Nardin Academy has always played an active role in trying to help the environment. The faculty, staff and students of Nardin frequently participate in "green" activities and are constantly trying to lead the way in informing others about the problems the environment is facing.

Nardin, which is comprised of Montessori, elementary and high school levels, is committed to the topic of climate change and protection of the globe, and even in the midst of growing national opposition to organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency and to the idea of green technology, the school's staff and students remain steadfast.

Joy Africano is the seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at Nardin and is also the environmental science teacher for the high school. She is a fierce environmentalist and says that environmental science is her passion. She said she believes it is her duty to spread awareness of the environmental problems that are present in the world, and she can accomplish this by planning more green activities at the school.

For example, the Nardin Garden is a wildlife habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation and is considered a Monarch Way Station through the University of Kansas. Studying monarch butterflies is a big part of the school's life science curriculum. The school is also actively involved in recycling; bringing down the bins every Tuesday is a normal procedure for most Nardin students.

Additionally, unlike most schools in the area, Nardin engages in composting, using leftover food scraps and coffee grounds from the cafeteria and teacher lounges, respectively, and dead leaves and twigs from the school's garden. The students do all the collecting.

"These activities do not merely take place in after-school programs," said Africano. "They are part of our school's curriculum."

For example, she says that teaching about composting plays right into the carbon, nitrogen and water cycles. Also, she says that composting is relevant to her classes' discussions about bacteria, fungi, decomposers and microbes.

Africano stresses the importance of ecology and how through recycling and reusing, nutrients are put back into the soil. In addition to this, she has her students record the temperatures of Nardin's three composting bins and has them analyze the data, thereby utilizing the scientific method. Her students also spin the bins so the compost gets aired out.

Furthermore, Nardin's environmental club, the Green Gators, organizes many events around the school to spread environmental awareness, one of which is the waste-free lunch day. Even though the Green Gators encourage students to bring a waste-free lunch to school everyday, Friday is emphasized and advertised as the official day. Students are urged to use reusable plastics and lunch boxes -- not bags, and anything else that can be recycled or used again.

Nardin Elementary was picked by Nickelodeon to have a commercial run on its station in honor of Earth Day last April. Nickelodeon was looking for schools with active green programs to feature on Earth Day, so the company sent out an email to all the teachers in the National Science Teachers Association. Africano is a member of the NSTA. The company invited schools to film "green" life at their campuses to submit to Nickelodeon. After Africano sent a list of the many green programs at Nardin to Nickelodeon, she received a phone call that same day announcing that Nardin was the lucky winner.

Nickelodeon sent Africano a flip camera to film all the environmentally friendly activities in which Nardin participates. She filmed for about four days. Nickelodeon was especially fond of Nardin's waste-free lunches and their efficient composting program.

Josh Lane, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Nardin Academy Elementary, believes the United States is wasting too much energy and produces more garbage than any other nation in the world.

Josh is an active member of the Green Gators. He says that in the club he works in the garden, helps with the composting program and thinks of new green initiatives for the school.

"If more and more people become aware of the dangers of global warming, it would become less of a problem," Josh said.

He also emphasized the need to buy hybrid cars that use less energy. When questioned about the fact that hybrid cars are too expensive for many people to afford, Josh said people can start to help by buying fluorescent light bulbs.

Josh said if people just make an effort to do little things like turning off their computer, television, lights and other electronics when not in use, they would not only save money but also help the environment at the same time. He also strongly recommends recycling.

Mary Zenger, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Nardin, said: "I think it is very important to get this generation started on trying to help the Earth. Our nation as a whole is not doing such a great job at it right now."

At school Mary learns about things she can do to help the environment, such as using light-saving bulbs, and she brings the information she learns home to her parents.

Mary actively works in the Nardin Garden during class time, planting new flowers and pulling weeds.

"A lot of people don't take action to help the environment because they believe global warming is not a big issue," Mary said. "But it definitely is."

"If we do not do something now, we will ultimately destroy the Earth for the future generations of humankind," said Africano.

She does, however, acknowledge that it will take some time for this to happen.

She believes that Nardin Academy is on the right track.

"As a member of the Western New York Environmental Alliance, I know that we are definitely one of the schools that is strongly working toward going green," said Africano. "There are a few others I know of as well."

Michael Khan is a sophomore at Canisius High School.