Green School Makeover Finalist Proposals

When we announced our Green School Makeover competition earlier this year, we received inspiring proposals from more than 200 schools across the country, each describing green projects to improve their schools. Below, summaries of the proposed green projects from the 10 finalists we selected.


School: Garlough Environmental Magnet School

Location: West St. Paul, MN

Proposed green project: The three components to our Green Makeover proposal are all child-centered and part of the learning curriculum. The yurt exemplifies an option in environmentally responsible shelter, and allows us the opportunity to launch a very tangible vehicle for teaching about cultural diversity. According to Pacific Yurts, we would be the first elementary school in the nation to use a yurt as a classroom. The project, including the weatherproofing package for Minnesota weather, a platform, ventilation and heating was bid by Pacific Yurts at approximately $40,000. We are working with a bicycle builder in the metro area who is eager to have students help engineer and build our mega-bicycle. Can you imagine the depth of learning and pride afforded to students in such a creation? We would build it on–site with students participating in the entire process. Upon completion, routes would be designated for students to ride the bike to school on an alternating schedule, with a staff member driving the vehicle. Our gym teacher is working on a different proposal to make Charlton Avenue (our street) a partial greenway. The cost of this project is estimated at $20,000. We have confirmed with city officials the feasibility of the yurt and bicycle proposals and they are enthused about the possibility of such innovative learning showcases in our city. Finally, we will add a chicken coop to the side of our building near the storage barn and organic vegetable gardens. Students would be responsible for caring for chickens, as well as studying their life cycle, and the structure and behavior of birds. Eggs would be collected and consumed by our students and staff. The economic and environmental benefits of local production and consumption of food would be emphasized. 

Pitch: “Garlough Environmental Magnet School strives to be the greenest school on the planet.”


School: New York French American Charter School

Location: New York, NY

Propose green project: NYFACS proposes to convert the perimeter of its playground and the roof of the school into an urban educational garden. On September 12th, 2011, a group of NYFACS 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders, who had drawn up designs for the schools garden and started its first seedlings during our summer school program, worked with volunteers to initiate this process. They built two compost bins and raised beds, and oriented their 225 piers to the new garden by running workshops that taught them the importance of cycles, strong foundations, and relationships in the growth and development of any plant, person, structure, community, or idea. They then explained composting, and gave each students and teacher a personalized red cup, in which they have all been actively collecting green waste during breakfast and lunch for our composting system. This way, we are reducing the school’s overall waste generation, while training our young students how to be environmentally conscious citizens who actively recycle and reuse their resources. We now plant to expand our garden throughout the playgrounds entire perimeter, and develop curriculum that directly engages our students in the growth and maintenance of the garden. Once we expand to our rooftop, we plan to build rain catchment systems that collect water for the garden. This will protect the roof from leakages, and enable us to reduce our runoff levels. We will also expand our garden to the roof, which will enable us to supplement our students breakfast and lunches with our produce, thereby reducing our carbon footprint and improving the quality of our students diet. Finally, once we reach peak production (ideally by Fall 2012/Spring 2013), we plan to sell 50% of our produce to local restaurant to generate a sustainable source of revenue of the school, and give our students opportunities to learn basic business and management skills. Ultimately, we plan to open our facility as a training center so that we can teach our neighbors how to develop environmentally, structurally, economically, and socially sustainable projects, from the ground-up.

Pitch: “Due to its emphasis on French, NYFACS is made up of a largely international community. Therefore, by exposing these students and their families to a green school, and providing them opportunities to work with, and learn from various natural process, we will effectively harvest young, international ambassadors of responsible, environmental stewardship.”


School: Prosser Career Academy (CPS)

Location: Chicago, IL

Proposed green project: We have a beautiful but defunct and derelict court yard, and also a huge full sun series of soccer fields surrounding our building. The Culinary Arts teacher and myself, the science chair and ecology club sponsor, want to collaborate on a kitchen/teaching garden of LARGE proportions, so that we may finally utilize the lessons of composting and sustainable LOCAL agriculture for our students in a real and tangible way. Our students are so hungry to get their hands in the dirt it's tragic. Many of their family histories are tied to agriculture in the recent past, and they see and understand the urgent need for healthier locally grown diets. They know about food deserts and their families are the ones hurt by them. We very much want to bring hope and educational authenticity to our lessons.

Pitch: “Our top three 'green challenges' can be summarized as O.B.S. -- Old Building Syndrome, Unrealized Potential, and Bureaucratic Cynicism.”


