Students Present Sustainability Proposals

Student Proposals deserve a Student Post! (This one courtesy of Emilia Pierce; she wrote it all the way back in June, when students presented; we’re finally getting around to publishing it now. Updates soon if we get these proposals off the ground!)

A handful of lower and middle school students as well as the upper school Green Club got together with teachers and members of the administration to present their proposals which aim to push Friends School of Baltimore to be more sustainable. The first Lower School presentation shared information about a newly discovered bacteria that has the ability to absorb plastic bags! These bacteria can be kept in a tank, and can absorb a plastic bag within six weeks if maintained at 29° C. It was suggested that we as a school might be able to create a small culture of these bacteria in a tank.

A second Lower School presentation focused on the use of printer ink at our school. In order to combat the monstrously high numbers of ink cartridges being thrown into landfills every year, it was proposed that the school should invest in refillable cartridges and ink – while of course trying to cut down on the use of printer ink in the first place.

A third Middle School presentation focused on the culture of sustainability at our school and presented many ideas to get students more involved in recycling, composting and using less resources and paper.

Finally, the US green club presented about the use of single use plastics at our school. It was suggested that the dining hall rethink its use of plastic water bottles, which can be replaced with other beverages that are not packaged with plastic, as well as purchase food from local sources. A reusable water bottle gift for prospective students was also proposed to Admissions administrators in order to show and support Friends School’s sustainable goals and culture. An outdoor classroom was also suggested which would allow students to have class outside, which has been shown to have higher learning rates than indoor classes. It would also give students the opportunity to take advantage of the beautiful grounds that this campus has to offer. The Green Club would also like to partner with various organizations such as Cylburn, Baltimore Green Space, Baltimore Tree Trust, and many more, regarding the removal of invasives in Baltimore City.

It is very impressive that students from all grades have come together to push for a more sustainable school and have so many awesome ideas. The passion these students have for the environment is very promising for the sustainable future of our school, and hopefully someday the whole world.

Editor’s note: After students finished, faculty also made some additional proposals around single-use coffee pods, an eco-justice retreat, and funding for the “Outdoor Ed” coach US students proposed, and finally, everyone agreed that this “Proposals” session should become annual. Next year we’ll advertise more in advance and hope to have a lot more proposals from students, parents staff, faculty, and administrators. Start thinking now!

What Green Club’s been up to this fall

Student Post!

US student Emilia Pierce sums up what US Green Club has been up to this fall:

In October, several members of the Upper School Green Club presented Green Club’s ideas, goals for the year, and future projects in an Upper School collection. The presentation began with a reminder of past projects, which included working with the board of trustees and Glenmede – our investment management company – to get a screen on fossil fuels. This project was successful and in 2018 resulted in our school being able to filter out 95% of all fossil fuels investments. Soon after, our school was able to switch to 100% clean energy.

In past years, the Green Club has worked with the dining hall to reduce the use of single use plastics, and will continue to do so throughout the year. Additionally, Green Club hopes to continue a more political initiative to combat climate change which began during the climate strike when students called and wrote letters to legislators to talk about climate action. This year, the club hopes to communicate with some of the Baltimore Mayoral candidates as well as some Maryland senators about future legislation that can help the environment.

Green Club also mentioned the ecojustice retreat to encourage students to get excited and to sign up to learn about ecojustice in Baltimore City. Ecojustice is essentially the intersection between environmentalism and social justice. Participating students got a tour of Baltimore through an ecojustice lens, and later learned about assets based community organizing.

Out of our greenhouse and into local streams! Aquaponics at Friends adds to local biodiversity.

