We are pleased to announce the winners of the national "Green Your School" contest!
The contest, which launched last spring, challenged eco-conscious high schoolers to submit their school's best green-related projects. After reaching out to hundreds of thousands of classrooms nationwide, a panel of distinguished judges, including NBC News' Anne Thompson and environmentalist Simran Sethi, selected West Geauga High School in Chesterland, Ohio as the grand prize winner of $5,000. Two runner-up prizes
of $2,500 were also awarded to Boston Latin School in Boston, Mass. and Amphitheater High School in
The "Green Your School" contest engaged students in conservation projects that improved, restored, or beautified their school's environment. To be eligible, entries had to be student-led and have been started after August 1, 2008. Projects were judged on their environmental impact on the health of the school, sustainability, and the involvement of other students, teachers, administrators and/or the outside community.
View all the submissions and be inspired to embark on your own green-related project.
Photo caption: West Geauga High School Environmental Discovery Project Grand Prize Winners
Entries do not necessarily reflect the views of The SCA.
Albuquerque Academy teaches our community about water conservation, biodiversity, soil improvement, and food production through the creation of gardens. In the past four years students have replaced high water use turf grass by a vegetable garden, a xeriscape wildlife garden, a Japanese xeriscape garden, and a solar-powered xeriscape garden. The seventh grade vegetable garden provides an outdoor gardening learning experience while providing some vegetables for the Albuquerque Academy Dining Hall. The seventh grade xeriscape wildlife garden is a sanctuary for wildlife such as birds, insects and small animals and has increased the biodiversity of our campus, a recent tally revealed over 120 species of plants. The eighth grade Japanese garden is a low water use garden inspired by the Japanese internment camp, Manzanar which attempted to create beauty in a time of overwhelming grief. The senior solar-powered xeriscape garden is the first of many gardens that will employ the entire student body in transforming our soil and water use. With the help of community experts, students are designing and creating a new garden, the Albuquerque Academy Cultural Garden. The Albuquerque Academy Cultural Garden will be a combination of a traditional Native American Xeriscape and a Hispanic Medicinal garden. Replacing high water use Kentucky Blue Grass with low water use xeriscape and native plants, the Albuquerque Academy Cultural Garden will provide a platform for the Albuquerque Academy community to be educated about Native American and Hispanic culture with the increase of knowledge in sustainable botany, environmentally friendly gardening and the gaining of knowledge through experience.
The city of Albuquerque only gets 4.96 gallons of water per square foot each year. Kentucky bluegrass needs 18 gallons of water per square foot each year to keep it lush and green, which is 3.6 times the average rainfall. This high water-usage grass Albuquerque Academy uses that grass. We have it on playing fields, but also in a lot of places where it isn’t necessary. This school put it in when nobody knew water was an issue, and we thought we had an ocean underneath us. Now that we know our water is finite, we need to adapt our water use to our natural climate. This project would save 13.04 gallons of water per square foot each year. Saving this valuable resource will help our school and the whole of Albuquerque, as Albuquerque Academy is the seventh highest water users in Albuquerque.
Albuquerque Academy has many gardens all around the campus set up, ongoing, or in the progress of being built. We thought with all the collective experience of the garden builders we would be able to make a successful garden. We would be able to replace the Kentucky bluegrass with a Xeriscape garden and cut down on our water consumption.
The Albuquerque Academy Cultural Garden will develop through research, planning, and doing. In research, we will consult experts; refer to books and online sources. The experts include our local city botanical garden, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Native American Cultural Center, and the Albuquerque Academy Native American and Hispanic Parent and Student communities. We will consult the Grounds and Administration to locate an appropriate size and site on campus and to develop a budget. We will design and select materials such as plants and groundcover. We will purchase a cistern to collect rainwater and develop an irrigation system to water the plants. To begin work, we will organize students through the Community Service program to begin constructing the garden. When the plantings are completed, we will create signage to help identify the plants and educate the public. We hope to use this garden in culture and language classes as a tool for learning cultural and sustainable practices. We will communicate about our garden through our website and through our youth conference that we will be holding with invited students from New Mexico.
The school will provide the location, the consultation, and support with irrigation, budget, and general knowlege. The teachers will provide guidance and help to organize the students.
The student will design, consult, build the garden, and educate their community. The students will also maintain the garden throughout the construction as well as the subsequent years.
The conversion of high water use landscape to low water use educational gardens has been underway for 10 years. It first began with the environmental club sponsor, Ms. Beamish and her environmental science students converting a small triangle of grass into a xeric garden that attracted butterflies and hummingbirds as well as the attention of many people passing on their way to class. Each year she and her students pulled out more grass for gardens. Six years later, the 7th grade teachers and their students began a vegetable garden which has been growing vegetables for their harvest festival as well as the dining hall for the last 4 years. At about the same time the 7th grade students began a wildlife garden and have been removing a new patch of turf each year and transforming it into an area with over 100 species of plants. This year during the first week of school 150 seniors converted a huge area of turf into a low water use garden while also improving the soil. Ms. Spidell and her 8th grade students are currently working on an area behind the library to create a Japanese garden. The school has supported these efforts by providing the expertise of grounds crew and some of the financial support. Students have worked on grants to provide additional funding. The school recently adopted new policies that provide time during the day and after school to allow students to work to help create and maintain the gardens. Each year we are trying to expand our student support and involvement through classes, extracurricular activities and service learning opportunities.
The entire student population is now involved with the garden projects through a new school program that requires students to perform on-campus service. In addition students are involved through classes and extracurricular activities like the garden club and the environmental club. Parents have been involved by providing expertise as well as labor. Even the school administrators came out to help the seniors with their garden. Ms. Spidell is working with the Japanese community in Albuquerque as well as the Albuquerque Academy Japanese Language students. They have been organizing an opening ceremony of the garden upon its completion. The new garden that we propose to create is intended to involve the Hispanic and Native American students and teachers on campus. Later in the year the senior environmental club students plan on hosting a Youth Conference on the Environment and the theme will be sustainable food. We hope to use our gardens as a tool to educate the students attending this conference.
Youth CAN students have led the greening of our school since asking NSTAR for an energy audit in December 2008. The newest part of our green plan is this project: The Sustainable Roofscape Learning Lab (green roof), which began in June of 2009. The green roof will offer opportunities to learn in an exciting outdoor setting. It will include traditional intensive and extensive types of green roof, solar panels, small-scale wind turbines, a greenhouse with produce for the cafeteria, a weather station, and two outdoor classrooms. In addition to the green roof’s environmental impact of reducing CO2, the heat island effect, and storm runoff, the roof will affect the entire school. For example, science classes can analyze the difference in CO2 exchange between intensive and extensive portions, art classes can sketch on the roof, economics classes can discuss the benefits of buying and eating locally, alums can enjoy special events on the roof, etc. The curriculum that’s being designed to go with the roof will give students important understandings with lasting effects. Youth CAN has led all steps of this project including forming the faculty curriculum development committee, participating in design meetings with architects to create the conceptual drawings, and working to secure funding. The sustainable roofscape will bring important new learning to BLS students, demonstrate a successful green roof for the local colleges in our Fenway area green roof student coalition, and model how sustainability curriculum and green changes can be incorporated at schools across Massachusetts.
Of course, first and foremost, the green roof will reduce carbon in the atmosphere. It will help with the reduction of greenhouse gases and with curbing the heat island effect in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area (our neighborhood), It will allow BLS to help reduce its energy use, and in combination with other building and energy systems improvements that came from the energy audit, will help to improve our building's energy performance. Because we are the benchmarked school for the Boston Public Schools, this will help set a higher standard for the sustainability performance of Boston public schools in general. The roof will also help reduce storm water runoff from BLS into the Boston Harbor by retaining water, and will improve the health of people in our school by increasing the oxygen and fresh air available in and outside of the school building. Growing organic produce on the roof to be used in the cafeteria will improve our health, too, and be better for the environment. The green roof will provide opportunities and the facilities to support the curriculum that we’ve been trying to promote with Youth CAN’s Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign. The roof will also provide opportunities for site visits by other schools in the BPS that are interested in developing a green roof. Because we will document all phases and elements of the project so that other schools may replicate them, it will have impact beyond just our school.
