Every September, our students participate in Green Apple Day, an educational initiative in which young people work together on projects to make their schools cleaner and greener. Our students spent the day meeting animals and learning how they survive in the wild, planting bushes to provide habitat for pollinators, and being introduced to “green” practices such as water and energy conservation and recycling.
Green Apple Day is the brainchild of the U.S. Green Building Council, which created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for buildings. The Council strives to find ways to make more learning spaces into safe, healthy environments for teachers and students. There’s much to be done in this area, as many schools don’t offer safe drinking water or clean indoor air or comfortable interior temperatures and lighting. In the belief that all students deserve to attend schools that protect their health and well-being, the Council launched Green Apple Dayto give students and teachers an opportunity to raise awareness in their community about the benefits of clean, “green” schools.
When The Children’s School set out to construct a new building and renovate its grounds in 2005, it did so with the mission of designing a learning milieu that would be healthy, eco-friendly and sustainable, onethat would benefit children for generations to come.At the time, very few schools in Connecticut had sought LEED certification from the Green Building Council. Yet that did not deter TCS from setting its sight on a goal that would be such a perfect expression of its mission.
The design of the building and the campus—and the construction process itself—was planned to showcase the School’s commitment to the well-being of its students and staff. In 2008, not long after the last ladder was taken down and the construction waste was diverted away from landfills, the council awarded the School LEED Certification for conserving natural resources, utilizing renewable energy and relying on recyclable materials.
Today, as the children walk through the classrooms and play outside, they see placards that describe the sustainability principles that guided the design and construction of their school. These signs are not only powerful educational tools, but also heighten their awareness of the need to tread lightly on the Earth, an awareness that gradually becomes a set of eco-friendly habits that the teachers, and the building itself, encourage every day.
Curious about the LEED design features built into TCS? Here’s a quick tour of our low-impact campus.
- By reusing an existing building site nestled into a wooded area, the Schoolavoided developing prime farmland, flood plains, endangered species habitats and wetlands.At least 50% of the site was kept and restored during construction.
- The building’s orientation takes advantage of a southern exposure to bring natural sunlight into the classrooms and other spaces, reducing the need for artificial lighting. During the day, the natural course of sunlight can be followed in the classrooms, beginning with the younger children in the east wing in the morning and moving to the older students in the west wing through the afternoon.
- The clerestory windows not only bring light to a child’s everyday experience but also offer views of the landscape outside. The design connects students and staff to the natural world by providing a direct line of sight to the outdoors in 99% of the interior spaces.
- By planting either climate-adapted or native vegetation, the School eliminated the need for constant irrigation and plant care. It also reduced the use of fertilizers and energy spent on landscaping.
- Water conservation is achieved through faucets that use less water and shut off automatically.
- Healthy and safe indoor air quality was achieved by using special adhesives, paints, coatings and carpets that reduce the emission of toxic compounds.
- Enviroglas (made entirely of recycled glass) and bamboo flooring reduce the ecosystem and habitat destruction associated with other construction materials.
- An accessible area for collecting, sorting and storing recyclable materials enables the School to minimize the amount of waste it generates.
- The School’s encouragement of carpooling and bicycling reduces air pollution and the use of fossil fuels.
All these elements work together to make our classrooms into a beautiful space in which to learn. Since the completion of our building a decade ago, we have been heartened to see that LEED principles are being used much more often in designs for schools and workplaces. For the School, Green Apple Day represents our commitment to ideals and practices that we hope will lead to a cleaner environment for all children, now and in the future.