Here is something that the Aquaponics Seminar didn’t know before last Friday: Deer Creek, which runs through the Towson High School campus, is a lovely, shaded stream!  That is where, thanks to a permit obtained through our collaboration with iMET, we released last Friday our first batch of native yellow perch, Perca flavescens. These fish had been growing in our 2nd aquaponics system this spring. We built this second system because we wanted to construct a deep water culture system where plants float on the water, and that incorporated a fish tank big enough to host native species of fish. (The first aquaponics system we built in the greenhouse grows plants in a hydroshale bed and has a fish tank only big enough to grow small goldfish.) Many thanks to the South Carroll High school for giving us one of their old fish tanks, to iMET for giving us an old biofilter tank, and to Manchester Valley High School for giving us a small young population of yellow perch to raise once we finished constructing our new system.

Another thing we learned this year is that yellow perch grow fast! Our field trip on Friday began with a fishing expedition in our tank to catch these now much larger and faster yellow perch. Then we loaded them up for transport with a portable bubbler and drove to Towson High School. We found the deepest part of the stream, released our fish, and then got to sit on the banks and enjoy seeing our greenhouse guests explore their new home as they nosed around mossy rocks in a quiet pool of the stream.  It was a lot of fun and we hope to raise more yellow perch next year to release in local streams. Next year, we know we definitely need some larger nets to catch these active native fish. Come on by the greenhouse next fall to see our fish and plants growing together! If you are interested in reading more about aquaponics at Friends, check out this article published recently in Green Teacher magazine.

Community Garden Summer Helpers needed!

The Friends Community Garden needs your help this summer with watering, weeding and assisting with the harvest and delivery of our school grown food to the CARES food pantry.  Please sign up for a few days this summer to help us continue this important service project which is a joint effort between the Friends School and Stony Run Meeting. If you would like to be trained in how to water, weed or what is entailed with harvesting, just send an email to and we can set up a time to meet and provide you an orientation.

5th Graders Fighting Plastic Pollution and Climate Change

Fifth graders and other students during a lunchtime Climate Walkout on March 15, 2019

Time for a student post from two of Ms. Lebron’s fifth graders! Sasha Rosenthal and Xuan-Xanh Henry-Pham co-author the following post:

The 5B homeroom has been doing activism all throughout the school year. The Climate Change group is focused on Climate Change, also known as global warming. We are especially focused on plastic pollution. Our goal is to get rid of plastic bags in Baltimore.

This year, we have had a few people from various organizations visit us. One of these people was Greg Wilson from the Sunrise Movement chapter in Baltimore. He discussed ocean pollution and plastic. He talked about that even though most of ocean trash comes from Asia, it still affects us in Baltimore. We should still be trying to fix it.

Also this year, we have organized a Climate March with the Upper School PNSJ class. Along with the rest of the fifth grade and other grades too, we took a route up Charles Street, raising awareness in a place where people would notice us.

We just met with Mr. Micciche to inform him on our intentions to start reducing plastic waste, starting in our homeroom and school campus.

You have now learned about much of our work this school year. If you want to learn more about what we have been doing or work with us please contact our homeroom teacher, Ms. Lebron at Thank you for reading.

Earth Day/ Wonder Day 2019

Another Earth Day! This year, falconer Brian Bradley and acclaimed poet Tim Seibles shared birds and poetry with the whole school in the morning, and then in the afternoon, students were all over campus. Below, pictures of Bradley’s website, Tim Seibles, and lots of Middle school students mulching the community garden and cutting back last year’s native plants to make way for this year’s new growth.

More on Wonder Day on the site here.

Ecomodernism, Utopia, Dr. Erle Ellis

Dr. Erle Ellis, UMBC prof, author of a new book on the Anthropocene, and lots of nationally published editorials, co-author of the Ecomodernism manifesto, and a Friends School parent, came to a combined session of Ms. Romney’s Sculpture class and Mr. Ratner’s Utopias and Dystopias in Literature class. We talked about technophilic and technophobic approaches to environmentalism and what it means to be a pessimist or an optimist in “the age of humans.”