The Sustainable Roofscape Learning Lab is intended to demonstrate several New England micro-environments, as well as different green roof systems, and different greenhouse systems. The learning lab will provide opportunities to analyze the efficiency and effectiveness of these systems. Students will be able to compare the heat differences between black portions of the roof and albedo portions. They will collect data from wind turbines and solar thermal panels, an study rain acidity and the impact of the roof’s absorption of storm runoff. The roof will give teachers ways to integrate sustainability into their curriculum through the use of a natural setting where students can better learn about the relationships and interconnections between natural, economic, and social systems. The green roof and greenhouse will bring a whole new dimension to the oldest school in the country. We have no doubt that the green roof will not only change our fellow student s' behaviors in our school, but that it will also have an impact well beyond the school because information about it, and the curriculum that will be developed for the facility, will be shared online on the “For Educators Page” of the BLS Youth CAN website at: HYPERLINK http://www.blsyouthcan.org/BLS_Youth_C.A.N./For_Educators.html
BLS Youth CAN (www.blsyouthcan.org) was inspired to pursue this ambitious idea when we first started thinking about comprehensive ways to green our school after receiving an energy audit from NSTAR and being benchmarked as the school that other Boston public schools will learn from and hopefully follow. We wanted to do something big, something that would bring about real change, something that could really excite students and faculty and make a highly visible statement about what was possible when like-minded students, teachers, parents, and local citizens form a viable coalition. A green roof seemed the perfect way to accomplish the double goal of reducing our school’s carbon footprint and showcasing education for sustainability with curriculum aligned to state standards. It seemed a natural way to create opportunities for developing an education for sustainability curriculum proposal that teachers could pilot at the Boston Latin School, and then promote beyond the school through an already established Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign. The idea’s development has been an exciting joint effort led by Youth CAN students, our faculty advisor, and our wonderful, creative, (and generous architect, Gail Sullivan (who herself was chosen by students, and has donated all of her time so far pro bono!) In the last few months we’ve enlisted school administrators and faculty, as well as Boston Public Schools Facilities staff, and some city officials to help us move forward with the green roof in a way that that will fit with the school department’s requirements and still fulfill the important goals we’ve set for our project.
Founded as an after school climate change club at Boston Latin School in January of 2007, BLS Youth CAN has since started a whole network of Youth CAN member groups (there are now 16 groups), and holds an annual summit on global climate change at MIT for students and educators (last year, at the 3rd annual summit, we had 300 students and educators in attendance.) The Sustainable Roofscape Learning Lab (SRLL) project grew out of smaller efforts to green our school. We tried to increase foam tray recycling in the school cafeteria and we got the school to switch over to CFLs in the school auditorium (509 of them!). We asked students to take carbon calculation quizzes and efficiency pledges and got the school to participate in the National Teach-In on Global Climate Change Solutions for the past two years. At the Teach-Ins, we brought in local politicians for a panel, we showed films, held assemblies, and got faculty to teach about sustainability in their classes. We launched a campaign to try to require the state to teach about sustainability (The Education for Sustainability Campaign), and made a movie about it showing our teachers incorporating sustainability curriculum into their classes so that others outside of BLS could see how easy it is to do (view the film on the BLS Youth CAN You Tube Channel MESCLC Films). Youth CAN students also got the school to compete in Do Something’s Increase Your Green Competition and won two years in a row. After these smaller efforts, we realized that to make really big changes, we needed to have an energy audit, so we applied to NSTAR to have BLS become a benchmarked school, and were able to get the energy audit for free provided that we share what we learned from the audit with all the other schools in the Boston Public School System and document our energy saving and emissions reducing changes so that other schools can learn from them and make similar changes at their schools. The first step was inviting a green roof specialist to come to a Youth CAN meeting to talk to us about green roofs. We invited Karen Weber of Earth Our Only Home, Foundations for a Green Future to come and speak at BLS in April of 2009 and then contacted Khadijah Brown at the Boston Public Schools Facilities Department to find out if we were even allowed to try and work on getting a green roof. We got the okay to try, but were told we’d have to do it ourselves and raise the money ourselves. So we wrote to all the Boston Latin School Architects that we could think of and asked if anyone would be willing to work with us on a plan for free. Surprisingly, three firms responded that they wanted to help us, so we then asked them all to submit proposals. Youth CAN chose to work with Studio G architects because they offered to allow students to participate in every phase of the design process. We also thought that they were the most green of all the architecture firms that were interested. We met with Gail Sullivan, the principal of Studio G Architects for the first time on June 19th and took our first trip to the school roof. Youth CAN students met with Studio G all summer long to convey our green roof ideas to her and see them translated into actual drawings. Studio G has to date donated $20,000 worth of pro-bono work on the design process and conceptual drawings. Now, having presented our project to the BLS community a number of times since the start of school (September 17th, October 5th) including inviting Bryan Glascock and Brad Swing from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's office and City Councillor John Connolly, we have now reached a point where we need funding to be able to proceed further. Our next step is to fund a complete structural analysis of the building and roof so that we will have the information we need to go forward with the next phase of architectural drawings and fundraising.
Our school, the Boston Latin School, has helped us in several ways. Most importantly, BLS is our “home base” and launching pad. It is the school that has made it possible for Youth CAN to exist. Secondly, the administration, has always encouraged us in our efforts, agreeing to every meeting or event we’ve asked to hold. Youth CAN, however, is and has been a student group. Only since last June have teachers started to come to an occasional Youth CAN meeting, and only since September have some of them agreed to take on responsibilities when we ask them to. We are very pleased and proud that the chair of the science department, Kathleen Bateman, has agreed to spearhead our plans to have teachers develop curriculum and get training in education for sustainability to support our curriculum pilot. Other teachers have agreed to do research on wind turbines and composting for the green roof. We’re so grateful that our efforts to engage faculty across disciplines has paid off. We’re starting to sense a real atmosphere of excitement about this project, a feat not easy in a school of 2400 students. Additionally, as we mentioned before, we’ve been working with the cafeteria staff, too, regarding potentially bringing fresh produce from the roof and from local farms to school lunches. The school site council even welcomed a presentation from us about the project and asked us for a blurb to put in the parent newsletter to get the word out. Lastly, since Boston Latin is the oldest school in the country, celebrating its 375th anniversary this year, it has greater reach; what it does garners more attention. These are two things that we’ve always tried to take advantage of and that’s definitely something we’ll be able to do with this project in particular. If the Sustainable Roofscape Learning Lab becomes a reality, so many schools will hear about it, and hopefully be inspired to take some part of it back to their own communities.
We’ve also included a link to our architect’s blog, which has a link to a virtual walk through of the proposed green roof
Students in Youth CAN initiated this project and have continued to be the ones who are running it. We have had lots of encouragement from the headmaster and school administrators, but no funding from them. We’ve been the only ones really working and continue to be the ones really organizing and planning all greening projects along with our fantastic faculty advisor, Cate Arnold. Every step of the way we’ve helped design the many diverse features of the roof in collaboration with our architect (a Boston Latin School parent), as well as the all the elements of the project that will reach beyond just Boston Latin School. Youth CAN students have written emails to potential partners, sold trays to BLS families, teachers, and homerooms, prepared powerpoints and displays about the project, held endless planning meetings, made flyers and posters, had presentations, and reached out to the community. We have invited lots of our potential partners to come and meet with us. For example we've met with the BPS Nutrition Services and Anim Steele from the Food Project, who talked about the Real Food Challenge, about growing food in our future green house and about getting a farm to school program going at BLS to supplement what we’ll be able to grow in the greenhouse. We met with a United Hydroponics, a local hydroponics company, about possibly adding a hydroponic growth system to our greenhouse. The fact that an afterschool club is running a project of such great scope part is of its impressiveness – and also why we need this money.
Sustainability is all about taking part in the cycles and systems of our society and environment. Youth CAN, together with our architect, have worked to practice sustainability in every part aspect and layer of the Sustainable Roofscape Learning Lab. One part of our project that demonstrates sustainability is, of course, its most basic element, the intensive and extensive systems of vegetation. Instead of rainwater ending up in the sewer system as storm runoff, it will be absorbed by the plants back into one of nature’s most fundamental cycles, the water cycle. Another example of sustainability is the inclusion of photovoltaic panels, solar panels, and a couple of different types of wind turbines in our designs. Not only we would we be able to take advantage of he technology at hand as a teaching tool (including comparing the efficiency and capability of both), but we could also use the electricity generated to power some part of the building. Another way we’ve done this is supporting local manufacturers and businesses. Yet another example is how for our first phase of installing 350 sedum trays on October 24 in honor of Bill McKibben’s 350.org’s International Day of Climate Action to raise awareness about the need to return to 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, we’re buying trays from a Planted Roof, Inc., a Boston area company. Our greenhouse is the perfect example of how we’ve maintained sustainability as a guiding principle throughout the entire project. First, we’re working with two more local businesses, United Hydroponics, Inc., and Top Sprouts, Inc. to design it. We plan to water the vegetation inside with rainwater by using a butterfly roof and an irrigation system (suggested by the architects). We plan to use the food and other plants grown inside, again, not only to educate students about botany and horticulture, but also to teach them about the importance of eating locally. The ultimate demonstration of this will be using the produce grown in our very own cafeteria, as well as partnering with regional farms to supplement that. On that front, Youth CAN also had a meeting with the head of our cafeteria, Sandy Lowney, some representatives from BPS Nutrition Services, Anim Steele from the Boston Food Project, who is working to develop a national campaign to bring sustainably grown food to college campuses, as well as some parents. The idea of instituting a Farm to School program at Boston Latin School shows how the project just keeps growing in amazing new directions. Our school is 375 years old this year. The school and its’ traditions have lasted a very long time. We are happy to be bringing something new and badly needed to our school. Youth CAN’s slogan for this project is: The oldest school, the newest thinking. We believe this project is bringing those two things together to create very positive opportunities in the lives of the students and faculty, the families and community, and for Boston Latin School itself that will have lasting effects on all of us for the foreseeable future.
