Students at Gordon Elementary School are creating a culture of sustainability.

It started with a gardening club. Teachers, Jennifer Lubba and Victoria Padonis, wanted to teach the students about eating healthy, where fruits and vegetables come from and how to identify them.

The idea was so popular that the teachers found they had to split the club into two sessions. The first session was opened up to third and fourth graders, and 25 students signed up to learn about fruits and vegetables and how to “eat the rainbow.” Lubba had students group fruits and vegetables by color to create a well-rounded diet.

The students learned about herbs and how to cook with them. They studied the life cycle of plants and discovered that not all fruits and vegetables come from seeds by planting potatoes.

The second session of the club was opened up to second graders, and they have begun to prepare flower beds in front of the school for spring plantings. The 25 second graders in this second session are growing plants and vegetables in the school’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math) lab, and these will be transplanted in the flower beds once the weather is warmer.

The gardening club has been a huge success at Gordon, and plans to construct a sustainable garden to commemorate the school’s 10th anniversary are well under way. Lubba, a STEM and Math support teacher, said they hope to break ground for this garden in March and to start planting in April.

The true culture of sustainability at Gordon comes from the Green Team. Comprised of 15 third and fourth graders, the Green Team has lofty goals for sustainability at their school, goals that they work towards completing every day.

“They are very motivated to work on their Green Team mission,” Lubba said.

That mission is to educate, empower and engage military Families and school staff about sustainability. Their motto is “Gordon Goes Green.” The students practice what they preach.

“They came up with an inventory sheet to inventory trash and recycling bins around the school,” Lubba said.

The inventory sheet, able to be electronically accessed by the students throughout the day, details what areas of the school need more recycling bins, and where bins can be shared.

The team began to do their own research into the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and how to implement them into their lives at Gordon. They identified four goals they hope to accomplish at school. Their main focus is the first goal they identified: quality education. The students hope to educate their peers and staff at the school about sustainability in their lives.

“We partnered with Fort Bragg’s recycling management. They came out and did a presentation and showed the kids sorted materials to determine what they could reuse, recycle or trash. The kids were thinking critically about what they could do with their items,” Lubba said.

The presentation also included information about biodegradable items and single use plastics.

“(The student’s) short term goal is to inform other students and staff about single use plastics and the harm they are to the environment,” she said.

The Green Team educates students by appearing on the “Patriot Show,” a live school broadcast the students and faculty watch in the mornings.

Lubba and the Green Team are also working towards composting for the gardening club. There is currently one composting tumbler at Gordon Elementary, with plans to acquire more.

Lubba said she and the students hope to one day be able to use the scraps from the cafeteria to create compost. This compost will then be used on the kids’ fruit and vegetable gardens, completing a full circle of sustainability at Gordon Elementary School.


(Author’s note: If you’d like to donate items to the gardening club and Green Team, please contact the Gordon Elementary School PTA at