutrition.

Swan Meadow Recycles!

Four years ago we placed a blue "We Recycle" bin in each classroom and the office. At first we had to think about using the bin and not just tossing items in the wastebasket. Today recycling has become a way of life. Currently we recycle paper, magazines, and newspaper. The Garrett County Board of Education adopted a program in 2007 and has provided us with outdoor storage for recycled materials and monthly pick-up.

Nesting Boxes

            We are helping the birds and bats to thrive at Swan Meadow School! Students have built and placed nesting boxes for Barn Owls, Bats, Bluebirds, Purple Martins, Wood Ducks and Wrens throughout the school yard habitat. Because of this we don’t have as many insects, and we don’t need pesticides on our school grounds.

     Students monitor and observe the nesting boxes during the year and record data on the inhabitants. Swan Meadow staff and families participate in the local November and May bird counts each year.

Monarch Watch and Tagging

As a part of our Green School efforts we are participating in  Monarch Watch, which is an international research project. We are raising butterflies from caterpillars in our classrooms, tagging them with small coded stickers when they hatch and setting them free to fly to Mexico. We monitor their migration via the “Journey North” website, a site dedicated to the study of wildlife migration. Recently, we received word that one of our tagged butterflies (Henry) was located in the El Rosario Sanctuary in Mexico.

Native Wildflower Meadow     

PIERS II Project



In August 2006 at Route 40 Elementary School, Swan Meadow teachers learned about the benefits of schoolyard habitats at a PIERS II workshop held at Route 40 Elementary School. They began planning our Native Wildflower Meadow. They attended many workshops and meetings in Garrett County and conducted surveys at Swan Meadow School throughout the 2006-2007 school year.

In February of the following year, Swan Meadow School submitted the Chesapeake Bay Trust Grant (CBTG). The third, fourth, and fifth grade class researched and selected native plants and flowers for us to grow in our meadow. They chose Cardinal Flowers, Garrett County’s official wildflower Wild Columbine, Maryland’s official wildflower Black-eyed Susan, and Milkweed, to help our Monarch Butterfly Tagging Program, along with many other native perennials.

Spring 2007

In Spring 2007, planning and production of the Native Wildflower Meadow went into action. We selected and measured the site, ordered the plants and mulch, and gathered large pieces of cardboard from Slabaugh Recycling, a Swan Meadow School student’s family business. We covered the site with cardboard and covered that with mulch. Then the weather helped to break down the cardboard and kill the grass underneath. Finally we cut holes through the flimsy cardboard on June 7th and planted two-thirds of our meadow that day. The rest of the site was planted the following October 2007.


In 2008 our students and staff designed a sign for the Native Wildflower Meadow. We continued to mow, weed, and seed our meadow. We surveyed the meadow’s plants and animals and their habitat. At our annual school picnic in June we dedicated the sign, with the help of Elaine Raesly, our PIERS II consultant.


Maintenance and assessment of our meadow continued in 2008 and 2009. Our sign was placed and dedicated in the Native Wildflower Meadow on our Spring Sprucing Day in 2009. Our school celebrated its first Swan Meadow Environmental Education Kids (SEEK) Day in May 2009; the first of many more to come.



County Bird & Wildflower: 

The Eastern Bluebird & The Wild Columbine

One afternoon a local bird expert, Jon Boone, came to our school to talk about the birds which live and travel through Garrett County.  Mr. Boone gave a slide show and talked about 25 birds in Garrett County. Mr. Boone asked us if we knew what the state bird of Maryland was. Of course, we answered the Baltimore Oriole. Then he asked us what the county bird was. We did not know. He said that was because there was no bird adopted by our county.

This caught our interest. Why didn’t our county have a bird? Did they have a county flower? The Swan Meadow School students wanted to promote the awareness of our beautiful birds and wildflowers in Garrett County so we began our efforts to adopt a county bird and wildflower

First, we worked with Mr. Boone and Ms. McDowell to learn more about birds and wildflowers in our county. They each gave presentations with photos and information. Next our math teacher helped us develop a matrix to help us make informed decisions. Then, using the matrix we chose 4 birds and wildflowers based on their uniqueness to Garrett County, the number of seasons they reside in the county, their appearance, population, usefulness, and symbolism to Garrett County. The final four birds were the eastern bluebird, the black-capped chickadee, the rose-breasted grosbeak, and the golden-crowned kinglet. The final four wildflowers were the wild columbine, the Jack-in-the-pulpit, the pink lady-slipper, and the painted trillium.

Now it was time to practice our public speaking skills. We wanted the school children of Garrett County to help choose our bird and wildflower, but first we had to ask the Board of Education if this was OK. So we worked with Mrs. Craig and Mrs. Lantz on our presentation to the Board members.

After getting approval from the Board of Education members, we knew our next step was to write a letter to the County Commissioners and ask to be placed on their agenda. Another presentation! We could not have a county bird and wildflower without their approval. 


Our presentation went great. The commissioners were in favor of adopting a county bird and wildflower. They thought the idea of the school children using the matrix to decide was wonderful. We made packets to send to each school with information on each bird and wildflower, photographs, the matrix and instructions. Mrs. Lantz also put the information on our school web site.

     All elementary and some middle and high school students throughout the county voted for the Garrett County Bird and Wildflower based on the characteristics in our matrix.  The winners were the Eastern Bluebird and the Wild Columbine.

    On Tuesday, May 10, 2005, students from Swan Meadow School presented the results and asked the Garrett County Commissions to adopt these as the Garrett County Bird and Wildflower.  All the Commissioners voted in favor of the Eastern Bluebird and the Wild Columbine. We held a celebration at the school that afternoon!

    Thanks to all who participated in this year long project.  It was a great learning experience!