The first way we are involving the local community is by simply involving the student body, parents and alumni in this project, both as part of the process of getting the green roof and later in actually using the green roof itself. Right now we’re involved in a campaign to sell 350 trays of sedum for extensive portions of the roof by October 24th 2009 in conjunction with the 350.org movement and a day of international actions to raise awareness about the need to get back to a reduced level of 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere (as versus the 387 parts per million we currently have.) We’re asking BLS families to donate trays of sedum by the 24th. We’ve sold 200 trays so far! We’ve sent letters out on the parent listserv about the project, put up a poster series depicting the plans in the hallway, put articles in the parent newsletter, sent volunteer students to all the homerooms with flyers and announcements about the project, and put announcements in the daily bulletins for students. We made announcements in all the opening day assemblies for the six grades at BLS. These early steps are already raising awareness in the BLS community about ways they can be more environmentally conscious in their daily lives, and these new understandings will inevitably filter back to the many diverse communities that members of our BLS community are a part of. Secondly, the Boston Latin School is located in an area of Boston, called the Fenway (near Fenway Park), that is filled with other schools and colleges including several segments of Harvard University, Simmons, Emmanuel, Northeastern, MassArt, and Wheelock Colleges, as well as many hospitals (our immediate neighborhood is called “the Longwood Medical Area”). We decided to take advantage of this, writing to the schools’ environmental and sustainability organizations and committees and inviting them to form a “Fenway Green Roof Student Coalition.” The goal of this coalition is to work together to bring green roofs to each of our respective institutions, eventually creating a sort of green roof enclave that would enable us to put more pressure on the local hospitals to pursue their own green roofs. We hope our Fenway Green Roof Student Coalition will become a model for community action and working together to fight climate change and live more sustainably. As a kickoff to this coalition, we are hosting a block party on October 24 in conjunction with 350.org’s International Day of Climate Action with the college groups and twenty youth community organizations that do green work (like Bikes Not Bombs, YouthBuild Boston, the Teen Ambassadors of the Boston Nature Center, etc.). At the event, we hope to “plant’ the first 350 trays sold for the extensive part of our green roof. We have asked our own faculty to partner with us on a Greening BLS Committee that will supervise the plan for our greening efforts overall, and help us prioritize what to try to do in what order. Since the start of the school year faculty members have begun to get more excited about the project, and a few have begun to take some jobs to help us. For example, a science teacher offered to work on getting information about wind turbines, and en English is going to a workshop about composting where he will get us a worm bin. We also asked faculty to form an interdisciplinary faculty committee to work on curriculum development for our education for sustainability pilot proposal and already have several faculty willing to work all year long to develop curriculum. We are working on a plan with Zach Smith of the Wright Institute at Tufts to also provide educator training so that teachers will have good resources for developing curriculum. We have formed a coalition of local educators, service providers, and public officials to help us with the Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign. We are working with our longstanding partner, the Technology and Culture Forum at MIT to ensure that the roof top data collection, online documentation of the energy saving measures we implement, and curriculum we pilot will be readily accessible online for others to use.
Involving the community is and has always been a priority for Youth CAN because we understand how much stronger we can be and how much bigger a difference we can make when we work together with other individuals and organizations. That’s why BLS Youth CAN started a network of Youth CAN groups that now has 16 member groups, and why we host an annual global climate change summit at MIT for students and educators. To paraphrase Boston City Councilor-At-Large John Connolly, a steadfast supporter of Youth CAN, involving the community is how, one person at a time, we can change the world.
Our project consisted of several parts including staff education, transportation, renewable energy studies, school lighting, recycling, and composting. We named this project Go G.R.E.E.N an acronym standing for (Greater Redmond Environmental Education Network). Staff education involves a teacher pledging to save one ton of CO2 by changing some of their daily routines. This includes: turning off lights, using both sides of printer paper, turning each room down 4 degrees, coordinating carpools, using reusable coffee mugs or water bottles, and turning off computer monitors and other electronics at night. The transportations section increased bus rider-ship through a Ride the Bus campaign in which we led a competition with incentives to ride the bus. For the renewable energy studies we tried to determine whether it would be more cost/energy effective to add to our current photovoltaic array or to purchase a wind turbine. In the end we used funds to add to the photovoltaic array and applied for a grant for a wind turbine. The lighting project involved replacing xenon HID lights with LED lights and Fluorescents. We turned off and on master light switches, according to the level of natural light the school received through windows. For the recycling section students gathered recycling from teachers’ rooms once a week. For the composting section, we educated students on what type of material could and could not be composted through a school announcement video and supervised a composting bin every day at lunch by going between tables to ask for student’s compost and recycling.
The overall results have been quite astounding. Student-run recycling has helped remove 9,715 pounds of solid waste from the garbage dump last school year, saving over 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. The composting program also saved an additional 12.6 tons of carbon dioxide last year. The Ride the Bus campaign, which saved 625 pounds of CO2 per week, informed teachers of the Redmond alternative transportation program, has saved and over 13,000 pounds of CO2. Overall, The Go G.r.e.e.n. program has stopped over 250,000 pounds of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere from Redmond High School.
A year ago students and a few staff members decided that they wanted to make a difference in the environmental impact of schools. They discovered that the local high school often has the largest Carbon footprint of many towns and cities. They wanted to make a program that was successful enough that it would be easily exported to other schools. This motivated these students to action and they immediately began setting up the project. This led to the out-branching of several different parts of the project which were staff education, transportation, renewable energy studies, school lighting, recycling, and composting.
First a list was made by the students detailing different ways that the carbon footprint of the school could be lessened. From recycling to setting up a photovoltaic array, nothing was left off this list. Students then looked at the ways that they could reduce in the most effective ways. The students then went into setting up a plan to reduce the overall impact of the school on the environment. For each section of the project, the students got into groups of twos to carry out each section. Mike Town was the ambassador for the students to help give the administration of the school confidence that the students were capable of setting up and maintaining such a large program. Some students would write up the energy audit sheet that we used to interview teachers and staff members, while other students would explain to the janitors what we were doing with composting at lunch so we would interfere with one another. We bought composting carts to easily transport recycled and composted materials and bought large composting bins for weekly recycling. Also, the wind speed was measured at several different areas around the school to get enough data to properly compare our photovoltaic capabilities to our wind energy capabilities. Each student involved in the staff energy audits got training from Mr. Town on how to properly interview teachers.
Mr. Town provided oversight to the project by making suggestions and approving project ideas. The entire Redmond High staff of 80+ teachers and administrators all played a part in reducing their individual carbon impacts. Students met with each teacher and administrator twice during the year to see how they were doing with reducing their individual carbon footprints. This program has also been exported to 10 other schools in the area to improve their carbon footprints.
Although a teacher (Mr. Town) was supervising the project it was the students who did the work. The students would get the acceptance from staff on a particular idea and then work with leadership class or staff to see it through. An example is the composting project in which all students were encouraged to compost at lunch while the students leading the project gather compost from each table. Also, all students at who chose to participate were involved in the Ride the Bus campaign. It was encouraging to see the student body support the composting program by helping students who didn’t understand to learn what can or cannot be composted.
The Go Green Challenge has been passed down from last years senior class to this years senior class and will continue to be passed down to the next class. Each year the new senior class picks up where the other class left off and improving and expanding on their original work. This years project includes all of last years components with the improvement of expanding the energy audits from classrooms to local businesses.
The community will be involved through this years energy audits of local Fire stations. A competition will be set up to see which station can save the most pounds of CO2. The audits and competition will be recognized in local newspapers and will be given recognition locally. Members of the community will be able to see the progress made in the program and be motivated to either get involved or be interested in learning more about what they can do.