School: Samuel Powel Elementary School

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Proposed green project: Our schoolyard will educate the next generation on ecological harmony. Redirecting storm water into rain gardens filled with lush native plant material will provide opportunities for learning mathematics, life-cycles, habitat, climate, biology, hydrology, principals of physics and ecology. Providing students with opportunity to grow fresh food themselves will teach the kids about agriculture, nutrition, sociology and more ecology. Our schoolyard will teach Green to a population of kids that otherwise may not have access. Powel will become a model green school for other public schools in the City. Samuel Powel School absolutely intends to use the schoolyard for teaching. In fact, we are already working towards this goal. We were awarded a grant through the Community Design Collaborative for design services and are working with a team of Landscape Architects, Architects, Civil Engineer and Cost Estimators to complete a preliminary design for our schoolyard. The design process has included teachers, administrators, community members and students working together to provide their vision for a healthy green space. If selected for a Green Makeover project, we will be able to complete the first and most important phase of our plan. Phase I has a primary focus on storm water management, including: an extensive green roof on our library, artistic rain scuppers and rain leaders on our main building leading to rain barrels. We will re-grade the paved surfaces to direct water to rain gardens and cisterns to capture storm water on-site use. By implementing these solutions for storm water management, we will reposition the garden as a focal point and to provide more plant material. Fortunately, this greening plan compliments with many of the cities initiatives: Green2015, Green City Clean Waters, Green Schoolyard Initiative and the Mayors goal to make Philadelphia the Next Great Green City! The motivation behind the plans for our schoolyard is to bring the classroom outside and educate our students about the ecological environment. We have been supported by strong involvement from the teachers and administrators from inception and know the school yard will provide an active learning environment for students to understand the water cycle, life cycle and nutrition. What’s more, it will teach kid how to live Green in an urban environment!

Pitch: “Being ‘Green’ means a lot more than planting green. Our schoolyard will educate the next generation on ecological harmony.”


School: Scattergood Friends School 

Location: West Branch, IA

Proposed green project: Our proposal includes: building a modest food preservation facility at our school farm to supply our kitchen with home-grown produce year-round, installing high-efficiency and composting toilets at the school and farm to conserve water and reduce pressure on our failing septic system, creating a grey water treatment system behind our school’s main building. Integrating the “green school makeover” into teaching at our school could occur in four phases over a few years. First, our students will help prepare the school for the makeover during their regular academic courses. For instance, students would research composting toilet models, help our farm manager design the food preservation facility, investigate grey water treatment systems, make proposals to the school community, and collect data and take measurements for the projects. Our school’s "May Term" would allow students and staff to begin implementation of the makeover campaign during the final month of school. During this time, students undertake interdisciplinary experiential learning—and could actually help with construction and installation. Students will develop hands-on skills that they can use throughout their lives. Following the project’s completion, students’ "green" education will continue. For example, they’ll preserve more vegetables for our school kitchen in Food Preservation class using the new facility. Science students can monitor water quality and study the science behind the grey water treatment. Writing seminar students would submit articles to local media showcasing the project. On daily crews, all students and staff will help maintain the renovations. Lastly, students will perform “green makeover” outreach to campus visitors and special programs, reinforcing their expertise by teaching others. The project will foster environmental awareness in our school and community for many years!

Pitch: “Undertaking this project as a school community will nurture students’ desire for a relevant education that makes a difference in the world, and is consistent with our 1890 founding principles of integrity and simplicity.” 


School: South Berwyn School District (Heritage Middle School)

Location: Berwyn, IL

Proposed green project: Creating a school culture that values sustainability and making choices that have a positive effect on the environment is a long-term process. Everyone in the school must be involved, not just a few teachers and students. Our proposal, to purchase an industrial high-temperature dishwasher so that we can reuse flatware and trays instead of creating non-recyclable trash, includes the whole school community in environmental activism. The students and teachers will see that we are setting ourselves apart from our larger culture of throw-away convenience. Custodians will have less trash to haul. Administrators, board members and taxpayers will appreciate the cost savings. The impact of this change will go far beyond just the immediate classroom. To provide the best education for our diverse population of 600 students, 48% of whom are low-income, we have found that we need to serve both breakfast and lunch. Lunches are served on Styrofoam trays with plastic cutlery; each breakfast comes with a napkin, straw and spork in a plastic package. The food service administrators spend $9,843 a year on plastic flatware and trays. The cost to haul the trash from the cafeteria alone is approximately $3,000. An industrial dishwasher would allow us to use reusable baskets and conventional flatware at breakfast and lunch instead of plastic. Along with the dishwasher, we would buy the flatware, reusable plastic baskets, and storage bins for the flatware. As the kitchen would have to be reconfigured to fit the dishwasher, we would also have to purchase a new sink. Efforts to change the materials that are used for breakfast and lunch have been rejected due to the high initial investment costs, which will be approximately &10,000. Therefore, it’s essential that we find funding for this project from outside sources.

Pitch: “Our school’s biggest challenge is that most students and staff blindly follow habits formed in a larger throw-away culture of convenience. To change these habits, the school culture needs to change.” 


School: Texas School for the Deaf

Location: Austin, TX

Proposed green project: We must start with a few basic, achievable measures that require minimal strain on already stretched budgets and resources. Rain barrels for grounds watering. Tap water filtration systems instead of bottled water. Hands-free faucets to replace existing faucets in restrooms. Hand dryers to replace towel dispensers in restrooms. More recycling containers across campus. Earth Day celebration to recognize our progress with a poster contest to involve students and collaborate for more creative ways for TSD to Go Green.

