Sustain DCSD Earth Week Celebration
Day 5: Earth Day!
2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School!
Heritage Elementary is a model of comprehensive school sustainability. As a result of its green culture, the school received its Eco-Schools USA Green Flag in 2014 and was named by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as one of America’s Top 10 Eco-Schools in 2015. Announced today, Heritage is a recipient of the highest green honor by the U.S. Department of Education for its work in reducing environmental impact, improving health and wellness, and effective environmental education.
Pillar I: Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs
Heritage’s Energy Team, in collaboration with Operations and Maintenance, has worked to green up the school’s impact on the environment. On-site solar panels also provide about 27% of the building’s energy, and the school has reduced its energy consumption by 14% over three years. The automated irrigation system and use of native plants and hugulkultur gardening ensures efficiency of water use on school grounds, reducing domestic water usage by 8% and irrigation by 35%. Students and teachers work diligently to implement waste diversion strategies, including recycling, composting, and using food waste to feed the chickens, resulting in a 57% diversion rate. About 37% of students participate in Walk or Wheel Wednesdays and no idle zones are posted and enforced in the car loop.
Pillar II: Improved Health and Wellness
Heritage is actively engaged in the DCSD Healthy Schools Program. Utilizing the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model, Heritage has both a Coordinated School Health Team as well as a Student Led Health Team. They have worked to increase physical activity before, during, and after the school day, utilize brain boosters throughout the day, increase awareness for mental and physical health, and address bullying.
For six years, Heritage has had a thriving school garden that promotes health and wellness through growing fresh produce for students to taste and experiment. A chicken coop provides eggs that are sold to the school community. The NWF Certified Native Habitat provides an outdoor classroom for science, writing, art, and environmental studies. Outdoor education and a robust health curriculum ensures students are physically active and engaged in the outdoors.
Pillar III: Effective Environmental and Sustainability EducationSustainability education is integral to the fabric of Heritage. Teachers across disciplines utilize the school gardens and outdoor classrooms for inquiry, inspiration, and experimentation. Art students use the garden for inspiration for still life drawing. Third graders set up an experiment to see if the Native American form of gardening enhanced corn growth. All students participate in our cafeteria recycling program and see first-hand the cycle of sustainability through composting and gardening. Students learn first-hand the impact they can have in producing their own food. Sixth graders learn about energy conservation in collaboration with Xcel Energy’s “Think Energy” take home kits. Heritage’s sustainability champions also support other schools and districts by sharing resources, examples, and mentoring, serving to build the green school community in Colorado and beyond.
Congratulations to the Heritage Elementary community!