This year our student-lead environmental club (Green Panthers) has started a greenhouse restoration project that will eventually become self-sustaining. We are taking an abandoned greenhouse on campus and turning it into an environmental model for demonstrating clean, green living. Composting barrels will be placed throughout the cafeteria to collect organic refuse which will be transported to a main compost pile near the green house. This will provide a sustainable source of future fertilizer and soil for the greenhouse plants. The greenhouse will be irrigated by a campus water harvesting system. The greenhouse will ignite environmental awareness throughout campus and promote campus-wide student involvement in our greenhouse rehabilitation project. We hope to ultimately host a bi-annual Farmers Market where we will sell locally grown organic vegetables and herbs to teachers, parents and the surrounding community that will take place in the school’s main courtyard. While the project itself is our main focus, our definitive goal is to create a school culture of environmental awareness and promote resource conservation.
Our Title One School (low socio-economic community) is located in an urban, densely populated neighborhood. Many of our students lack basic environmental awareness and don’t understand the significance of the personal choices they make. Living sustainability is not a priority for our classmates (many students don’t recycle, produce lots of waste, exploit resources, etc.). The greenhouse project will spark interest and discussion among our students. The compost barrels will educate many of our students about recycling organic waste along with the cisterns, which demonstrate water harvesting. Students will then be able to transfer these recycling habits they experience at school into their household.
By harvesting rain water and composting food waste/landscape trimmings, we will maximize our natural resource use and minimize costs for our district. Reduction of waste products will also decrease trash pick-up, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and landfill dumping. By composting, we will avoid having to buy soil and use chemical fertilizers, thus keeping our products organic and healthy.
With many fast food restaurants and franchise grocery stores around, most of the surrounding community has never bought locally grown organic produce. The bi-annual Amphitheater Framers Markers will engage our neighborhood and introduce them to the idea of buying locally, hopefully leading to increased support for local farmers in Tucson. Our greenhouse project will be open to elementary schools for curriculum purposes. By providing an atmosphere of conservation on campus students will become better acquainted with nature and their role within it.
Last year, a friend and I decided to start an Environmental Club at our school. Today the “Green Panthers” is comprised of twenty passionate members who consistently show up to weekly meetings and fulfill their duties no matter how minute. We established a campus-wide recycling program (a surprisingly difficult task) in the school year 2008-2009. This now allows our school population to recycle most materials. We began to brainstorm other methods to further reduce our school’s waste generation. After investigating, we determined that the majority of the waste material in the dumpsters is from landscaping. We decided that a composting system where students and employees sort their refuse into compost barrels would amend these predicaments. One of our advisors harvests water in his home and recommended that we set up a water harvesting cistern. We later discovered that our school has an abandoned greenhouse stationed in the back. The greenhouse restoration project, in conjunction with the composting and water harvesting strategies are parallel projects that will we hope will yield powerful results.
1) We started by creating a project plan. We first visited the greenhouse to determine its current state. We identified the materials we would need to fix things up and the equipment needed for gardening. We realized that we would first need to clean out and repair the greenhouse. After that, we developed a timeline for work and created a budget.
2) The first phase of our project is making the greenhouse operable. We need to fix the swamp coolers, clean the windows and floors and re-do the irrigation lines.
3) Next, we will set up our compost pile and water cisterns. For the composting, we will first need to put bins around the cafeteria for food waste and place a large dumpster near the trash for landscaping trimmings. Then, we will mark out an area next to the greenhouse for a large compost pile. We will prepare the soil and start composting. In order to harvest water, we will need to set up a gutter system and drainage along roof edges. We need to buy a couple cisterns to place under gutters.
4) Once everything above is in place, we will begin our gardening.
5) When ready, we will harvest our crop.
6) This is the point where we will host the Amphitheater Farmer’s Market for our local community.
7) While all of this is happening, we will also be publicizing our work around campus and throughout the community.
Amphitheater School District has provided a foundation for our project; there is already an abandoned greenhouse on our campus. Our administration has given us permission to renovate and supports the greening of our campus. Students have already shown interest and initiative by supporting our new recycling system and now we want campus-wide participation in composting organic food waste. The composting barrels across campus will symbolize our enlightened society. Our environmental club has begun to work in conjunction with other programs on campus. The Freshman Program focuses on character development through community gardening; they will be working on a school garden which will utilize such resources as our compost pile and greenhouse. In addition, teachers will be invited to bring their classes to the greenhouse for hands-on coursework. Science classes, in particular, will eventually have easy access to a model environmental project located on campus which will connect with their curriculum.
The student’s job would be to recuperate the greenhouse, which would include cleaning the greenhouse, washing windows, repairing the irrigation system, and fixing the swamp coolers for temperature control. Students will start gardening; they will first research which plants to grow and the basic maintenance of these plants. Then, they will buy the seeds and plant them. After the seeds are planted, the environmental club members and the participating freshman program will properly care for the plants. The students will be responsible for the initial set up of a water harvesting system. They will mount gutters on roof edging to harvest rain water and arrange for the water to be moved from the cisterns to the greenhouse irrigation system. Students will also be in charge of collecting biodegradable items such as leftover fruits, bread, and vegetable peels. The organic waste will accumulate in compost barrels provided around the cafeteria and then transported to a large composite site. There, they will mix the organic matter with the local dirt to produce nourishing, nutrient rich soil for the greenhouse. In addition, a student run announcement team will promote and help advertise the greenhouse program and ensure that compost barrel prospects are understood and properly used. If we succeed, the students will harvest their produce and organize a sale for the Amphitheater community.
The greenhouse will eventually become self-sufficient. Many components of this project must coalesce for sustainability. The perpetual compost system will have a most dramatic impact on our campus as well as our greenhouse. Not only will our greenhouse have a constant supply of organic soil, we are also reducing our waste generation. Arizona is a dry state with limited seasonal rains. The greenhouse will minimize city water consumption by using cisterns to store monsoon rain harvested by gutters along roof-edging. Financially, the revenue that the Farmers Market produces will be invested back into the greenhouse. If our budget allows it, eventually we would like to install solar panels to help generate electricity to fuel the heating and cooling system. In conclusion, our greenhouse requires a constant supply of soil and water, which we will produce on site with minimal financial input.
School wide involvement in this project will make it easy to transfer environmental awareness into our community. As students learn more about gardening, composting, water harvesting and recycling, they will then take this knowledge back into their homes. Our urban community will also have the opportunity to purchase local, organic, student-grown produce. With each success of our project, we will be able to grow and expand, and increasingly impact more people. When all greenhouse components are functioning well, we will host evening seminars for parents who would like to learn about gardening and sustainability. During these seminars we will explain why we have started the greenhouse project and tell parents what they can do at home to aid our “green” efforts. Local elementary schools will be able to visit our campus and develop environmentally friendly habits at a young age. With the knowledge gained, they will be able to readily assimilate into an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
My project is the process of making biodiesel out of the kitchen grease from the school’s dining hall. The fuel, once finished, would then be used to power the schools fleet of diesel consuming machinery like lawn mowers and utility vehicles. Some benefits of using biodiesel are that it emits gasses that are not as harmful to the environment as those found in ordinary diesel fuel. Biodiesel is a non-petroleum based replacement for conventional diesel fuel. Biodiesel is produced from used vegetable oil or animal fat through a process called transesterification. Biodiesel is environmentally friendly because it is produced mainly from recyclable materials and also it does not produce nearly the amount of greenhouse gases that conventional diesel does.
By implementing the biodiesel production program at Berkshire School we could potently offset over 50% of our petroleum diesel consumption. Berkshire School’s diesel carbon output is 13,219.89 kilograms annually. Producing and using 600 gallons of biodiesel a year would decrease our carbon output by 6060 kilograms to only 7159.89 kilograms. Producing biodiesel with the FreedomFueler costs only $1 per gallon. With the price of diesel fuel in 2008 being $2.79 per gallon, we spent over $3651 on diesel fuel. By using campus made biodiesel costs associated with purchasing petroleum diesel, our costs would drop by over $1074 to a total of only $2577 in addition to transportation charges.
In 2005 and 2006 the National Wildlife Federation recognized Berkshire school for its recycling program by winning the Campus Ecology Recognition Award. When the school had received the award, they wanted to expand their program and become more sustainable and conservative. In doing this, we started to expand our horizons and began to research more things that we could do as a campus to help the environment and reduce our carbon footprint. After visiting the National Wildlife Federation’s website, the idea came to mind to start a small biodiesel production. In September 2008 the first test batch was processed.
After hearing about biodiesel and doing a little bit of research on the topic, it was time to make a batch and test it. In September 2008 the first batch was made using simple lab tools and chemicals. The first batch was strictly for a test and to see if it was possible to produce biodiesel on campus, but most importantly, to see if the machinery could actually function on this form of fuel. After the first batch was made it was now time to start producing larger amounts more efficiently. In October 2008 Berkshire School took their first step towards producing biodiesel for the schools diesel fleet by purchasing a FreedomFueler. A FreedomFueler is a small system used to make biodiesel.
