A school that drives community change, one step at a time
Each day, Grand View students begin with an eight-minute exercise routine. Students sell the organic produce they grow, and parents receive nutrition guidance. On Walk to School Wednesdays, students are rewarded with hand stamps, and a trophy goes to the class with the most walkers. Last year, the school spearheaded a Walk to School Parade on Earth Day for all schools in the area, with the mayor, police, and firefighters joining students on their trek. The school worked with its district to have each school name a green representative for a monthly district-wide convening on sustainability matters. The school uses iPads and SMART Boards, as well as chalkboards instead of paper posters. The school celebrates Trash Free Tuesdays, has both garden composting and worm bins, and has reduced lunch trash from 30 bags a day to two bags, while serving over 700 students. Students’ science scores have improved from 33 to 97 percent proficiency.
At this private northern California school, solar panels generate 70 percent of the campus’ energy. Behavioral changes, conservation activities, and retrofits to existing buildings have allowed the school to achieve a 48 percent energy reduction, and divert nearly 50 percent of its waste to recycling. Principles of environmental stewardship guide all aspects of academics, operations, food service, building, and maintenance policy. Eleventh grade students participate in the Athenian Wilderness Experience, which is 26 consecutive days of hiking, climbing and camping in Death Valley while using Leave No Trace practices. Students prepare for this major trek with outdoor activities of shorter, age-appropriate duration by hiking and camping in various state and national parks. Students learn permaculture garden techniques, produce school bus biodiesel fuel in their science labs, work to convert a car to electric power, harvest and press olives, construct an aircraft, and design robotics. The school offers close to 100 percent organic foods, and provides fresh fruit all day as snacks. Faculty and staff can take a weekly yoga class.
Flagstone Elementary School, Castle Rock, CO
Vertical garden and corporate sponsors make STEM learning soar
Flagstone is a rural school, and a site of the Department of Energy’s Wind for Schools Program. Situated in an older facility, the school implemented a rigorous energy management program using student teams. Student Helpful Energy Resource Officers (HEROs) collect and monitor data to reduce consumption, and have managed to reduce the school’s energy use by over a third. They passed out student-crafted reusable snack bags, and celebrate a regular “lights out lunch.” They compost, teracycle, and reuse materials in art and science class. Since the school’s foundations make a topsoil garden impossible, the school worked with a local nursery to develop and fund a vertical garden. The school also partners with gourmet chefs to improve nutrition, while teachers lead a running club. Students participate in robotics competitions with financial and engineering expertise from Lockheed Martin. The school also hosts a summer science program that teaches kids science and technology through the lens of sustainability.
Denver Green School, Denver, CO
Where successful community partnerships fuel innovation
With solar panels, solar-tubes, and careful energy use monitoring -- including energy audits by third graders -- this school has reduced its energy use by nearly 50 percent and its water use by half. One in four faculty members bike or carpool to school. For curriculum, the school partners with the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education. The school farm allows students to experience earth science firsthand, engage in plentiful outdoors physical activity, and learn good nutrition. The adjacent farm also cuts down on the school’s greenhouse gas emissions impact, as produce consumed at the school is wheelbarrowed 150 yards, rather than transported by truck, car, or plane. Denver Green School also partnered with a local bistro for a fundraising dinner, and continues to work closely with Sprout City Farms and Denver Urban Gardens for its school garden and farm. Initiated under a $300,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation, the school also has been the recipient of many thousands of dollars in financial support and in-kind gifts from Lowe’s, Whole Foods, Wells Fargo Bank and KIND snack bars.
Wellington Middle School, Wellington, CO
A U.S. Department of Energy Wind for Schools Site
Wellington has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to sustainability by reducing its annual energy consumption by more than 25 percent compared to its 2004 baseline. Wellington’s energy use rivals many schools that are LEED certified. The school earned the ENERGY STAR award for four consecutive years from 2008 — 2011, and currently derives one percent of the energy it consumes from on-site renewable energy generation. Wellington was named one of the first schools in the state to receive recognition as a Wind for Schools site by then-governor Bill Ritter. The school also strives to minimize water consumption by continuously monitoring the use of water on athletic fields to prevent waste. Students visit a local dairy, and sewage and water treatment facilities to experience first-hand the concepts they learn in their classes. The school is the northern Colorado host site for Innovation Camp, a STEM camp for middle school students. It also partners with Little Shop of Physics, a Colorado State University community outreach project. Students use the outdoors in daily intramural and classroom experiences.
Stoddert Elementary, a public school in northwest Washington D.C., earned LEED Gold certification and was the first school in Washington to be heated and cooled using geothermal technology exclusively. The geothermal system installed by the school resulted in a 70 percent reduction in energy use. Stoddert has a community garden and two green roofs. Both the school and its garden are used as teaching tools, with students planting, tending, and harvesting under the guidance of a garden science coordinator. Fifth-grade students give tours of the school’s trees and energy conservation features to their pre-k “eco-buddies,” so that even the youngest students can identify the different elements that make the school green. Parents report being more aware of their recycling habits because their children expect them to recycle with care. The school implements a bicycle safety program sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. All of the school’s cleaning products are certified green, and the custodial program is certified by ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard. The school also was one of the first in the District to adopt the D.C. Healthy Schools Act protocols, making it one of the healthiest school sites in the city. Stoddert regularly plays host to architects, designers, and builder visitors, as well as D.C. Parks and Recreation and U.S. Green Building Council partners, who help to teach students and staff about the green features of their school.