Wellington students tell feds what it means to be green at school

Wellington Middle School had a chance to explain what it means to be a Green Ribbon School when representatives of the Department of Education arrived the morning of Sept. 17 to learn about the school’s environmental and wellness accomplishments. The group also visited Lesher and Kinard middle schools in the Poudre School District.

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools is a comprehensive federal initiative for healthy, sustainable 21st century schools. Representatives of the initiative are touring selected schools in Kentucky, West Virginia, Florida, Minnesota, Maryland and Colorado. The Colorado tour includes schools in Poudre, Denver, Douglas and Boulder Valley school districts.

Wellington Middle School is a U.S. Department of Energy Wind for Schools Site has reduced its energy consumption by 25 percent compared to a 2004 baseline and has earned an Energy Star award from 2008 through 2011. Today one percent of the school’s energy comes from a school’s wind turbine, a renewable energy generation source. The Wellington tour, which began at 8 a.m., highlighted the overall picture of PSD’s energy-saving efforts.

A visit to Lesher showcased the school’s efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs, improve health and wellness and teach effective environmental education. Visitors saw composting stations, water bottle refill stations, the natural area and bike center.

At Kinard, the only school that has earned an Energy Star 100 and is the first school in the nation designed to earn Energy Star status and Energy Star labels, visitors saw the school’s geothermal HVAC system, high efficiency building envelope, low-energy operable windows, an automated energy management system and solatubes that maximize natural light to classrooms. The school’s recycling and composting center diverts more than 20,000 pounds of food waste from landfills each year.

“Being a Green Ribbon School has added a sense of pride to our school,” Wellington MS principal Alicia Durand said as she kicked off the hour-long presentation which included two informational videos and trips to see the school’s wind turbine, vegetable garden and outdoor classroom.

Poudre School District has more buildings with energy awards than all other Colorado school districts combined. The district had the first Gold LEED certified school in the nation and has realized $2 million in energy savings in the last 17 years according to a statement by former superintendent Jerry Wilson.

Wellington Middle School counselor Bill Peisner described activities such as school-wide composting, environmental centered field trips, the installation of three “hydration stations” in the school, and notes posted to remind students to turn off lights and computers when not in use.

Students Lexi Eckes and Josh Lurking talked about their experiences with energy saving when the group gathered near the school’s spinning wind turbine.

Custodian Bill Kitchen spoke as the group moved to the school’s vegetable garden. “It has been a pleasure for me to take care of watering during the summer months,” he said. Durand noted that without him, the garden would not exist.

The final stop on the tour took participants to the outdoor classroom where Durand described the conversion of a concrete playground into something more useful and appealing. Large rocks provide seating. A huge multiplication table and coordinates grid have been painted on the concrete making the area multi-purpose as well as attractive. Durand said many of her ideas came from a book she read, “From Asphalt to Learning Space.”

By 9 a.m., the group had departed on their way to tour Lesher and Kinard middle schools.

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