Green School

St. John Catholic School: Green School Initiatives

St. John School received the 2013 Kansas Green School of the Year award for the school-wide efforts to integrate environmental education across the curriculum. Through a partnership with the Kansas Green Schools Network, St. John School is a registered Kansas Green School with a Silver Globe Designation (2013) and on track to receive a Gold Globe in 2014. The long-range goal is to become a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School.

The St. John Green School plan is to increase awareness of resource conservation by implementing energy efficiency practices school-wide and to increase nature-based learning opportunities throughout the building and grounds. Using inquiry-based education, kids assess current energy usage of the school, brainstorm solutions and monitor savings over time as we strive for greater efficiency. These efforts will engage kids in practical resource conservation and efficiency education while offering hands-on use of math and science skills.

Through a community grant, tools to measure energy usage are available for check out from the school library. Students can check out the Kill-a-watt meters to measure energy usage at home and at school and light meters and thermal laser pointers to identify over-lit and over-heated/cooled areas.

St. John School is hoping to install solar panels on the school roof. The school has applied to Westar Energy for assistance in this initiative. If the school is awarded solar panels, data from the solar panels will be used in classrooms to provide practical, hands-on math and science learning opportunities, engaging STEM, civic skills, and energy career pathways. The solar panels will reduce the carbon footprint of the school significantly which will help begin a conversation about the larger implications of energy usage. Utilizing the existing Kansas Green School Curriculum, students will continue to investigate connections between energy, air quality, habitat, waste and water using the data collected on energy savings. The students will conduct comparative studies of energy usage over time.

A lighting audit completed this year identified energy savings from high efficient LED lighting upgrades from more traditional fluorescent tube lighting. St. John is working to develop an LED lighting plan that will include LED retro fit to existing fixtures, reusing the old fixture and removing the old florescent lights and old ballast. In doing so, estimates reflect savings of approximately 60-70%. Due to the expense of a complete changeover to LED lighting, incremental change is likely.

As part of an energy audit, St. John School began investigating upgrading the classroom windows that were installed in 1956. We are in the process of designing a long-range plan which would replace windows with up to date efficient ones.

On a different level, the students continue to explore energy issues within the daily curriculum. Classes are gearing up to complete the full-school energy investigation. Students in grades 3-8 will participate in Westar Powerpedia energy efficiency classroom presentations in the spring of 2014. Partnering with community experts, students have learned about renewable energy programs in Lawrence, including the Bowersock Hydroelectric power plant and the KU Biofuels project.

Alongside energy education, students have completed the Kansas Green Schools Water investigation where they learned about the local watershed, explored water use in the school and connected water issues with faith and justice during the 30 hour famine. Middle school students created school wide Air Quality surveys and recent additions of C02 meters and indoor air quality meters are expanding opportunities. Older grades completed a Waste Audit which resulted in waste reduction recommendations for every classroom, most of which were adopted. The school composting program has been going strong for three years with recent installation of compost bins on site, and vermicomposters in classrooms. The younger grades focus on Learning Community Investigations, exploring the local habitat, mapping school grounds, counting and classifying birds, insects, and wildlife.

The Environmental section in the library is impressive and very popular. The yearly Science Fair awards “Green Ribbons” for science projects with environmental themes, our student-created green school logo is emblazoned on very popular neon green t-shirts, and annual middle school play focuses on environmental issues.

St. John’s success in becoming a Green School is due to amazing parent support. Under the leadership of Ms. Rachel Myslivy, a Green Team was formed of interested parents and teachers. This team is instrumental in moving the Green School concept forward. The school embraces a culture of environmental literacy, students are excited, and teachers are engaged in new and creative ways of teaching.

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