CPS Teacher honored for teaching green

June 5, 2009 The Dolores Kohl and Tribune McCormick Foundations have picked Dayna Darby as one of five early educators who they believe is making a difference in the lives of young children. In this case, it's a difference that also benefits the planet.

The preschoolers at the Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy are experts in composting with worms. So much so, that they are teachers for the day to the 'big kids,' a class of third-graders. Kids huddled around compost bin.

"We slowly introduced them to the importance of composting and this was the culminating activity. They've been working on it for a couple months now. This activity today was them teaching the third graders how to have their own compost bin in their classroom," Darby said.

After teaching her students to recycle, Darby wanted to take the environmental lessons further. That idea grew into an effort that would show the preschoolers how to replenish the earth with a wiggly natural resource.

"We have a lot of plants in the classroom and the children are responsible for taking care of those plants and composting was just one final way for them to take care of the plants," Darby said.

The Kohl and McCormick foundations say they issue early childhood teaching awards to educators who demonstrate dedication, innovation and leadership in early childhood teaching. Darby's efforts stood out among more than 200 other nominees.

"What we saw in Dayna was a teacher who was outstanding without question, but then doing something very important that the public doesn't even know about, recycling and composting and doing it with children at such an early age," Lou Bank, of the Dolores Kohl Education Foundation, said.

Darby says this is just the beginning.

"My goal is that it won't just be something that happens in my classroom. That it'll shed a light on recycling and composting with children and giving them the responsibility of taking it into other classrooms and into other schools," Darby said.

The teaching award includes a $5,000 cash prize for the teacher, plus an additional $1,000 gift for the school.

For more information, go to www.kohlmccormickawards.org/ .

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