Berkshire School’s role is to provide the raw products, house the operations as well as make use of the final product.
The role that the students play in this project is that they are the ones who will be gathering the raw materials, going through the process of making biodiesel as well as testing the biodiesel. The students will be taking care of everything and working together to produce as much biodiesel as they can for the schools fleet of diesel consuming machinery.
Sustainability is integrated into the production of biodiesel because biodiesel has less pollutants and doest not emit as many harmful gasses as regular diesel does. The production of biodiesel is helping us now with regards to the environment, as well as in the long run. It is a cheaper and a more appropriate way to fuel the schools oil guzzling fleet of machinery.
The community of Berkshire School will be involved in help producing the biodiesel. Other then that, the Sustainability and Resource Management Class will be taking care of the majority of responsibilities regarding the project.
Students for Solar Schools is a student-led initiative that was established with two missions in mind. The first is to install solar panels on Westlake High School, and the second is to create a network and online resource center so other students can successfully get solar power at their schools. At Westlake High School, our number one priority is the long-term sustainability of the project. After we install a 2.8kW Photovoltaic array with an online monitoring system, the project will just begin, as a new generation of students, through fundraising and working with the school district, will ensure the addition of more panels each year until the school has reached grid parity. Besides measurable environmental benefits and cost savings, solar panels on schools have the immense potential to inspire green lifestyle changes and actions that make the school more energy efficient and environmentally responsible. Already, Students for Solar Schools has raised over $5,200, negotiated free installation, confirmed the weight bearing capacity of the roof, gained the approval of the school board and engaged the community in our project. We also developed a website and, through it, sparked a movement expanding to over a dozen schools where we are currently sharing our knowledge and resources with in the continental US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Africa. Our dedicated club at Westlake works each week to further our vision for a solar powered high school and enable our peers across the globe to do the same.
The environmental impact of our initial solar panel array, on track to be installed in December will offset 166,000 lbs of Carbon Dioxide, 530 lbs of Nitrogen Dioxide, and 480 lbs of sulfur dioxide over the 25-year warranty of the panels as sourced by Clean Power Research LLC. This is the equivalent of planting 1.4 acres of trees or not driving a car 280,00 miles. All these environmental benefits come from our initial array that will power 3 classrooms, and possibly the entire school during the summer. With students campaigning for more solar power each year at Westlake, the positive environmental impact will vastly increase. Also, if our efforts to help other schools go solar proves successful we will further multiply our impact.
Students came up with the idea for the project, not the school. However, the school has been extremely supportive and connected us with all the necessary district personnel required for approval of the construction and inspection process. The school helped us form and official club and assisted us in all of the financial transactions of the donations we’ve received. The idea of the project came as I was traveling home from a forum on global warming legislation. I realized there wasn’t time to wait on government policy to solve the problem, and I needed to take it upon myself to do what I can now, as a teenager, to fight for sustainability.
I started the project with a petition to see if the student body would support a campaign for solar panels. As an unexpected result, several students tracked me down and expressed their wish to help form Students for Solar Schools. Beginning as only four juniors meeting last November, our club would eventually grow to encompass a diverse coalition of students, brought together under the common goal of installing solar panels on Westlake High School. With the petition complete, the initial group met with our principal, Director of School Activities, District Energy Manager, Superintendent, Director of Planning and Facilities, District Roof Manager, Mayor and School Board. We then received competing bids from two solar contractors, and we were able to negotiate a price that included free installation with one of them. Later, we created the SSS website www.studentsforsolarschools.org . We then conducted a successful coin drive at our school raising over $500. We also had a door to door campaign, pitched to local businesses, won a small grant, convinced other school clubs to pledge donations and secured funding for an online monitoring system. The local Mexican restaurant, Sea Casa agreed on October 6th to donate 25% of its revenue that night to Students for Solar Schools. So many students showed up that a line wrapped around the building and the restaurant ran out of rice and beans! That brought our total to $5,200, and the very real possibility that we may exceed our target and power even more classrooms. We’re less than thousand dollars short of our initial goal to bring solar power to Westlake High School, and perpetuate the movement we’ve started.
Westlake High School approved the project and the principal connected us with the district personnel that would need to be involved with the approval, construction, and permitting. The school opened its conference room up to us to hold meetings with district officials about the project. The school also approved the Students for Solar Schools club. The associated student government allowed us to make posters for free in its room.
Students took the initiative and developed this project almost entirely on their own. I am very thankful for our club teacher adviser and all the other adults who worked with us, yet each one of them would reiterate, that the student leaders were ultimately responsible for driving this project forward. One of the main benefits of Students for Solar Schools is that each year students are trained to become environmental leaders by heading complex campaigns and fundraising operations while still only teenagers in high school. Students brought the district faculty together to work out the specifics of construction and approval, brainstormed fundraising ideas, turned them into reality, wrote grant proposals and connected the solar contractors with the district.
The sustainability of this project can be achieved by overlaps in student leadership, the constant guidance of the teacher adviser, and the sense of responsibility to the overall Students for Solar Schools network. Now an official club on campus that includes both Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors, the stability of the group is secured for at least the next three years. The transition of student leadership, and the ability to keep up the motivation to fundraise or push for large scale solar contracts might be more difficult farther in the future. However, with the same, dedicated teacher adviser, continuity can be established through the leadership cycles. Also, besides the physical solar panels as a constant reminder, integration with a larger network of students to encourage one another will ensure the sustainability of Students for Solar Schools project at Westlake.
We engaged our community through local events that Students for Solar Schools participates in and plans to host. We had a booth at the 2009 Thousands Oak’s Earth Day Fair where we shared about our project to those from Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks. We addressed the Thousand Oaks Youth Commission with a twenty-minute presentation about solar energy and the project. We set up a booth in front of Whole Foods to get the word out about our project and the educational benefits. At the kid’s fair there, we had coloring sheets about solar energy and taught them how solar panels work (in a simplified manner). We plan on making a presentation to Westlake Elementary and Colina Middle School about environmental responsibility and our project. We’re also looking forward to have a special spot in the October Street Festival. We’ve already arranged to speak at the local EARTHS Magnet School in our Conejo Valley Unified School district about Students for Solar Schools. Finally, all student members of SSS at Westlake are required to do at least two local community service events a year.
We built an outdoor classroom in a prairie garden at our school. The goal of this project is to bring nature to students, teachers, and parents who otherwise would not come in contact with members of our natural community in their daily lives. Students and adults of all interests and abilities now get direct exposure to native plants and animals while using the space for class or social activities. If people like what they see, our environmental science students will help them design and build native gardens in their own yards.
The garden which is located in a courtyard off of a glass hallway is a natural “billboard” that proclaims both the beauty of our natural community and the power of students to make a dramatic and significant difference to improve the lives of all members of our community (human and non-human alike).
Last year’s senior students designed and built the tables, benches, pergola, and chalkboard cabinet, in addition to raising most of the money and donations required. This year’s students will design the layout of prairie plants based on the amount of light and water available in different parts of the garden. Students are already busy writing grants and planning fundraisers to pay for the plants which they will install around the instructional space in the garden. Finally, students are working to create educational displays in the garden to teach visitors about our native plants and animals.
The outdoor classroom several substantial impacts on our school community both physically and mentally. Physically, we are no longer wasting gas mowing an area that was never used. Global warming will be further reduced when the prairie plants remove carbon dioxide gas from the air and store the carbon deep underground in their extensive root system. Finally, the prairie plant roots that stretch twenty to thirty feet underground loosen up the soil and allow precipitation to infiltrate into the aquifer which then stores the purified water for generations.
Mentally, we are teaching students and adults in our community that prairie plants are beautiful and valuable members of our community which are going extinct. With a little effort, (and the help of our environmental science students) families in our community can have a piece of our natural heritage on their own property to use and enjoy for many generations.
Environmental science and special education students planted a small wagon wheel shaped garden on one end of the courtyard several years ago. In an effort to get more students and classes involved, two environmental science students proposed creating an outdoor classroom in the courtyard for their senior project. Once completed this multi-use space, with vine-covered, auditorium-style seating for 30, an outdoor chalk board (for large group lessons) and 8 tables and chairs seating 32 (for small group lessons), can be used by any teacher for virtually any subject, or social event.
1. A student drew up detailed blueprints for the instructional space in his architectural design and engineering class.
2. Students in the environmental science class conducted fundraisers for the project (nature calendar sales, recycling printer cartridges, selling fluorescent light bulbs, holding a school wide barbeque) and collected donations (gravel and trucking).
3. Students donated their time on weekends and over the summer to build the paths, tables, benches, pergola, and chalkboard cabinet.
