Erie’s success was the result of a successful federal school construction bond initiative for this small rural community. Thirteen percent of Erie’s consumed energy is derived from purchased renewable energy, and the high school Green Team promotes environmentally friendly behaviors throughout the school as well as the community. Skylights, large windows, and lighting occupancy sensors minimize the use of artificial lighting, and energy-efficient fixtures help prevent energy waste. Low-flow water fixtures with automatic sensor operation optimize water efficiency. The Green Team also contributed to water savings by researching and identifying plant species for landscaping that would require no supplemental watering after the first year of growth. Erie High School uses the environmental Protection Agency’s Portfolio Manager to track its energy use over time, and in 2012 the school earned an ENERGY STAR energy performance score of 94. Also, over 95 percent of classroom space benefits from extensive day lighting. Students and visitors find preferred parking spaces for those who carpool or drive a fuel-efficient vehicle. Curriculum is delivered through project-based learning that includes meaningful outdoor experiences. A cattle operation module includes livestock reproduction, addressing such relevant topics as artificial insemination, embryo transfer, pregnancy checks, and the maintenance and general care of livestock. Other projects include a lasagna garden, an on-site pond and a locally accessible river where students study water quality, species substantiation, and erosion issues. The school’s natural habitat area allows for projects in prairie identification, animal identification and tracking, native grasses, and xeriscaping. Students complete assignments digitally instead of on paper, and 90 percent bike, walk, or carpool to school.
At Brookwood, educators integrate environmental education into the curriculum throughout all grade levels – in all subject areas, from language arts to sciences. Educators and students have access to the wide variety of environmental fiction and non-fiction books in the library. At the beginning of every year, all educators are engaged in a school-wide green professional development opportunity. This year, the annual family Math and Science night was environmental education themed, incorporating green community members and opportunities for hands-on environmental experiences. The school holds numerous other school-wide environmentally-focused assemblies and presentations. The Brookwood PTA raised money to install energy efficient hand dryers in the school restrooms in the school, and promotes zero waste classroom parties by encouraging reusable plates and napkins with recyclable drink options. A local artist is assembling reused materials into a large indoor sculpture and engaging students in hands-on workshops where they work with reused metal. The school recycled over 30 pounds of crayons last year. It also collects inkjet and toner cartridges, cell phones, laptops, and batteries.
The Rosa Parks school improvement plan includes sustainability objectives; parents and staff meet monthly to discuss how to best attain those energy-saving goals. They’ve installed rain barrels and walking trails, and planted trees in coordination with the University of Kentucky Landscape Architecture Department. Rosa Parks is one of two sustainability pilot schools for Fayette County Public Schools, and uses the environmental Protection Agency’s Portfolio Manager to track its energy reduction progress, including a reduction of more than 70 percent in GHG emissions. Additionally, Rosa Parks conducts annual audits of facility and irrigation systems to prevent water leaks and identify opportunities for water savings. Rosa Parks earned the ENERGY STAR award in 2011, and has reduced its energy consumption by more than 40 percent compared to a 2009 baseline. As part of an air quality improvement campaign, students conducted tests, created signage, wrote student news articles and advertisements. Students care for trout in the classroom to learn about and improve water quality. The school has partnered with Kentucky American Water Company to hold an annual school science fair. Lunches are prepared and color coded according to USDA’s My Plate so that students can make choices in every food group. Teachers ask, “Do you have all your colors on your tray?”
Georgetown Middle School, Georgetown, KY
Using shared energy conservation efforts to learn STEM
Located in a 54-year-old building, Georgetown Middle School is part of Scott County Schools and was constructed in 1958 in Georgetown, Ky. As part of its energy conservation efforts, Georgetown Middle established a Student Energy Team, which has held educational programs for students at two neighboring elementary schools. Compared to its 2010 baseline, Georgetown Middle has reduced its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. The school also has installed an underground retention system to help prevent runoff and improve the quality of the school’s water supply. Georgetown Middle earned the ENERGY STAR award in 2011 and 2012 with performance scores of 76 and 88, respectively. Also, teachers participate in the Kentucky chapter of the National Energy Education Development workshops. Sixth grade students conducted a creek study using GPS to create maps. The energy team has held workshops on energy topics for feeder elementary schools. Students have improved their state science test scores by 15 percent. The school has partnered with the local soil conservation organization to sponsor a student writing contest. It participates in USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge and holds an annual Greek Olympics.