Students at WGHS have analyzed every facet of our educational experience seeking ways to live more sustainably. We built an Outdoor Classroom area with native plants, recycled plastic benches, and bridges on a nature trail through the woods that are also eco-friendly. Getting students outside has motivated us to reduce litter and appreciate the natural world more. We started a newspaper, bottle and can recycling program and receive over 100 pounds of bottles and cans per week. Appalled at the number of recyclables we’ve collected, we started a campaign to encourage use of reusable water bottles. Natural light infiltrates every corner of the school because the new campaign to reduce the use of any nonessential lighting has greatly reduced energy usage. Hundreds of new CFK bulbs shine in our community thanks to our “Better Bulbs” campaign which switched over 400 bulbs and started CFL recycling here. Unsatisfied at stopping at our school, we helped four other schools start outdoor classrooms and are lobbying to have Ohio designate the Spotted Salamander as its state amphibian to bring more awareness to vernal pool preservation. Our latest project is retrofitting buses with particulate filters and publicizing our new anthi-idling policy.
Our success was both measurable and attitudinal. We reached over 1,400 people with our message of the merits of switching to CFL and LED bulbs, and properly recycling them. Our “Better bulbs” events at a January basketball game and a May event were very successful.
In terms of getting people to actually change their bulbs, we distributed over 400 light bulbs. Over the lifetime of the bulbs, these will save $18,800 over the ten year life of the bulbs and 60,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually! Our bulb replacement efforts at a demonstration site (where we changed all of the bulbs in the building) will save an additional $4,888 and 15,600 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Here are the totals for the bulbs that we handed out and replaced:
•Dollars saved in energy costs over 10 years: $23,688
•Carbon dioxide emissions saved over 10 years: 75,600 pounds
We were very happy that TCP, Inc. pitched in with free light bulbs and a display demonstrating the benefits of CFLs. Home Depot agreed to accept our used bulbs for recycling, so that mercury will not go into landfills. We have only received a few used CFLs in our containers to date, but we expect to receive more in the future, as CFLs become more prevalent.
Our rain barrel (hand painted by WGHS art students) and rain-garden, made with 6,000 pounds of sand, peat and soil, are very successful in diverting runoff from storm sewers. The water is then used to water the outdoor classroom garden we built. Parents pitched in by planting flower bulbs at orientation in honor of their children.
Our bottle and can recycling brings in about 100 pounds of recyclables per week.
The bridges we designed and built on the nature trail we built gets students outside for science and other classes. The blue bird boxes we erected on our trail help keep our campus mosquito population at bay.
Our new “no idling” policy for cars at our school, enacted in august, 2009, is reducing the amount of particulates in the air. We are raising awareness among parents of the wastefulness of idling and hope they will carry this habit to other venues.
My friends and I were going to be freshmen at the high school last year and went to a township meeting where challenges to the community were discussed. We felt there was not a nice place for students to enjoy the outdoors or go outside to learn. the front of the high school had fallen into despair. So, we got to work. After we started, we learned more and more about pollution and sustainable actions we could implement. We realized that we weren’t the only ones who needed outdoor areas to enjoy. So, we contacted other schools and helped them as well.
First, we had a long session where we looked at problems we saw relating to climate change, and tried to decide what the most important solution was for our community.
We conducted a survey of 688 students at West Geauga High School. We surveyed everyone who was taking a science class. We tallied the survey. We wanted to get a sense of their background knowledge regarding climate change. We found that 68% of students did not understand the significance of the Kyoto Protocols or the United State’s role. On the positive side, 65% of the students could name at least one way in which they could reduce the effects of climate change. Interestingly, 36% of students do not agree that human impact plays a role in climate change. Of the 36%, 21% of that total thought that, maybe, human impact plays a role. We decided to educate other students about subjects relating to climate change, through announcements, posters and action. We wanted everyone in our school to learn about the environment first hand.
Gardens and Bridges:
We made many different drafts of sketches for the outdoor classroom garden and bridges. We sought donations and grants from community and national organizations. Then, we spent weekends working on making our plans a reality. We learned how to weld (to make the bridge supports) and a properly plant native species. We weed, mulch and water the area. We put together curriculum to get teachers to use our newly created Outdoor Classroom. We used 6,000 pounds of sand for the rain garden portion of our classroom. Students from Tech classes made benches out of recycled, composite wood and steel. We purchased a solar powered LED light to illuminate the flagpole.
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs:
Once we saw that we needed to motivate people to act to reduce their carbon footprint, it was an easy step to get them to start reducing their use of incandescent bulbs. Changing a light bulb is such an easy action with a big impact fro them in terms of carbon dioxide emissions and saving money. It probably helped us that the economy is not great, and lots of people here are thinking of ways to cut back while trying to maintain their lifestyle.
