Last year we featured Sleepy Hollow Middle School in Sleepy Hollow, New York as our October case study. We highlighted the school’s efforts to go green on a tight budget. A year later, we checked back in to find out how the school’s environmental action club is working to educate the entire student body and the rest of the community about the importance of environmental sustainability.
Greening a School
Several years ago when Mike Garguilo and Angel Linteau started an environmental action club at Sleepy Hollow Middle School, they wanted to make sure that the entire student body knew what the club was up to. They ultimately wanted to give all students—not just club members—an opportunity to contribute to improving the school’s environmental performance. In light of this, every year the school holds a week devoted to environmental education and awareness. Each day during this “Green Spirit Week,” students dress according to different environmental themes. This past year, one of the days had a wildlife theme and students were encouraged to dress up like their favorite endangered species. Another day was a dark day during which teachers were encouraged to turn down the lights. Students won awards printed on recycled paper for their creative costumes and participation in the week’s activities.
Students at Sleepy Hollow have also embraced a green pledge. One day this past spring, all students went outside and recited the pledge in front of a banner. The pledge is posted in the hallways at Sleepy Hollow for all of the students to see, and efforts are underway to incorporate the pledge into the school’s code of conduct.
Greening a Community
Sleepy Hollow Middle School is also working throughout the community to raise awareness about the importance of sustainability. At the district level, there is a green committee made up of administrators and teachers. Sleepy Hollow’s environmental action club is an arm of that committee. Earlier this school year, members of the environmental action club wrote and performed a play to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the Hudson River Valley. Students performed the play in front of first and second graders during the Green Spirit Week activities. The Hudson Riverkeeper Organization supported the play, which intertwined concepts of bullying and fairness with sense of place and environmental protection. Teachers later expanded the lessons from the play in the classroom, connecting how pollution in the watershed impacts ocean systems.<
For its efforts, Sleepy Hollow Middle School and the environmental action club have won a number of awards. This year they received the Edith G. Read Environmental Club of the Year Award, which is named after a lifelong resident Edith G. Read, and is intended to honor outstanding students from Westchester who exhibit her stewardship and passion for the environment. The school also received a certificate of recognition from the City Council President of the City of Yonkers, New York, and received a New York State Assembly Citation Honor.
The environmental club is hoping to expand even further beyond the borders of the school to help change the community for a “greener” future. According to Mr. Garguilo,“ We have our sights set on plastic bags this year. Reducing the amount of plastic used in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown is the next goal for the Environmental Action Club.”
Click here to learn more about Sleepy Hollow Middle School's projects.
Sleepy Hollow Middle School has received bronze and silver awards through the Eco-Schools USA program. This year they hope to become a green flag school.
When Chatham County, Georgia dedicated Savannah Country Day School as its first green elementary school in October 2008, it represented a huge success in a student-driven effort to go green.
The school, which is pursuing LEED certification, has many innovative features. One of the most exciting is a 2000-gallon cistern that collects 50 percent of the rainwater from the roof of the main building. Water from the underground cistern, accessed with a bucket or hose, is put to use in a number of ways.
Students use the water to fill the stack pond, which is home to fish and several turtles. They also use it to clean out cages in the animal care facility and to water the school’s organic garden. A “brown thumb garden,” which features cactuses and other plantings with minimal water needs, provides a real-life lesson in water conservation.
Students learn even more about water conservation as they calculate how many gallons of water are in the cistern at different times throughout the year. Putting their math skills to work, they measure the height and width of the cistern and then use a 20-foot-long yardstick to determine the water level. A yellow paste on the yardstick turns red when it comes into contact with water, making it easy for students to read the depth.
Science teacher Bill Eswine values the role of the school as a teaching tool. Along with the standard academic lessons, he hopes that students will take a deeper understanding of conservation and the environment with them as they graduate. When the school first considered construction of a new lower school, students rallied around the idea of building a green school that would qualify for LEED certification. The idea came after students toured the first LEED-certified shopping center in the area, which was built by a previous student. Appealing to parents and the school board, the students succeeded in influencing the design for the new lower school – and today’s students are now benefiting from those efforts.
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