4. Teachers attended a week long workshop over the summer to work with other area schools and design ways to integrate native gardens into the curriculum.
5. The following year’s environmental science students and ecology club will continue to raise money to plant the garden and create educational displays.
6. The money raised will be given to a different department at the school each year. In this way, more teachers and students from every discipline will become directly involved in creating something educational and inspirational for the garden.
Administrators at all levels, (departmental, building and grounds), the principal, and the Board of Education were involved in granting permission to modify the existing courtyard and approving the design plans. Building and grounds personnel arranged the delivery of building materials, supplied students with tools, and supervised the construction. Administrators in several offices oversaw the budget and wrote the checks for construction costs. The technology office created an online sign up calendar open to all teachers and administrators. Technology staff also publicized the students’ efforts by posting pictures and stories about the outdoor classroom on the school website. Finally, the principal took 5 minutes during her opening remarks to introduce the new instructional space to the faculty on the first day of school.
Students designed the layout and the structures for the outdoor classroom. Students raised funds for the project by selling nature calendars, recycling printer cartridges, selling fluorescent light bulbs, holding a school wide barbeque during the lunch periods. Students also collected donations of gravel, trucking and the vines for the pergola along with some labor from area businesses. Students then donated their time on weekends and over the summer to construct the paths, tables, benches, pergola, and chalkboard cabinet.
The paths, tables, benches, pergola, and chalkboard cabinet were designed to last outdoors for several decades. Outdoor quality lumber, concrete, and plastic wood tops were used to minimize decay and maintenance of the instructional space. Wood chips and landscaping cloth were used in the garden area to retain moisture in the soil and to suppress weeds.
The native plants that will be planted require no fertilizer or water and will live for decades or longer. Additional educational signs, statues, and murals that will be added to the garden will also be made of outdoor quality materials and should continue to provide inspiration to students and adults for many years to come.
Students of all interests and ability levels will use the space and be exposed to our native plants and animals. Parents, neighbors, family, and friends purchase nature calendars and greeting cards featuring members of natural community to raise money for the garden. The PTO (Parent, Teacher Organization) and other social clubs hold meetings in this space for business and pleasure. Teacher education groups like NEST (Network of Environmental Science Teachers) and the Earth Partnership for Schools use this space to encourage other teachers and schools to build native gardens in their communities.
The Guajome Girls Preservation Foundation is committed to making a positive environmental impact on our school environment with hands on projects that involve students picking up trash, recycling, and removing invasive plants from our school site. Our school is located on a wetlands preserve, so cleaning up our school means cleaning up our wetlands as well. The name of our project is called, “Trash It Nation.” For this project, we organized our friends, obtained assistance from our teachers and our school, created our own language, and set out to clean up our school by inspiring students to take their trash and trash it in a trash can. Along the way we recycled paper, junk mail, boxes, envelopes, magazines, plastic bottles, and glass containers.
Every student or individual that has assisted us, shares the same interests that we have. That is, to clean up our school, to preserve our wetlands, and to teach others how to become environmentalists and make a difference, one action at a time.
The amount of trash we took out of our wetlands during this project was intense. There were so many candy wrappers; we were truly shocked how careless people can be. There was trash everywhere. There were plastic bottles, fast food wrappers, foils of all kind, cans, and a variety of plastics from small to large. We collected 18 large trash bags full of paper trash, and 175 plastic bottles and cans. During this project we added hundreds of pounds of recyclables to that total.
The amount of junk we removed from along the road near our wetlands was also amazing. The road was cluttered with all kinds of stuff. We removed large pieces of wood, metal pieces, plastic sheets, road and construction material, metal wire, cement blocks, and large bales of hay.
We opened the flow of running water under our wetlands bridge by removing the trash and invasive plants under the bridge. One of the major things we accomplished with this restoration project at our school was removing the invasive palms under the bridge which was blocking the natural flow of water. Underneath the bridge, it was filled with accumulated trash and palm trees that we removed. The water went from a slow trickle with several veins, to a restored flow that slowly regained its natural path.
Our school is located on a wetlands preserve. The environmental health of our school environment is related to the health our wetlands, and to us, cleaning up our school also means cleaning up our wetlands. The initial idea for this project came from the fact that we got tired of everyone talking about making our Guajome wetlands a better place, but no one doing anything about it. We did not want to become another group to just talk about making a difference. So we decided to start cleaning up the wetlands ourselves. It has been stated that in order to clean up our wetlands it was going to take money, effort, and man power to make a difference. To increase the problem, we have seen far too often that nobody wants to pay to clean-up our wetlands. So this is when we decided to do it ourselves and improve the environmental health of our school on our terms. We walked right outside our classroom doors and started picking up trash, recycling and removing invasive plant species from our school.
We realized the community always talks about improving our Guajome Wetlands, but we have never seen anybody out there working to preserve them. The community issue always gets back to who is responsible for paying for the clean-up. Also, wetlands preservation always seems to be expressed as this huge financial issue. We came up with the idea of cleaning small parts of our wetlands, a little bit at a time. Instead of debating this financially, we got the idea to get out there and do it ourselves. We just started cleaning up our wetlands, one corner of our school at a time!
Making a Plan
The goals we created for this project were to pick up all the trash around our school and wetlands and remove all unnecessary junk to improve the ecosystem near our classrooms. We wanted to fix up a corner of our wetlands where students could sit and draw or enjoy a good book. We also wanted to remove as many invasive plants as we could and transplant them in containers if possible. Our plan was to make our wetlands environment a better ecosystem for everything that lives there. We set a goal to recruit our friends to help with the clean-up, and together, make our school and our wetlands a beautiful place. Within our goals, we came up with ideas like having a poster contest, creating blogs to generate interest, and making a web site to post our progress on the internet.
Our Goals As We Developed
• Recruit forty friends to assist us with our clean-up goals of picking up all the trash around our wetlands, and increasing the recycling around our school.
• Create a set of rules for students to follow near our wetlands.
• Identify and remove as many invasive plant species as possible.
• Make an artist’s corner where people can relax and draw.
• Have a school poster contest to promote protecting our wetlands.
• Create an internet blog and web site to generate community interest in our project.
Our school has played a big role in allowing our project to be a success. They have supported our ideas and allowed us to get involved in things we wanted to do for our school. They have supported our teachers and as a result, students have been able to get involved and participate in our ideas. If the teachers said “no,” then the students would not be able to get involved. The teachers said it was o.k. because our school administration allowed them to let their students get involved. As our project has grown from local to global, we have been allowed to travel, write press releases, letters to the editors of the world press, and represent our school on a global level. The support of our school has been the reason we have been able to implement so many ideas. Listed below are just a few challenges we had to go through where our school was needed for support, and they came through for us every time. Also, the Board of Guajome Park Academy has supported us by approving our ideas and letting us be creative with our ideas.
1. Getting permission to work in the areas we picked.
2. Finding who owned all the trash stuff just hanging around.
3. Obtaining permission from the teachers.
4. Getting working tools.
5. Picking the rules when working in the wetlands.
6. Finding who owned the trash.
7. Removing the weeds.
8. Finding the right team to assist us in cleaning up the bigger jobs.
Team photographer, supplies coordinator, all technology issues, web design, writer, organizing all ASB fundraising issues, everything that needs to get done!
Ashley the Emailer
Team photographer, writer and editor, web design.
Responsible For national wetlands development programs in the United States, developing Guajome Girls Preservation Foundation blog, “Keepers of the Wetlands,” organizing students and student activities, writer and editor.
Students interesting in helping us with our project have a number of responsibilities to accomplish. These activities are organized and coordinated and checked off our list when they are accomplished. We set schedules and time lines to complete our activities. Some of the tasks students perform include the following responsibilities.
Making Posters, making flyers , coordinating teams from Period 1 and Period 5 , finding tools, asking permission for activities , poster contest, arranging locations for the poster contest , presentations, presentations to other classes, student photography, figuring out activities, location of activities, making land plans, planning, technology, typing, putting things on disk, printing, spell check, writing for the group, lead writer, lead editor, phrases, monitoring clean up at the wetlands, making schedules, and wetlands photographer.
This project continues to grow and develop into a global perspective of protecting the wetlands. We still have a strong foundation in what we do because the wetlands are right outside our door. We continue to pick up trash and recycle and do our best to keep our school clean, yet everyday someone comes up with a new idea that expands our original idea into something new. And with it, comes a new group of students and interested participants. To us, the continual growth and interest in what we are doing is sustainability and it is always gaining momentum. Here are a few examples of what we are talking about.
