Alder wins international award for environmental education and real-world impact (VIDEO)

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Laura Stetser/Alder Avenue Middle School’s new Green Flag is displayed proudly by the students and staff. Laura Stetser/Alder Avenue Middle School’s new Green Flag is displayed proudly by the students and staff.

Alder was also selected by Eco-Schools as one of only 11 schools in the state to serve as an international ‘sister school’ to a school in Taiwan

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Alder Avenue Middle School’s ongoing environmental efforts have already earned it a few accolades.

Last year alone, it was named as one of the first batch of recipients across the country to earn the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon School designation, it was awarded the Environmental Quality Award 2013 by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and came in third place in the nationwide Disney Planet Challenge in 2012.

Now, the students and staff have earned one more award, and it’s an international one.

The National Wildlife Federation has bestowed its highest honor – the Green Flag award – to the school, recognizing the staff and student body at the school as a leader and model for environmental education and real-world change.

During the award presentation assembly held Friday, Dec. 6, Principal Joe Marinelli didn’t mince words about the recognition.

 “This is the highest environmental award given internationally,” he said. “This is a really big deal. There are only 18 other schools in the United States to receive this honor.”

The green flag is awarded on a competitive basis and is the highest award given through the organization’s Eco-Schools program.  Alder is being recognized for reducing its building’s energy use, teaching students about climate change and renewable energy, and creating composting, recycling, gardening and ecology programs.

Eco-Schools is an international program that provides a framework to help educators integrate sustainable principles throughout their schools and curriculum. It strives to model environmentally sound practices, provide support for greening the curriculum, enhance academic achievement, and foster environmental stewardship.

Three award levels – bronze, silver, and green flag – provide schools with recognition for their student-centered achievements. Alder’s recognition is the highest the organization offers.

Alder was also selected by Eco-Schools as one of only 11 schools in the state to serve as an international ‘sister school’ to a school in Taiwan. Through the program students from both countries will communicate via electronic forums and videoconferencing, share ideas and learn how the other is reducing its carbon footprint and making a positive environmental impact.

In 2008, the NWF was granted host status for the K-12 Eco-Schools program in the United States, helping it expand its commitment to promoting environmental education, connecting people with nature and raising awareness about the threat to people and wildlife from global warming.

NWF’s Eco-Schools USA program is aligned with the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools Award because Eco-Schools USA’s seven-step framework and “Pathways” program support all three of the pillars required for Green Ribbon School status.

 The student-based programs have had measurable impact on the world around them, Marinelli said. The school has reduced its fixed energy costs by 43 percent, he said, as well as reduced its carbon footprint by 1,043 metric tons, which equates the impact of planting 26,744 tree seedlings that grow for 10 years or of removing 217 passenger cars from the road for one year.

Laura Stetser/The school’s hydration station has saved 3,733 plastic water bottles from heading into landfills Laura Stetser/The school’s hydration station has saved 3,733 plastic water bottles from heading into landfills

The school’s brand new hydration station in which students can refill reusable water bottles all day has allowed the school community to save 3,733 plastic water bottles from heading into landfills, just since its installation in September, he said. The school also recently implemented a recycling and compost program in the lunchrooms that has put 3,600 pounds of food into the school’s compost pile instead of the garbage since September, and it started initiative to use biodegradable breakfast trays instead of foam ones.

On hand to congratulate the students and staff were the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools Coordinator for New Jersey Jennifer Dowd, New Jersey Audubon Society representative Sam Wilson, Assistant Superintendent Kim Gruccio, Chairman of the Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve Marc Friedman and Atlantic County Historian June Sheridan.

 Alder students Patty Miraglilio, Meghan Ayers and Rachel Roesch spoke about the school’s Catawba Club and its efforts. The club’s advisor John Jones was in the background during the assembly, but the much of the environmental recognition the school has received comes from his efforts.

Infused with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives, the Catawba Project is a student-centered, grassroots environmental education program designed to partner Egg Harbor Township public school children with township leaders, environmentalists, parents and other environmental enthusiasts to work together to help solve real-world environmental problems.

Its sustainability initiatives include the Great Egg Harboretum Smart Trail project where students are working with township leaders to transform and expand a 220-acre mining pit eyesore and arboretum into a community-friendly nature park complete with student-sculpted smart trails that would guide visitors through a five-acre parcel of indigenous shrubs and trees complete with QR codes that visitors could scan with smart phones to learn more about the flora and fauna; building the six-acre Community Teaching Garden to educate the public about nonpoint source pollution on the grounds of the Greate Egg Harbour Historical Society; and its in-house, student-run cafeteria recycling program that has saved the district money in trash removal costs.   

Sheridan said she has the pleasure of watching the residents of Egg Harbor Township use the Community Teaching Garden the students worked to create and announced that soon the Community FoodBank of New Jersey may partner with the society to help feed the recipients its services.

“What you do has a ripple effect,” she told the sixth through eighth graders. “What you’ve built is providing food for people in need. This continues to happen through the good you did. It wasn’t just the day you spend at the garden.”

 


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