We wanted to overcome concerns people were having about how CFL bulbs looked and worked. We we started asking people why they weren’t using CFL bulbs, how they looked was a big factor. So, we decided that a test site would be important. We also decided that we need to include an easy-to-use recycling program so the CFLs and their mercury were not causing other problems down the road. A local church volunteered to be the open test site, so we changed all of the light bulbs there. We also held two lightbulb giveaway events, one at a community meeting and one at a basketball game.
West G is Idle Free:
Turn your engine off! We drafted a no-idling policy for cars at our school district and implemented it. We distributed information at open houses, posted signs, wrote articles for newsletters and news outlets and conducted a survey. We got bus drivers to pledge to stop idling.
We distributed information to families and bus drivers (see attached) and held after-school rallies and educational seminars. We wrote a proposal to the Ohio EPA to retrofit 21 school buses with equipment to reduce the amount of particulates they emit. We will find out in late October if we received this grant.
Bottle and Can Recycling:
We got a grant from the Geauga-Trumbull Solid Waste District for recycling containers. We installed them, then made posters and publicized how to use them. We offered incentives like raffles for reusable water bottles to those who recycled. We set up a program to collect and recycle the full bags.
Vera Pool Monitoring:
Ohio has lost 90% of its wetlands. Wetlands purify our drinking water (we use wells) and help to reduce the effects of flooding. To help combat the problem of loss of wetlands, we held a vernal pool monitoring seminar to train participants to monitor and preserve vernal pools. Our seminar brought over 60 participants together with experts in the field. It included a “field trip” to our school’s vernal pool and nature trail.
We asked our Senator to sponsor a bill to have the Spotted Salamander designated as Ohio’s state amphibian. Spotted Salamanders are wetland dwellers and indicators of a healthy vernal pool. We want the spotted Salamander to be our spokesman for wetlands reservation in Ohio. We testified for the bill. It has passed in the House and a Senate Committee. We expect it to become law by year end.
We are capturing otherwise wasted energy from footfalls of students as they move from class to class. We are creating a mat that will use electro-active polymer (DEAP) sheets to capture energy from students walking and convert it to power to light a hallway.
Outdoor Cafeteria and Garden:
To get students outdoors to appreciate nature, we created an outdoor patio and garden space. As this was just completed in August, we have not planted the garden yet. We plan to have vegetables within easy reach of the cafeteria, reducing our carbon footprint and enabling us to eat local.
We have permeated all aspects of the curriculum and student body to create a sustainable, earth-conscious community. Most of our projects have resulted in permanent, very visible improvements to our school. Our Outdoor Classroom and rain garden are right in front of the school. The trail leads right from the school into our woods. The bulletin board we installed in the science hallway makes getting environmental information an easy, every-day occurrence.
We did everything! From designing the garden, planting native perennials to writing grants proposals and testifying in the Ohio Legislature, we organized and funded all of our work. We got adults to donate labor and expertise (to do things like clearing grass so we could plant the garden). We got sports teams to volunteer as a unit. The football players carried steel I-beams and bags of cement through the woods for our bridge. The soccer players hauled composite lumber and helped with cutting. Other teams weed the gardens.
We got adult authorizations to change lightbulb and hold our distribution events. For our recycling project, we had to coordinate with district maintenance personnel to ensure that our plans would mesh with maintenance requirements.
Students designed and installed the signs for the no-idling policy we wrote. We got help from professors for MIT and Case Western Reserve University for our Powerwalk project, but are creating this invention using our ideas.
From the very beginning, the object has been to incorporate all aspects of the project permanently into the curriculum and fabric of the school so that when the present volunteers graduate, others will cary on. For example, the science hallway bulletin board we bought was given to the teachers and installed. The teachers have a primary responsibility for posting artless and information relating to current environmental issues. We created the bottle and can recycling program. We applied for a grant to jump-start participation. Student groups collect the filled bags and the custodial staff takes them to be recycled. Using this procedure, we know our new programs will have longevity. WE involved already organized groups and help whenever we can.
Part of our perfect is inventing a more sustainable method of energy generation. We have been working this past summer on using DEAO sheets to generate electricity from footfalls. If this invention is successful, we hope to take it to create a reproducible project that can be sent to third world countries to power small electrical items like flashlights to help students study at night, or laptop computer.