Pitch: “Our wish list for a greener campus is quite extensive. However, we must start with a few basic, achievable measures that require minimal strain on already stretched budgets and resources.”


School: The Academy for Global Citizenship

Location: Chicago, IL

Proposed green project: Our proposal is to build a Solar Learning Lab and Shade Structure. Energy efficiency and energy generation are key elements to our goal of operating an environmentally sustainable school. Generating clean energy positively affects our environment, our immediate community and our education. We can use energy generation as an opportunity to teach basic math and science as well as advanced photovoltaics; lessons for all of our students and opportunities for green-jobs training for our families. Specifically, this makeover will be constructing an outdoor gazebo-style facility and installing thin-film solar panels onto its roof. The Lab will include a tracker that will enable students to track energy production and analyze the data. Like most things in nature, this solar learning lab will produce results greater than its main function. At our new facility, we have ample outdoor space. While this is a great asset for our environmental and physical activity education, it becomes a challenge to educate outdoors on hot and sunny days. With no shade space, we have to limit our outdoor activities and exposure to nature. By constructing a Solar Learning Lab, we will be able to install solar power and create a shade space to increase our students’ ability to spend time outdoors. The panels and lab will be used in education; this is a core element to our academic approach. Our students will learn how solar and other renewable energy sources work, how to position the panels and how to track data. They will learn about electricity and efficiency and will learn what they can do outside of school to make a positive difference. We will also use the process as a green jobs training opportunity for individuals who are looking for work- this is a great opportunity to help rebuild the workforce and great jobs.

Pitch: “As a young school, we have a limited sphere of direct influence. However, we have access to so many families and community members. We would like to find ways to draw in the community and spread environmental practices throughout our families and community.”


School: West Miami Middle School

Location: Miami, FL

Proposed green project: The Green Makeover project entails the following: 1. The chiller plant will be connected to the District’s Energy Management System by placing the HVAC systems on automatic mode. This will reduce the hours of operation of the A/C by 72 hours on weekdays and 48 hours on weekends.  2. The installation of occupancy sensors in all classrooms so that lights will be activated only as needed will cause an estimated 43% energy savings in electrical consumption for lighting classrooms.  3. The boilers will be replaced by a tankless, water heater that will provide spot-on demand heating for the 7 sinks in the cafeteria. The project will be used in teaching as an interdisciplinary topic in Mathematics and Science classes. Students will be able to: • Use FPL reports to answer document based questions regarding the energy consumption in various areas of the building. • Develop higher order thinking skills by doing a comparative analysis of the monthly/yearly rates of energy consumption before and after the project. • Graph the data and make projections as to energy consumption over the school year. • Estimate the District's rebate funds based on the monthly energy reductions. • Create a line-item budget for the projected rebate to fund future “Green” initiatives. • Calculate the reduction of our carbon foot print based on energy reductions due to the project. Research has indicated that students who are involved in environmental action tend to perform well on standardized tests and excel in school. Currently, our 98% Hispanic population (88% on free/reduced lunch) are underachieving in the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in Mathematic, Reading, and Science. Hence, the ultimate goal is that “Green” initiative will assist in enhancing student achievement by increasing student proficiency rates on the standardized tests.

Pitch: “Renovations and upgrades to electrical and A/C systems in the original buildings of our school have been minimal and our school’s energy consumption far exceeds the District’s recommended levels.”


School: Zimmerman School House, Inc. d/b/a Abi's Place

Location: Coral Springs, FL

Proposed green project: Due to limited space, limited access to a safe outdoor play area, poor lighting, inappropriate flooring, and other related issues, we are looking to move into a new space that we would like to furnish with eco-friendly flooring options, eco-friendly wall paint, cleaning supplies, and a safe outdoor area. The plan is to move into this space summer 2012. The following items would help our children maintain physical well-being by providing a safe learning environment. 1. Thorough, eco-friendly cleaning of our new space. This would also include a mold/mildew inspection and and preparation the school would require for it to be safe for our students. 2. Eco-friendly flooring option since children spend extended periods of time playing on the floor, working with physical and occupational therapists on the floor, and learning to navigate their environments safely by sitting and crawling on the floor. 3. Eco-friendly wall paint. We want to avoid any potentially-harmful chemicals that can be in wall paint by choosing a green option. 4. An outside play area that is safe for our children. Due to the different types of medications our children are currently prescribed, the students of Abi's Place are only allowed to spend limited quantities of time in the sun. We would love to have a covered, eco-friendly outdoor play area, with recycled materials used for ground covering, green toys, an area to practice walking and bike-riding, and perhaps a handicapped-accessible swing. The aforementioned areas definitely cover the main concerns within our school. 

Pitch: "These alterations will allow us to fulfill our mission's commitment to provide children with disabilities with a safe, stimulating learning environment."