Signature environmental education curriculum and outdoor classrooms
Reducing their carbon footprint by creating a healthy, energy-efficient school environment reinforced with sound environmental and sustainable education practices has been an on-going initiative embraced by all grade levels at Alder Avenue Middle School. Since 2000, Alder Avenue has been taking students out of the traditional classroom setting and introducing them to tangible outdoor learning excursions with the creation of their Catawba Project. The Catawba Project curriculum is packed with differentiated instruction curriculum that incorporates core content standards and appeals to all students despite their learning levels. It also is infused with character-building service-learning initiatives designed to partner middle school students with township leaders, environmentalists, parents, and community members to work together to help solve real environmental problems. This middle school also seeks to blend the Catawba Project curriculum with the nationally recognized Energy Education program. A recent energy audit showed that Alder Avenue had an energy reduction of 26.65 percent in the first eight months of implementing the Energy Education program. In addition to outstanding environmental education initiatives, a solar-powered system was installed, which contributes to the school’s 15 percent on-site renewable energy generation. The school has an outdoor classroom site that features a small tree farm, an organic garden, a pond with a solar-powered pump, native plants, and bird houses built by students, and which also collects surface water runoff from the asphalt parking area and diverts it to a bog, which is used to water the organic garden and tree farm.
The Willow School
One of the first schools in the nation to adopt sustainability as an integrated concept
This small, independent, coeducational day school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade is committed to fostering academic excellence, a passion for learning, and the development of an ethical approach to all relationships—including humanity’s relationship to the natural world, of which it is both a constituent part and chief steward. Several national organizations have cited the school’s integrated commitment both to sustainable building design and to a K-8 curriculum informed by sustainability as a replicable model for reforming elementary and secondary education, both private and public. The National Geographic’s “Green Guide” ranked Willow as the nation’s second greenest school for its progressive integration of sustainable design initiatives into the campus and the curriculum. The school building’s site orientation and layout plan, along with upper insulated walls and ceilings, high-performance windows, high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, and innovative day lighting strategies that include automatic photocell-based daylight dimming controls for interior light systems, all provide maximum energy performance. The Barn, a multi-use building, is certified LEED Platinum and consumes 70 percent less energy compared to an identical building constructed to building code. Photovoltaic on-site renewable energy generation provides 37 percent of the building’s electricity requirements. Also, the school has many water reduction techniques, such as using collected rainwater to flush all toilets, low-flow water faucets and fixtures, and native/drought resistant landscaping that requires no irrigation.
Hampton Bays Middle School, Hampton Bays, NY
First LEED Silver certified and New York State Collaborative for High Performance Schools-certified school building in New York State
Since this school’s opening in 2008, minimizing the school’s carbon footprint and maintaining energy and cost efficiency have been top priorities along with ensuring that all students receive a first-class education. The school is the first LEED Silver certified building in the state of New York, and contains many energy-saving features like a dual heating system that consumes oil or natural gas depending on which resource is most cost-efficient at the time, and waterless urinals and sensors in all restroom sinks, which account for nearly 100,000 gallons of water in savings each school year. In addition to sustainable design, Hampton Bays Middle School’s integrated health and nutrition efforts have led to a direct positive correlation to improved health and performance for its students and staff. Through MyNutriKids.com, parents have access to their child’s food choices in the cafeteria, and the school’s “Guest Chef” program features healthy entrees prepared by local chefs using fresh, locally grown ingredients. Also, all students participate in a sustainability curriculum and college and career planning units for “green collar” careers in family and consumer sciences and technology. All students sign the school’s “Green Pledge,” and the EARTH club shares a weekly “green minute,” highlighting current sustainability initiatives. Many of the school’s clubs participate in the ongoing partnership with Cornell University Cooperative Extension to promote interdisciplinary and intergenerational engagement in the Good Ground Community School Garden, a space that is shared with the elementary school and community members, who rent beds to grow flowers and vegetables. In the coming fall, Hampton Bays intends to use the food from this garden in the school cafeteria.
Sleepy Hollow Middle School, Sleepy Hollow, NY
Students and staff unite to minimize environmental impact
Sleepy Hollow Middle School serves grades six through eight, with a diverse group of students. The school provides its students with a safe, supportive, and nurturing environment that fosters the social, emotional, and academic growth of each child. More notably, this middle school has implemented a sustainability curriculum, created an award-winning Environmental Action Club, and focused many of its efforts on minimizing the school’s impact on nature. The school has four outdoor gardens that are used for education and for growing food to be used in the cafeteria. Students are instructed in gardening techniques like crop rotation, composting, and rain catch that are healthy for the environment. All teachers are trained in a sustainability curriculum, which focuses on education and opportunities for students to learn about how their actions affect the planet and its fragile ecosystem. All students additionally take a “Green Pledge.” Thus, the National Wildlife Federation has awarded Sleepy Hollow Middle School with the bronze and silver Eco-School awards, and the school is on track to receive the “Green Flag” award. This school’s Environmental Action Club has created bird habitats, assisted in local cleanups, and conducted a full-scale eco-school audit that includes all energy, waste, school grounds, and global dimensions.