Wednesday, April 22, 2015

U.S. Dept. Of Education Recognizes PA Green Schools

The U.S. Department of Education Wednesday recognized two Pennsylvania schools as part of its Green Ribbon Schools Program— Charles F. Patton Middle School, Chester County, and Northampton Community College.
The Pennsylvania winners of this prestigious national recognition are well-known for the educational programs they have designed to engage students, and for the investments they have made to their physical plant and operations.
Bill Sutton, Partnership Executive Committee member and Chair of the Central PA chapter of the US Green Building Council offered his congratulations to the Green Ribbon awardees.
“On behalf of the Partnership, I offer our congratulations to Charles Patton Middle School and Northampton Community College. We know that green and healthy schools are essential to having vibrant communities—across Pennsylvania and around the world,” said Sutton. “We hope that every single child in this state is afforded the opportunity to attend a green school and learn to be in harmony with this Earth, and maximize their potential in life through learning,” he continued.
Charles F. Patton Middle School
Charles Patton Middle School has been striving toward all three ED-GRS aims.  In the area of reduced environmental impact and costs, Patton has installed HVAC systems with air changes, automatic temperature controls, solar arrays that power a greenhouse, low-flow toilets and faucets, and a drip line irrigation system.  
Native plants and trees are planted around the Patton school building and the school has worked to shorten and reschedule school bus runs to be more efficient and reduce energy use.  
The formation of a district green team encourages students and staff to reduce, recycle, and reuse.  Overall recycling efforts have steadily improved, and lighting has been updated to be more cost effective.  
To improve the health of students and staff, Patton uses green cleaning products, reduces hazardous waste, and implements IPM.  Crossing guards ensure the safety of the many students who walk from neighboring developments.  
A wellness committee focuses on the mental and physical health of students and faculty.  Snacks sold in the cafeteria must not have sugar as first ingredient; they also must contain less than 30 percent fat, have less than 250 calories, and be of a single serving size.  No soda or foods of minimal nutritional value are sold in the vending machines or in the cafeteria.  
Patton supports local farmers by purchasing locally grown produce, implementing the farm-to-table concept, harvesting and using vegetables from school gardens, and participating in healthy taste tests at all levels.
Ninety percent of grounds are devoted to vegetable and flower gardens, including 30 raised beds, a greenhouse, wildlife and native plant habitats, a solar array, composting, pervious trails, protected wetlands, and plantings by a local farmer who engages in annual crop rotation.  
Two outdoor classrooms provide space for learning in a natural environment.  Students learn and observe nature and investigate vegetation and wildlife.  High tunnels are a ten-minute walk away, and an accessible walkway to the high tunnels is being built of recycled composite materials.  
Science classes go outside regularly to explore nature, conduct experiments, learn about the growing process, water, and harvest.  Physical education classes play a variety of sports outdoors when the weather allows.  Orienteering classes teach students how to use a compass and calculate distance, as well as how to find an object using coordinates.
Teachers are provided with multiple professional development opportunities through the Stroud Water Research Center, Longwood Gardens, the Brandywine River Museum, and the Tyler Arboretum.  
Teachers participate in professional development opportunities addressing standards associated with the environment, energy, and ecology standards.  A team of administrators and teachers attended the K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, where they learned about renewable energy sources.  
Patton has a bee and garden curriculum, and teaches students about renewable and alternative energies, as well as water conservation and quality.  Science and geography classes embed activities that require students to reflect and evaluate connections between the physical environment and human activities, such as a school lunch investigation project to measure waste.  
Students calculate their ecological footprints and the effect of human activity.  They investigate the impact and develop problem-solving solutions to local and global issues.  Eighth graders choose an environmental project for the school or their community.  
Field trips to sites such as Stroud Water Research Center teach students about water conservation and the environmental impact water can have on local streams and rivers.  
Partnering organizations provide support through grants, donations, time, and materials.  A local environmental architectural firm provides STEM funding.  
A very meaningful affiliation is with the Chester County Food Bank, through which students learn the importance of growing, eating healthy items, and helping the food-deprived.  