The literature students had just finished Chinese Science Fiction author Liu Cixin’s book The Three-Body Problem, which contrasts pessimistic environmentalists and optimistic technologists in Cultural Revolution era and contemporary China. It’s a wild read! Then we read some praise and critique of dystopian environmentalism and one strand of that critique is ecomodernism. Students had plenty of questions for Ellis, who has also studied agricultural practices in China and helped us think about the book, about environmentalism in general, and about the uses, risks, and opportunities of utopian, dystopian, and other kinds of futuristic thinking.

So, now that we’ve solved climate change, alleviated global poverty and addressed environmental damage (ok, not really–but we’re being optimistic so let’s say….not YET), students can move on to creating their own utopias. Then they’ll work in groups with Ms. Romney’s sculpture students leading the way on how to use the Maker Space to create utopian artifacts (things like the “I have seen the future” pins Ms. Romney made our students). Working collaboratively, drafting some manifestos of their own, prototyping in the makerspace–all parts of imagining better futures.

New class studies FSB Native Plant Teaching Gardens

Upper School Science Teacher Katherine Jenkins is teaching a new science class for 10th graders, “Exploration in Life and Physical Sciences” and an early unit looks at stormwater management and biodiversity on campus by using the Native Plant Teaching Gardens at Friends. Students identify and classify plants in the gardens, conduct field analysis with a plot sample, and practice drawing sketches in the gardens and back in the lab. They also connect with Blue Water Baltimore to see how what we do on campus connects to Baltimore Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.

Want to know more about the gardens on campus? Check out our other blog and website that’s devoted entirely to Friends School Teaching Gardens.

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin speaks to US Collection

We were lucky and delighted to have Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin speak with Upper School students on Friday as part of our “Exploring Quaker Life & Testimonies” series. Cardin spoke about healing, spirituality, stewardship, and what we value. She is currently working on a Healthy Green Maryland Amendment (MDEHN pdf link) and she asked Upper School students to think about what values Maryland’s Constitution currently honors; freedom of assembly, free speech–these are parts of the Constitution that give Maryland residents rights and freedoms and protections. What it’s missing, however, is a right to a healthy and healthful environment, and that’s why Cardin and a growing coalition of organizations and legislators are working on the Healthy Green Maryland Amendment, HB 472.

Students also watched a video of Quaker activist and fourteen-year old Kallan Benson; if Upper School students are interested, we may try to collaborate with Kallan Benson and Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin to meet legislators in Annapolis during this legislative session. Cardin explained that legislators are eager to hear from young people about how to care for the future of Maryland’s environment; this amendment is one place to start.

If you missed the talk, here are the slides and here is the link to Maryland Environmental Health Network. And think about learning who your representatives are and contacting them to support HB 472 or anything else that matters to you–they want to (need to) hear from students.

Future Pirate (Mary Mattingly), 2016 Earth Day Keynote Speaker

This post got stuck in DRAFTS and never posted! It’s about Earth Day 2016 but I’m sad that we never posted it, so I’m adding it now, with the update that Mary Mattingly had a recent piece at Storm King that is part of a group sculpture show about climate change and that she’s working on a permanent version of the Swale Public Food Forest she discussed when she was here.

Big thanks to Ramsay Antonio-Barnes, who encouraged Green Club to contact Mary Mattingly, and who wrote the text below.

 Mary Mattingly shared her artistic process and practice with Upper School and Middle School students followed by a hands on learning session where students build prototypes of grey water filtration system in the the Upper School Maker Space.  Her visit is a major milestone in the school’s commitment to fostering STEAM education within the community.

Mattingly explores the themes of home, travel, cartography, and humans’ relationships with each other, with the environment, with machines, and with corporate and political entities. She has been recognized for creating photographs and sculptures depicting and representing futuristic and obscure landscapes, for making wearable sculpture, “wearable homes,” and for her ecological installations, including the Waterpod (2009). Her current Project Swale NY is in the beginning stages and looks to be an exciting project. Check it out! Swale New york