In May 24 issue, Russell County News
By Kim Graham
Russell County News Writer
One step into Jean Clement’s Russell County Middle School science classroom leaves no room for doubt about her commitment to the environment.
Her classroom walls are adorned with posters and photos exhibiting the meaning of PRIDE - Personal Responsibility In a Desirable Environment.
One wall is nearly obscured by a collection of all the school’s recycle containers waiting to be redistributed throughout the building when school starts in the fall.
In 1997, the PRIDE initiative began as a comprehensive effort to promote environmental awareness and education while renewing pride in Kentucky’s rivers and streams.
Clement, an 18 year veteran 7th and 8th grade science teacher, started the PRIDE club at RCMS in 1999.
That first year, she wrote a grant and the RCMS PRIDE club was awarded $5,000.
The grant money was used to allow all 140 eighth grade students to test water quality in streams and visit local farms to observe best farming practices.
Since then, Clement has championed efforts to not only environmentally educate Russell County’s youth but also to improve and protect the environmental health of the community and beyond.
Eight years ago, the PRIDE club began a recycling program by collecting aluminum cans at the school.
The RCMS recycling program has evolved over the years to include collection of aluminum, paper and plastic throughout the school.
Three volunteers from each 1st period class are trained in how to manage recycle bins.
“This year managing all the bins has been so smooth,” said Clement. “I was just tickled to death!”
With Clement at the helm, the club has received nearly $20,000 in grant money.
That grant money has been used to purchase recycle containers for the entire school, as well as continuing and adding to PRIDE club projects
The club has also hosted events for all RCMS students by bringing in guest speakers to lead environmental workshops at the school.
The 21st Century Project, led in Russell County Schools by director Susan Melton, sponsors the PRIDE club’s weekly after school meetings with money from federal grants.
Clement is quick to point out that success of the programs are very much a cooperative effort including partners throughout the schools and county.
She gives students well deserved credit and praise for their hard work throughout the year.
Last year marked the PRIDE club’s first annual awards ceremony recognizing members for their dedication and service.
Dinner and awards were provided thanks to sponsorship by the 21st Century Project.
The 21st Century Project’s After School Coordinator, Kandi Campbell presented awards at this year’s ceremony.
“That we know of, Russell County is the only county that has a PRIDE club banquet out of all 38 counties in the region,” said Tammie Wilson, Deputy Executive Director of PRIDE.
Success in this program has encouraged clubs in other schools.
“Our goal is to get every school in the county recycling at least paper in the fall of this year,” said Clement.
“It’s tremendous the support we get from Russell County,” said Wilson. “Ms. Clement is wonderful.”
During the 2007-2008 school year, teacher Shanna Darnell started a PRIDE club at Russell County High School along with a recycling program.
Clement is also working with Russell County Elementary School teachers Shelah Johnson and Lisa Tarter to start a PRIDE club and recycling program.
“The participation from students has grown,” said Wilson. “Students have shown an increased interest in the environment.”
Membership is open to anyone all year which allows flexibility for those who want to volunteer but sometimes have other commitments such as sports after school.
Currently, there are 40 PRIDE club members at RCMS and 110 members on the recycling committee.
All students involved choose to volunteer their time to participate.
Clement’s next goal for the middle school PRIDE club is to become a Kentucky Green and Healthy School.
She says the process will take several years but they are a candidate school this year and well on their way to attaining the successive levels of achievement in becoming a Kentucky Green and Healthy School.
Her next goal for the county is to recycle everything possible at all schools in the district.
“Whether it’s ink cartridges or cell phones, we want to have a program in place to recycle those items,” said Clement.
What started as a small club in one school, now promises to be a thriving county wide program.
As if that weren’t enough, Clement has also helped to develop three published environmental education curriculums.
She researched and found an opportunity to field test two sets of hands on curricula through the University of Kentucky and Lab-Aids, Inc.
After providing suggestions to edit and revise the final publications, Clement’s classes have benefit of using the hands on kits she reviewed free of charge.
Clement also worked with other teachers and non-formal educators to develop the Biologist in Training (BiT) program now in use at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery.
Among her accomplishments as a teacher, Clement was one of 9 finalists for the Ashland Teacher of the Year Award in 2002. As a finalist, she was received $900 and the Ashland Teacher Achievement Award.
RCMS PRIDE club won Middle School Campus of the Year in 2003, made it to the final round in 2006 and is one of 3 finalists this year for the distinction. This year’s winner will be announced in the fall.
“The goal of environmental education is to help the entire community become environmentally literate, to learn to appreciate natural resources and to recognize environmental problems and try to solve them,” Clement said.
“Education is the bottom line,” said Clement. “Once they’re educated, they get it.”