Five Mercer County schools ended the school year with a bang as they took home three tiers of Eco-Schools USA awards this spring. National Wildlife Federation and New Jersey Audubon awarded the Bronze award to The Chapin School, Antheil Elementary School, and the Lore Elementary School; the Silver Award to Parkway Elementary School; and the Green Flag Award, Eco-School’s highest honor, to Princeton Day School.
Eco-Schools is an international program that engages schools in efforts to improve student environmental literacy and skills. Eco-Schools in New Jersey is a partnership between National Wildlife Federation and New Jersey Audubon and claims more than 230 schools throughout the state. Mercer County leads the state in enrollment in the Eco-Schools program with 29 registered schools.
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To earn the awards, the Mercer County schools tackled environmental issues by making improvements to school grounds and curriculum around issues such as energy efficiency, waste disposal and water conservation.
Green Flag recipient, Princeton Day School demonstrated a host of sustainability initiatives that permeated every level of learning. Students tended to an organic garden, composted food waste, and hosted Harvest Dinners to teach families about the importance of local and organic food. The building is equipped with CO2 sensors, high efficiency boilers, variable speed drives in the HVAC, occupancy sensors, some passive solar sensors, and LED lightbulbs to reduce its environmental impact. Princeton Day School regularly takes on a leadership role in New Jersey, hosting environmental conferences, workshops and festivals for schools throughout the state. PDS is also recognized as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School.
Parkway Elementary School was awarded the Silver Award for their efforts in improving biodiversity around their school and encouraging outdoor learning. The second grade team adopted the Eco-Schools program as a method to pilot the new science standards through hands-on experiential learning in their gardens. Students spent time working in the school garden, growing food and flowers and tending to compost.
Earning the Bronze Award, the Chapin School focused on reducing the amount of trash produced by the school by engaging in composting, improving recycling efforts and installing bottle filling stations. Antheil and Lore Elementary Schools of Ewing enhanced their gardens to improve biodiversity on school grounds. All Ewing elementary students received additional environmental education from New Jersey Audubon’s Plainsboro Preserve naturalists thanks to a grant from the FISH Organization.
Allison Mulch, with New Jersey Audubon is both the Eco-Schools coordinator and the administrator of the Green Ribbon schools program in New Jersey. “Mercer County schools are becoming a beacon of sustainability to schools around the state” says Mulch. “It is truly exciting to see so many schools in one community embrace sustainability within the Eco-Schools framework.”
As the Eco-Schools coordinator, Mulch helps schools navigate through the Eco-Schools program and offers free trainings to teachers, administrators, and school board members throughout the state. This benefit is unique to New Jersey Eco-Schools thanks to a partnership with NJ Audubon, National Wildlife Federation and the PSEG Foundation.
“Eco-Schools USA’s partnership with PSEG Foundation makes a powerful difference in our schools” says Curtis Fisher, northeast regional executive director, National Wildlife Federation. “With so many schools facing limited resources, the hands on guidance and free training from our Eco-Schools coordinator allows New Jersey’s teachers to go farther in inspiring a love of learning and a sense of environmental responsibility in students today.”
About Eco-Schools: Eco-Schools is an international program hosted by the NWF in the U.S., and coordinated by New Jersey Audubon in NJ. The program serves over 4,300 schools throughout the country. Eco-Schools USA in New Jersey supports and directly aligns with Sustainable Jersey for Schools point-based system. The Eco-Schools USA website has an interactive map that shows locations and distribution of participating schools. For more information: http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionEducation/ProvidingfortheEducationCommunity/NWFEco-SchoolsUSA.aspx
About National Wildlife Federation: National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring people to protect wildlife for our children’s future. NWF focuses its education and policy work on connecting children to nature for a nation of happier, healthier kids. NWF’s state affiliate is NJ Audubon. For more information: www.nwf.org.
About NJ Audubon: New Jersey Audubon is a privately supported, not-for profit, statewide membership organization that fosters environmental awareness and a conservation ethic among New Jersey’s citizens; protects New Jersey’s birds, mammals, other animals, and plants, especially endangered and threatened species; and promotes preservation of New Jersey’s valuable natural habitats. For more information: www.njaudubon.org.
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