U. S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, 2012

Nebraska Lothrop Science and Technology Magnet, Omaha, NE

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Lothrop Science and Technology Magnet, Omaha, NE

Where all community service projects focus on the environment

This pre-k through fourth grade magnet school reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by over one third in one year by changing to energy efficient bulbs, training in water use reduction, and planting native species of vegetation. Its curriculum features a consistent, daily focus on reduction, reuse, and recycling, and science standards include relationships between living things and environment. The school hosted a vermicomposting assembly with a speaker on the science behind this practice and taught the public how to compost on Earth Day. Students learn about erosion, soil pollution, and pesticides. The school engaged in a landscaping project to help the neighborhood understand how to reduce exposure to soil lead caused by drainage and lead-based paint. The school collects juice boxes from six other schools to use as sunflower planters and recycles crayons. Even the youngest students are fascinated by alternative energy, and all note wind turbines while on field trips. In the student managed garden, children turn over soil and add compost. All civic engagement projects at the school focus on the environment. Students work to resolve community problems, build outdoor classrooms, mentor other schools to develop environmental programs, and experiment with alternative pest control procedures. The school employs Project Wet and Project Wild curricula. Students produced a play on reducing lead exposure. They dig up dandelions and look at roots under microscope, make salsa and other foods with garden produce, manipulate variables in an experiment to simulate the greenhouse effect, study the foods they eat at lunch and breakfast to learn good nutrition, and keep nature journals using recycled paper.

Miller Park Elementary, Omaha, NE

Using sustainability to keep kids and community safer and healthier

This pre-k- to sixth-grade school is located in one of the highest poverty areas in city of Omaha. Students, staff, and green team members all were actively involved in preparation of the school’s application to Nebraska for the ED-GRS nomination. Parents at the school have a 100 percent attendance rate at conferences and student attendance is at 93 percent or higher daily. Miller Park reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 72 percent and its water use by 19 percent, earning the highest ENERGY STAR rating for any Omaha public school. To achieve these gains, it re-lamped entire school, regulated temperature setbacks and installed geothermal. The schools earned the ENERGY STAR award 2010 and 2012, with scores of 89 and 92. At every grade level, students use environmental education, health, and sustainability topics to develop an aptitude for the critical STEM subjects, preparing them for jobs of the future. Head Start attendees learn the basics of recycling and composting. Fourth graders completing a food unit take a field trip to a nearby culinary institute to learn how science is used in the industry. The school invested in nine 20-unit mobile learning laptop carts for each grade level. The school offers a GED program for parents and community members, dental screenings and sealants, and mental health lessons. The school also partners with the local police department for gang intervention services.

New Jersey

Bernard High School, Bernardsville, NJ

An annual battle of the bands supports environmental initiatives

Bernard High achieved a 16 percent energy use reduction in three years through behavioral changes and low cost retrofits, including adjustments to lighting, controls, ice storage, vending, and the kitchen hood exhaust. Located in a district with an energy savings contract and pay for performance agreement, the school reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 12 percent. It calculates its annual savings in water and sewer utility at $28,150. An active Green Team spearheads gardening, composting, and local restoration projects. The green team organizes an annual battle of the bands to raise awareness around environmental issues. The school purchases fresh local produce through the Jersey Fresh program, and obtained a $300,000 Safe Routes to School Grant to build a sidewalk connecting the high school with feeder middle and elementary schools. It recycles at over 30 percent, and partners with its borough to hold community-wide electronics recycling day. Four environmental science classes are offered, including Advanced Placement environmental science. Each year, the school gives an award to its top environmental science scholar and an annual scholarship for pursuit of a college course of study relating to outdoors and/or environmental fields.

Midtown Community Elementary, Neptune, NJ

The largest public school in North America to achieve LEED Platinum
This Pre-K through fifth grade elementary school not only is the largest public school in North America to achieve LEED Platinum certification, but also is home to a diverse student population. The school is truly integrated in its community with in-house spaces for an intergenerational tutoring center, a senior center, a parent resource center, and a police sub-station. The school itself was constructed on a site that allows for a reduction in light pollution and heat island effect while managing storm water. The school’s bioswales capture and filter the rainwater runoff from the parking area and other locations. Geothermal wells, which make heat by using the Earth’s natural temperature to heat the schools, also are located in the front of the building. All of these building features, along with the light shelves, which allow the sun’s rays to go under the sun shades and the solar panels mounted on the roof of the cafeteria, work to maintain a 60 percent reduction in energy usage. Not only do the students study in this LEED Platinum building, but the building is used as a “living textbook” and an educational resource. For example, since 90 percent of the school space has daylight and open views, students use solar cells, which work by turning the sun’s rays into electricity, to measure energy usage and determine the relationships between wattage and voltage in the science and math classes. Additionally, the school has a rooftop garden and a native plant arboretum natural area that frequently are used as outdoor classrooms and educational spaces for staff and students.

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