First, we have always stayed dedicated to the wetlands in our own back yard. Then, we began to concern ourselves with the wetlands in the state of California. Finally, we shifted our ideas to a global perspective by looking at the wetlands as a world-wide topic. Everything came together. Each of us picked a project that we focused on and everyone helped each other out with their projects. In a short time, we went from a poster contest and picking up trash, to a web site that generated more than 100,000 hits from 50 different countries. We emailed and wrote to 35 world leaders about their endangered wetlands. Then, we went out into the field and learned for ourselves what needed to be accomplished. We planned how to make a difference as a team, and then we did it.
Our ideas to involve the community needed to include things that would not cost any money. Also, we had to get as many ideas as we could from our friends. It happened for us. Everyone stepped up and contributed. Some of the ways we involved the community are listed below. These ideas are from us and our friends. These are just some of things we did to involve the community.
1. I told my dad about it because he cares.
2. I talked to my cousin about the environment because he loves nature.
3. I told my best friend Anthony who is at another school.
4. We wrote the mayor of our city a letter because he can make decisions about this issue.
5. I wrote a letter to the city council about protecting our wetlands because they have a certain amount of authority in our class.
6. I wrote a letter to the governor about helping to clean up our wetlands because he could someday make an important decision about our wetlands.
7. I’m going to tell my friends that don’t go to this school not to pollute the wetlands.
8. I’m going to tell someone in Vista to treat the wetlands like it was their own back yard. Because it is.
9. I’m going to tell my friend Jose. Because, basically, he does not mind to get his hands dirty and would come and help if I called him.
Students will work with community business partners in the field of environmental quality and design to restore native plant ecosystems that have been overrun by invasive plant species. The site consists of an upland area that contains an archeological site and a small wetland. The finished product will be a passive park that educates the community about the importance of protecting and restoring native ecosystems, the rich archeological history of the area, and also sustainable design such as renewable energy and groundwater recharge. The area will also provide a field study site for the high school and middle school students next door to conduct experiments on water quality, biodiversity, and to observe native wildlife. The site can be used for lessons in other disciplines as well.
The restoration site collects storm water from both nearby schools and drains it into a nearby canal, which can feed to the ocean or to the everglades. By conducting yearly water quality tests we hope to study the effect of storm water runoff on our water supply.
The project began when a student in my AP Environmental Science class noticed the overgrown vegetation on what she knew to be an archeological site containing evidence of Indians from thousands of years ago. She began by organizing exotic removal days that involved the community. Her mother and I helped her to develop the idea into a full restoration project.
Several meetings with school administrators, community business partners and members, teachers, and students were conducted to flesh out the desired outcomes. Then our business partners met with students in a design charette to brainstorm ideas for the park design. The companies also sent representatives to speak to students about invasive species, the everglades and the importance of water quality, and the history of the everglades. We continue to meet to keep us on track to the completion of the restoration of the passive park.
The project has full support and participation of the school administration. The restoration site is on school board property that adjoins the two schools (middle and high school) and an administrator is present and actively involved in each meeting.
Students worked with two business partners who are LEED certified designers to work out a landscape design and placement of sidewalks and interpretive signs. Students also tagged invasive species for removal and will continue to be involved by installing additional plant species and carrying out science investigations to monitor the biodiversity and water quality of the site.
The impact of this project will last for many years to come. The finished design will include interpretive signs that educate the community about the importance of restoring and preserving native species and ecosystems, the ethnobotony of local plant species in the history of the peoples that have inhabited the everglades throughout history, and the sustainable design principles that have been used – including how they can use the same principles in their own homes. The project will continue to have an educational impact because the two nearby schools will be using the site for science investigations and lessons for other disciplines.
The school board currently maintains the property and has agreed to continue maintenance that will include mowing and weed control. Students will also monitor needed repairs and overgrowth that needs to be taken care of.
The local community is involved in three ways. 1) Community volunteer days will be advertised to install native vegetation 2) students are working with local environmental design consultants and an archeologist in developing and maintaining the site, and 3) community residents are involved in project meetings to give input.
Students at WGHS have analyzed every facet of our educational experience seeking ways to live more sustainably. We built an Outdoor Classroom area with native plants, recycled plastic benches, and bridges on a nature trail through the woods that are also eco-friendly. Getting students outside has motivated us to reduce litter and appreciate the natural world more. We started a newspaper, bottle and can recycling program and receive over 100 pounds of bottles and cans per week. Appalled at the number of recyclables we’ve collected, we started a campaign to encourage use of reusable water bottles. Natural light infiltrates every corner of the school because the new campaign to reduce the use of any nonessential lighting has greatly reduced energy usage. Hundreds of new CFK bulbs shine in our community thanks to our “Better Bulbs” campaign which switched over 400 bulbs and started CFL recycling here. Unsatisfied at stopping at our school, we helped four other schools start outdoor classrooms and are lobbying to have Ohio designate the Spotted Salamander as its state amphibian to bring more awareness to vernal pool preservation. Our latest project is retrofitting buses with particulate filters and publicizing our new anthi-idling policy.
Our success was both measurable and attitudinal. We reached over 1,400 people with our message of the merits of switching to CFL and LED bulbs, and properly recycling them. Our “Better bulbs” events at a January basketball game and a May event were very successful.
In terms of getting people to actually change their bulbs, we distributed over 400 light bulbs. Over the lifetime of the bulbs, these will save $18,800 over the ten year life of the bulbs and 60,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually! Our bulb replacement efforts at a demonstration site (where we changed all of the bulbs in the building) will save an additional $4,888 and 15,600 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Here are the totals for the bulbs that we handed out and replaced:
•Dollars saved in energy costs over 10 years: $23,688
•Carbon dioxide emissions saved over 10 years: 75,600 pounds
We were very happy that TCP, Inc. pitched in with free light bulbs and a display demonstrating the benefits of CFLs. Home Depot agreed to accept our used bulbs for recycling, so that mercury will not go into landfills. We have only received a few used CFLs in our containers to date, but we expect to receive more in the future, as CFLs become more prevalent.
Our rain barrel (hand painted by WGHS art students) and rain-garden, made with 6,000 pounds of sand, peat and soil, are very successful in diverting runoff from storm sewers. The water is then used to water the outdoor classroom garden we built. Parents pitched in by planting flower bulbs at orientation in honor of their children.
Our bottle and can recycling brings in about 100 pounds of recyclables per week.
The bridges we designed and built on the nature trail we built gets students outside for science and other classes. The blue bird boxes we erected on our trail help keep our campus mosquito population at bay.
Our new “no idling” policy for cars at our school, enacted in august, 2009, is reducing the amount of particulates in the air. We are raising awareness among parents of the wastefulness of idling and hope they will carry this habit to other venues.
My friends and I were going to be freshmen at the high school last year and went to a township meeting where challenges to the community were discussed. We felt there was not a nice place for students to enjoy the outdoors or go outside to learn. the front of the high school had fallen into despair. So, we got to work. After we started, we learned more and more about pollution and sustainable actions we could implement. We realized that we weren’t the only ones who needed outdoor areas to enjoy. So, we contacted other schools and helped them as well.
First, we had a long session where we looked at problems we saw relating to climate change, and tried to decide what the most important solution was for our community.
We conducted a survey of 688 students at West Geauga High School. We surveyed everyone who was taking a science class. We tallied the survey. We wanted to get a sense of their background knowledge regarding climate change. We found that 68% of students did not understand the significance of the Kyoto Protocols or the United State’s role. On the positive side, 65% of the students could name at least one way in which they could reduce the effects of climate change. Interestingly, 36% of students do not agree that human impact plays a role in climate change. Of the 36%, 21% of that total thought that, maybe, human impact plays a role. We decided to educate other students about subjects relating to climate change, through announcements, posters and action. We wanted everyone in our school to learn about the environment first hand.
Gardens and Bridges:
We made many different drafts of sketches for the outdoor classroom garden and bridges. We sought donations and grants from community and national organizations. Then, we spent weekends working on making our plans a reality. We learned how to weld (to make the bridge supports) and a properly plant native species. We weed, mulch and water the area. We put together curriculum to get teachers to use our newly created Outdoor Classroom. We used 6,000 pounds of sand for the rain garden portion of our classroom. Students from Tech classes made benches out of recycled, composite wood and steel. We purchased a solar powered LED light to illuminate the flagpole.
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs:
Once we saw that we needed to motivate people to act to reduce their carbon footprint, it was an easy step to get them to start reducing their use of incandescent bulbs. Changing a light bulb is such an easy action with a big impact fro them in terms of carbon dioxide emissions and saving money. It probably helped us that the economy is not great, and lots of people here are thinking of ways to cut back while trying to maintain their lifestyle.
