On September 28th, we kicked off the fifth annual Delaware Pathways to Green Schools program (Pathways). Funded by the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility, the Pathways program provides grants, one-on-one support, and expert resources to K-12 schools in Delaware that are committed to becoming healthier, more sustainable, and more energy efficient.
The 2018-2019 school year began with a full-day workshop for teachers, featuring speakers from the National Wildlife Federation, Delaware Technical Community College, Practical Energy Solutions, Franklin Energy Services, Clean Air Council, and Plastic Free Delaware. The teachers learned how to use Eco-Schools as an organizational platform for sustainability initiatives, the ins and outs of conducting a facilities audit, how to save energy at home, and the impact of transportation and waste on our communities and the climate.
There are 22 participating schools in the program, including eight new schools from across the state. Qualifying new schools are eligible for a free energy audit to be conducted by our program partner, Practical Energy Solutions. Through the fall, we will work with the schools to make the audit an interactive educational experience for facilities staff, teachers, and students. The resulting audit report will demonstrate energy saving potential throughout the school's facilities and offer project solutions such as lighting retrofits, improved HVAC equipment, and more.
Through Pathways, participating schools work toward achieving certification and national recognition through Eco-Schools USA and the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools award. Since the start of the program, eight schools and one school district have won a Green Ribbon Award.
In partnership with Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center, we hosted a Green Schools Sustainability Workshop on October 3rd. This one-time event was funded in part by the Lehigh Valley Greenways Conservation Landscape, a public-private partnership by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. The full-day workshop featured speakers from the Environmental Protection Agency, PPL, Broughal Middle School, and Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center.
Led by our Lehigh Valley Community, the event brought together educators to learn how to add sustainability into their curriculum, create a strategic energy plan for their schools, and use green buildings in the region as a teaching resource. From designing green buildings out of gingerbread to hands-on site investigations, we saw first hand how schools are generating enthusiasm around green design principles and teaching critical thinking and problem-solving skills. We finished off the day with a tour of Nitschmann Middle School, a LEED Platinum building in the Bethlehem Area School District. The school features LED lighting, daylighting, sensors, and new efficient mechanical systems. The school community including administration, staff, and students worked closely with the project team to ensure that the building was not only efficient in its use of energy and water but also created an environment that encouraged collaboration.
Our Living Building Challenge Community is active in promoting green building education. To date, our volunteers have participated in green building fairs at schools and discussed deep green building education with educators at local public and private schools. From this broad outreach, a special partnership with Upper Dublin High School was formed. Over the course of the 2017-18 school year, a team of our volunteers worked with Upper Dublin High School to develop tools to teach students about the Living Building Challenge. In April 2018, we gave our first Living Building Challenge in-class presentations to over 150 10th grade environmental science students. We then workshopped with the students on their final projects - a conceptual design of a green building guided by Living Building Challenge principles.
Out of the enthusiasm for our shared vision emerged a new course for Upper Dublin High School for the 2018-19 school year - a project-based learning (PBL) environmental science course based on the Living Building Challenge. The project at the center of the PBL is the learning-lab building at Robbins Park Environmental Education Center. The 38-acre public park is used as an outdoor classroom by students of all ages in the Upper Dublin school district to advance and deepen their understanding of the environment, and supplement in-class science curriculums.
Smyrna High School students collecting data for the school’s energy audit
Nitschmann Middle School, LEED Platinum