We are also using this project to get everyone thinking about how sustainability can become a way of life. We want to show how power can be generated from human movement and to provide its potential to supplement power in public spaces. Our test site is a hallway in our school, where our DEAP sheet will light the hall with LED bulbs. There is another potential benefit. This freestanding device will use less plastic and copper because it won’t be wire to the grid. We also hope to get people thinking about additional way sin which energy is created and wasted.
We have created activities that meet the Ohio Content Standards. So, using our curriculum and ideas helps teachers meet their requirements. In this way, there is no talk of wasted time or inefficient learning. We have come up with interesting and fun ways to complete state requirements.
We couldn't’ have accomplished anything without the support and involvement of our community. Here is a partial list of the assistance we received.
•Avalon Gardens: donation of rain garden plants, 2008.
•Arms Trucking: donation of trucks to transport supplies for rain garden, donated limestone for patio.
• Beckybones.com: grant, April 2009.
•Best Sand: donation of 6,000 pounds of sand, peat and dirt for rain garden and 7,600 pounds of rocks.
•Case Western reserve University: Dr. Loparo, Professor of Electrical Engineering, mentor.
•Chester Township, Ohio Department of Education and State Board, US REp. LaTourette, Ohio House, Ohio Senate: certificates and commendations for service.
•Danfoss, Denmark: donation of DAP film and technical expertise.
•Dominion Foundation: $7,500 for supplies, scientific equipment and plants.
•Paul and Natalie Cooper: mulch to create nature trail.
•Carter Lumber: discount on supplies, October 2008.
•Case Western Reserve University: Dr. Ken Loparo, mentoring and assistance with PVDF project.
•Chagrin River Watershed Partners: Kyle Drefyfuss-Wells, Executive Director, and Amy Holthouse, Willoughby, Ohio.
•Chesterland Kiwanis: donation of $600, May 2009.
•Gatto Electric: donation of $500 of poles for bluebird boxes, 2008.
•Geauga Concrete: donation of concrete for footers for bridge on trail, October 2008.
•Geuaga Soil and Water Conservation District: Ron Epping and Katie Naininger, Public Education Specialist. Worked together to determine trail locations, assets, $700 grant for trunk of supplies for Outdoor Classroom, February, 2009.
•Geauga Park District: Worked with gPD to create bluebird box trail and install wood duck boxes made by WGHS students. Made salamander traps for monitoring. Helped the GDP by planting 350 large trees in its new Orchard Hills Park, May 2009.
• H&M Landscaping: donation of $10,000 in labor to create rain garden and outdoor classroom.
•Anne Hill and Governor Ted Strickland: advice on legislative process.
•Kent State University: helped with trail.
•Lowe’s Educational and Charitable Foundation, 2008: $5,000 grant for materials and supplies.
•Monticello Garden Center: donation of plants and mulch.
•National Wildlife Federation: recognized WGHS as Schoolyard Habitat.
•Sunnybrook Farms Nursery: Donation of plants and collaboration on planning of butterfly attracting environment.
•Ohio Division of Wildlife: selected as WILD School site, $500 grants, June 2009.
•Ohio Environmental Council: information on current state of Ohio wetlands; planning for seminar for the general public, March 2009.
•Pirc Landscaping, Inc.: donation of materials, labor, fertilizer, and expertise for cafeteria project.
•The Cleveland Group: donation of excavating labor and equipment to dig footers for bridge, October 2008.
•Trumbull Geauga Solid Waste Disposal: grant of $500 for recycling containers.
•West Geauga Education Foundation: grant of $2,000 for innovative educational summer program science equipment.
•West Geauga Kiwanis: donation of $600 for mulch, June 2009.
•West Geauga Local Schools: Teachers and administrators have collaborated to create cross-curricular lessons that use the Outdoor Classroom area we created; donated $200 for mulch.
•Western Reserve Land Conservancy: reviewed current land conservation efforts in Northeast Ohio and environmental issues facing the region, helped with bridge design for trail.
•Wild Birds Unlimited: discount on Outdoor Classroom supplies and advice on attracting birds. WBU provided literature on birds for us to distribute to the public.
•GoGreen! WKYC Channel 3 news feature, 09/12/08.
•“WGHS to Receive Dominion Grant,” Chesterland News, p.1, 10/01/08.
•“Study of Spotted Salamander is Valuable for Adults too,” West Geauga Sun, p. A 9, 03/26/09.
•“Bluebirds and bobcats and bears - oh my!” West Geauga, p. A5, 06/11/09.
•“Earth Day Every Day,” 19acitonnews.com 06/15/09; wkyc.com 06/13/09; ohio.com 06/16/09.
•“WHGHS students help plant trees,” Geauga County Maple Leaf, p. B3, 06/12/09.