We wanted to overcome concerns people were having about how CFL bulbs looked and worked. We we started asking people why they weren’t using CFL bulbs, how they looked was a big factor. So, we decided that a test site would be important. We also decided that we need to include an easy-to-use recycling program so the CFLs and their mercury were not causing other problems down the road. A local church volunteered to be the open test site, so we changed all of the light bulbs there. We also held two lightbulb giveaway events, one at a community meeting and one at a basketball game.
West G is Idle Free:
Turn your engine off! We drafted a no-idling policy for cars at our school district and implemented it. We distributed information at open houses, posted signs, wrote articles for newsletters and news outlets and conducted a survey. We got bus drivers to pledge to stop idling.
We distributed information to families and bus drivers (see attached) and held after-school rallies and educational seminars. We wrote a proposal to the Ohio EPA to retrofit 21 school buses with equipment to reduce the amount of particulates they emit. We will find out in late October if we received this grant.
Bottle and Can Recycling:
We got a grant from the Geauga-Trumbull Solid Waste District for recycling containers. We installed them, then made posters and publicized how to use them. We offered incentives like raffles for reusable water bottles to those who recycled. We set up a program to collect and recycle the full bags.
Vera Pool Monitoring:
Ohio has lost 90% of its wetlands. Wetlands purify our drinking water (we use wells) and help to reduce the effects of flooding. To help combat the problem of loss of wetlands, we held a vernal pool monitoring seminar to train participants to monitor and preserve vernal pools. Our seminar brought over 60 participants together with experts in the field. It included a “field trip” to our school’s vernal pool and nature trail.
We asked our Senator to sponsor a bill to have the Spotted Salamander designated as Ohio’s state amphibian. Spotted Salamanders are wetland dwellers and indicators of a healthy vernal pool. We want the spotted Salamander to be our spokesman for wetlands reservation in Ohio. We testified for the bill. It has passed in the House and a Senate Committee. We expect it to become law by year end.
We are capturing otherwise wasted energy from footfalls of students as they move from class to class. We are creating a mat that will use electro-active polymer (DEAP) sheets to capture energy from students walking and convert it to power to light a hallway.
Outdoor Cafeteria and Garden:
To get students outdoors to appreciate nature, we created an outdoor patio and garden space. As this was just completed in August, we have not planted the garden yet. We plan to have vegetables within easy reach of the cafeteria, reducing our carbon footprint and enabling us to eat local.
We have permeated all aspects of the curriculum and student body to create a sustainable, earth-conscious community. Most of our projects have resulted in permanent, very visible improvements to our school. Our Outdoor Classroom and rain garden are right in front of the school. The trail leads right from the school into our woods. The bulletin board we installed in the science hallway makes getting environmental information an easy, every-day occurrence.
We did everything! From designing the garden, planting native perennials to writing grants proposals and testifying in the Ohio Legislature, we organized and funded all of our work. We got adults to donate labor and expertise (to do things like clearing grass so we could plant the garden). We got sports teams to volunteer as a unit. The football players carried steel I-beams and bags of cement through the woods for our bridge. The soccer players hauled composite lumber and helped with cutting. Other teams weed the gardens.
We got adult authorizations to change lightbulb and hold our distribution events. For our recycling project, we had to coordinate with district maintenance personnel to ensure that our plans would mesh with maintenance requirements.
Students designed and installed the signs for the no-idling policy we wrote. We got help from professors for MIT and Case Western Reserve University for our Powerwalk project, but are creating this invention using our ideas.
From the very beginning, the object has been to incorporate all aspects of the project permanently into the curriculum and fabric of the school so that when the present volunteers graduate, others will cary on. For example, the science hallway bulletin board we bought was given to the teachers and installed. The teachers have a primary responsibility for posting artless and information relating to current environmental issues. We created the bottle and can recycling program. We applied for a grant to jump-start participation. Student groups collect the filled bags and the custodial staff takes them to be recycled. Using this procedure, we know our new programs will have longevity. WE involved already organized groups and help whenever we can.
Part of our perfect is inventing a more sustainable method of energy generation. We have been working this past summer on using DEAO sheets to generate electricity from footfalls. If this invention is successful, we hope to take it to create a reproducible project that can be sent to third world countries to power small electrical items like flashlights to help students study at night, or laptop computer.
We are also using this project to get everyone thinking about how sustainability can become a way of life. We want to show how power can be generated from human movement and to provide its potential to supplement power in public spaces. Our test site is a hallway in our school, where our DEAP sheet will light the hall with LED bulbs. There is another potential benefit. This freestanding device will use less plastic and copper because it won’t be wire to the grid. We also hope to get people thinking about additional way sin which energy is created and wasted.
We have created activities that meet the Ohio Content Standards. So, using our curriculum and ideas helps teachers meet their requirements. In this way, there is no talk of wasted time or inefficient learning. We have come up with interesting and fun ways to complete state requirements.
We couldn't’ have accomplished anything without the support and involvement of our community. Here is a partial list of the assistance we received.
•Avalon Gardens: donation of rain garden plants, 2008.
•Arms Trucking: donation of trucks to transport supplies for rain garden, donated limestone for patio.
• Beckybones.com: grant, April 2009.
•Best Sand: donation of 6,000 pounds of sand, peat and dirt for rain garden and 7,600 pounds of rocks.
•Case Western reserve University: Dr. Loparo, Professor of Electrical Engineering, mentor.
•Chester Township, Ohio Department of Education and State Board, US REp. LaTourette, Ohio House, Ohio Senate: certificates and commendations for service.
•Danfoss, Denmark: donation of DAP film and technical expertise.
•Dominion Foundation: $7,500 for supplies, scientific equipment and plants.
•Paul and Natalie Cooper: mulch to create nature trail.
•Carter Lumber: discount on supplies, October 2008.
•Case Western Reserve University: Dr. Ken Loparo, mentoring and assistance with PVDF project.
•Chagrin River Watershed Partners: Kyle Drefyfuss-Wells, Executive Director, and Amy Holthouse, Willoughby, Ohio.
•Chesterland Kiwanis: donation of $600, May 2009.
•Gatto Electric: donation of $500 of poles for bluebird boxes, 2008.
•Geauga Concrete: donation of concrete for footers for bridge on trail, October 2008.
•Geuaga Soil and Water Conservation District: Ron Epping and Katie Naininger, Public Education Specialist. Worked together to determine trail locations, assets, $700 grant for trunk of supplies for Outdoor Classroom, February, 2009.
•Geauga Park District: Worked with gPD to create bluebird box trail and install wood duck boxes made by WGHS students. Made salamander traps for monitoring. Helped the GDP by planting 350 large trees in its new Orchard Hills Park, May 2009.
• H&M Landscaping: donation of $10,000 in labor to create rain garden and outdoor classroom.
•Anne Hill and Governor Ted Strickland: advice on legislative process.
•Kent State University: helped with trail.
•Lowe’s Educational and Charitable Foundation, 2008: $5,000 grant for materials and supplies.
•Monticello Garden Center: donation of plants and mulch.
•National Wildlife Federation: recognized WGHS as Schoolyard Habitat.
•Sunnybrook Farms Nursery: Donation of plants and collaboration on planning of butterfly attracting environment.
•Ohio Division of Wildlife: selected as WILD School site, $500 grants, June 2009.
•Ohio Environmental Council: information on current state of Ohio wetlands; planning for seminar for the general public, March 2009.
•Pirc Landscaping, Inc.: donation of materials, labor, fertilizer, and expertise for cafeteria project.
•The Cleveland Group: donation of excavating labor and equipment to dig footers for bridge, October 2008.
•Trumbull Geauga Solid Waste Disposal: grant of $500 for recycling containers.
•West Geauga Education Foundation: grant of $2,000 for innovative educational summer program science equipment.
•West Geauga Kiwanis: donation of $600 for mulch, June 2009.
•West Geauga Local Schools: Teachers and administrators have collaborated to create cross-curricular lessons that use the Outdoor Classroom area we created; donated $200 for mulch.
•Western Reserve Land Conservancy: reviewed current land conservation efforts in Northeast Ohio and environmental issues facing the region, helped with bridge design for trail.
•Wild Birds Unlimited: discount on Outdoor Classroom supplies and advice on attracting birds. WBU provided literature on birds for us to distribute to the public.
•GoGreen! WKYC Channel 3 news feature, 09/12/08.
•“WGHS to Receive Dominion Grant,” Chesterland News, p.1, 10/01/08.
•“Study of Spotted Salamander is Valuable for Adults too,” West Geauga Sun, p. A 9, 03/26/09.
•“Bluebirds and bobcats and bears - oh my!” West Geauga, p. A5, 06/11/09.
•“Earth Day Every Day,” 19acitonnews.com 06/15/09; wkyc.com 06/13/09; ohio.com 06/16/09.
•“WHGHS students help plant trees,” Geauga County Maple Leaf, p. B3, 06/12/09.