DULUTH (AP) -- A wind generator silently spins above the small building where millions of worms are nestled in plastic tubs, waiting for their next meal.
Feeding time comes daily in the early afternoon, when small groups of children hustle in with buckets of vegetables scraped from lunch trays at Stowe Elementary School.
The wind generator and worm composting projects are two of the most visible symbols of Stowe's six-year transformation from a traditional elementary school into an environmental learning center.
Thanks to help from the University of Minnesota-Duluth's outdoor education program and more than $400,000 in local and state grants, Stowe has crafted a unique identity among Duluth elementary schools.
''If we can expose kids to environmental education and develop a sensitivity to their environment at this young age, besides being good readers and good mathematicians, they will also have a level of caring and commitment to taking care of the Earth,'' Stowe principal Larry Johnson said.
Stowe's 530 students spend the school year studying geology in the school's rock garden and learn about plants and insects while hiking the school's nature trail, which winds through 17 wooded acres next to the school.
Stowe has been getting a lot of attention lately. Minnesota's Office of Environmental Assistance has recognized the school for its environmental education, while school districts around Minnesota are visiting Stowe to learn how to set up similar programs.
''A lot of schools are taking these ideas and implementing them in other places,'' said Tim Bates, who runs the Center for Environmental Education at UMD. Bates and his student interns have worked with Stowe teachers on more than a half-dozen projects during the last six years.
But Johnson believes many of the most important lessons go beyond the classroom. The recycling and composting programs take place between class assignments. After school, students can plant their own gardens, thanks to a cooperative program with the city's Valley Youth Center.
''Being good stewards of this Earth is not a subject; it's an attitude, it's a way of living,'' Johnson said. ''It's not something you study, like reading or math or language. It's something that's connected to everything we do.''
Kids seem to love the new emphasis on outdoor education.
Brian Langlee's fifth-grade class learned how to build solar-powered ovens this year at the school's alternative energy fair.
''We learned how we can use solar energy instead of fossil fuels and nonrenewable resources,'' Langlee said.
To be honest, though, the solar ovens were popular for more than their energy-saving qualities.
''We showed the first-graders how to use them by cooking marshmallows,'' fifth-grader Peter Espenson said.
And, after the demonstration, the fifth-graders got to eat their project.
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