As elementary, middle and high schools across the country step up efforts to ‘green’ their buildings, curriculum, and operations, one Florida school is being held up as a star player in the green schools movement.
Palm Beach County School District’s Pine Jog Elementary, in West Palm Beach, a 2012 US Department of Education National Green Ribbon School, is the state’s first-ever LEED Gold certified school, and continues to build on its successes in and outside the classroom.
“Pine Jog is a wonderful example of what can result when we focus efforts on greening our schools,” says Jim McGrath, executive director of the Green Schools National Network.
“Whether the effort focuses on curriculum that advances environmental literacy, establishing school recycling programs or offering organic foods on the cafeteria line, a growing number of schools like Pine Jog sees the ‘greening’ of the nation’s schools as the way to save money, improve student health and achievement -- and save the planet in the process,” says McGrath.
Pine Jog is the result of a partnership between the School District of Palm Beach County and Florida Atlantic University, which teamed up to place an elementary school on the edge of the college’s 150-acre natural pine habitat and build a new educational center for the university. The goal was a campus that modeled best practices in sustainability and environmental stewardship with LEED certification, and the result was the Pine Jog Elementary School and FAU/Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in West Palm Beach.
McGrath points out that while many schools are only now turning their attention to green practices, Pine Jog is a little further down the road than most.
The FAU College of Education has operated the Pine Jog Environmental Education Center on the site for over 50 years, providing opportunities for more than 25,000 students, 750 teachers and 12,500 adults annually to learn more about the natural environment and to foster an awareness and appreciation for nature, ecological concepts and stewardship toward the earth.
The university had developed a strong relationship with the school district over the years, and when the district approached the university about building an elementary school on the property in 2006, the two entities reached a mutually satisfactory agreement. The university leased the district the land, and the district built the environmental center a new 15,000-sq-ft facility.
Since its opening in 2008, Pine Jog has been committed to becoming a world leader in developing a culture of sustainability for future generations.
Among its achievements:
The school has won numerous awards for design, construction, and operations, and has been featured in national magazines, such as Time for Kids, Parents Magazine and Newsweek.
Pine Jog students won the Florida Wildlife Federation’s Young Conservationists of the Year for their work with environmental issues
Students make use of energy and water consumption information available on touch screens in various locations throughout the school.
The school is one of Florida’s most energy-efficient schools; Pine Jog has reduced energy use by 25 percent annually, which is enough to pay for one teacher’s salary each year.
Approximately 135 acres of this campus, which is shared with Florida Atlantic University, are natural woodlands, featuring multiple outdoor learning labs and three miles of trails.
An estimated 93 percent of this LEED Gold facility is built on 10 acres of land.
As part of the United Nation’s Billion Trees Campaign, Pine Jog students planted 1700 trees in 2011.
The school’s Reuse Center allows the community to drop off clothing, books, and classroom supplies that they don’t need or to find treasures to reuse.
The school principal drives a used, vegetable-oil fueled car and a solar powered golf cart.
All teachers are certified in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Federation's Project Wild Curriculum, and study Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods.
Each grade level has a unique long-term environmental project called Legacy Projects.
The staff is committed to the green school movement and routinely presents best practices at local, state and national conferences.
This 2012 National Green Ribbon School’s commitment is to focus on children as agents of change who communicate green messages to their families and community, and eventually reach people all across the globe.