Longwood Gardens National Institute for Garden-Based Learning showcases Patton gardens to other schools.  
Tri-M donated a solar array to power the greenhouse that not only reduces electricity costs for the district, but teaches Patton students the benefits of using renewable energy through an interactive dashboard.  Patton partners with local farmers, beekeepers, and Whole Foods, among others.
Northampton Community College
Located in northeastern Pennsylvania, Northampton Community College is a public two-year institution offering over 100 credit and noncredit programs to more than 30,000 students each year.  
NCC's Statement of Values speaks to the school’s “commitment to the long term health of the institution, the community, the economy and the environment.”
NCC’s Monroe campus is the foremost example of this commitment, embodying the school’s focus on reducing environmental costs and impact.  It is the first college campus constructed entirely to meet Silver LEED certification.  
Building placement was limited to meadow grass areas, poor soil areas, and rock outcrop.  Excavated rock was processed onsite into stone for base improvements.  Buildings flow with the natural land contours.  Floor-to-ceiling windows made of high-performance glass maximize southern exposure and natural light.  Native vegetation reduces stormwater runoff.  
The 205,500 square foot campus is four times larger than the NCC’s original site, but incurs energy costs of only $87,000 a year due to geothermal system, high-efficiency HVAC and lighting systems, and a solar canopy that provides about 40 percent of the campus electricity.  A digital metering and monitoring system provides real-time energy performance information.
NCC’s main campus offers further examples of how good environmental stewardship intertwines with improving health and wellness and offering strong sustainability education.  Here, 40 acres of unused, wooded, and grassy land are now a living laboratory.  
School leaders have worked to reduce the effect of mowing and grounds maintenance by allowing a portion of the land to go to succession, over time increasing the amount of wooded area on campus.  
A community garden known as the East 40 connects gardeners from the college and the community for service learning, sustainable gardening, ecological awareness, and healthy living.  
Biology students conduct flora and fauna inventories, and Irish Literature students plant crops to learn about the value of land ownership in the context of 19th century Irish land laws.  Culinary students practice farm-to-table cooking strategies and participate in composting.  
Northampton programs empower community members to grow their own food through the availability of individual garden plots and community education; create opportunities for partnerships with area schools, food banks, and nonprofit organizations; promote environmental and spiritual well-being; and maintain the integrity and health of the land.
NCC’s walking trails, outfitted with mileage and directional signage, encourage walkers and runners throughout the year.  Both campuses feature state-of-the-art fitness centers with personal training.  Faculty and staff have free access to credit and noncredit fitness courses.  
The Health and Wellness Center provides first aid treatment, health counseling, and programming to students.  A faculty and staff committee dubbed the Wellness Warriors encourages co-workers to adopt healthy lifestyles by sponsoring wellness seminars, cooking demonstrations, and a walking program.
From an academic perspective, the college’s environmental science associate’s degree prepares students for careers in wildlife conservation, resource management, law, and human ecology, and courses inspire students to begin making a difference right away.
Following a lecture on plastic pollution, students began a movement to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the use of disposable plastics in food services.  STEM faculty members have used federal EPA grants to partner with a local community supported agriculture program and an avian research center and to provide experiential learning for Monroe students.  
In 2015, NCC’s National Endowment for the Humanities-funded programming, called Agriculture and the American Identity, is exploring how U.S. culture is evolving and food relationships are re-localizing, through an examination of food, who grows it, and how and where it is grown and consumed.  
Also new in 2015 are the school’s single-stream recycling, community garden, designated parking spaces for low-emission vehicles, and campuswide reduction of printer-paper use.  In short, environmental education leads to action at Northampton.
Previous Pennsylvania schools recognized in 2012, 2013 and 2014 with the Green Ribbon Schools award were: Radnor Middle School, A.W. Beattie Career Center, Thaddeus Stevens Elementary, Broughal Middle School, Nazareth Area Middle School, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Westtown School, Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School, Council Rock School District and Lower Merion School District.
For more information on how to adopt green school practices, visit the PA Green Schools website.

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