Local Schools Lead Sustainability Efforts On Multiple Fronts
By Donald Gilpin
The Green movement is gaining momentum locally and throughout the country, and Princeton schools are taking leadership roles in showing the way towards sustainability.
Princeton Montessori School announced last week that its campus is now powered primarily by solar energy; Johnson Park and Littlebrook Elementary Schools have earned Sustainable Jersey for Schools Certification; and Katherine Monroe, a senior at Princeton High School (PHS), has been selected as one of only two students in the state as a student delegate to the World Food Prize’s 2022 Global Youth Institute.
Princeton Montessori on Cherry Valley Road has recently completed a year-long process, including research, procurement, and installation, and is now deriving 90 percent of its energy from the sun.
Leading the school’s solar energy project, as well as the Farm-to-School program, the school’s vegetable garden and composting, Princeton Montessori Sustainability Coordinator and ecology teacher Gery Juleff emphasized the teamwork involved in bringing the project to fruition.
“The key to finalizing this project was a partnership between my colleagues at the school and on the Board, including Head of School Michelle Morrison and Trustee Peter Egbert, along with our local partners the Circadia Group, Plankton Energy, and Green Power Energy,” he said.
He added, “Our installation of the solar panels will enable the school to make its contribution to the fight against climate change, inspire students, and save on energy costs.”
Morrison emphasized that this project connects with the Montessori philosophy with its core values of humanity’s relationship with nature and the need to help children learn to be a positive force of change in the world. “We are so proud to be modeling these values with our transition to solar energy, and we are excited to do our part to contribute to a better world,” she said.
She went on to point out that in science class middle school students will be learning about solar energy and its positive impact on the environment, while math students will examine consumption
and production data to determine financial incentives for going solar. They will also study the optimal angle for panel installation, directional placement, and latitude, investigating how geometry can be used to maximize energy absorption and utility.
The Princeton Montessori array of panels offsets more than 3,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions (equivalent to the use of 346,824 gallons of gasoline) over the 20-year agreement of the program, and it is projected to save the school more than $720,000 in electricity during that time, according to a Princeton Montessori press release.
To learn more about the Princeton Montessori solar project, contact Gery Juleff, who “would be delighted to help inspire other local organizations in their quest for sustainability,” at email@example.com.
Johnson Park and Littlebrook Certification
With assistance from Sustainable Princeton, all of the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) were recognized for tracking energy and water use, developing a school carbon footprint, and exploring workplace charging, among other initiatives.
At Johnson Park and Littlebrook the Green Teams went on to achieve certification through their work in managing food waste and communicating with the school community. Littlebrook also reported on its school gardens and pedestrian and bicycle safety initiatives.
Riverside and Community Park Elementary Schools and PHS have previously earned Sustainable Jersey for Schools Certification.
Highlighting the importance of sustainability to the district, PPS Business Administrator Matt Bouldin said, “All of this effort certainly deserves recognition. I am eager to see what’s next from these Green Teams, and I invite all of the Princeton schools to join us in the certification process.”
Sustainable Jersey for Schools developed the voluntary certification program in 2014 for pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade public school students.
“Sustainabilty in schools is about understanding the interconnectedness of natural systems and the human role and impact of those systems,” said Littlebrook Enrichment Teacher Martha Friend. “At Littlebrook, it takes commitment by students, staff, and families to identify objectives for positive change and implement our action items together. Our Garden Educator, amazing parent volunteers and advocates, committed staff and students are all vitally important to our school’s sustainability efforts.”
More than 1,000 schools are participating in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program, with 352 having so far achieved certification.
Monroe, a third-year student in the Research Methods Program at PHS, will present her research to a roundtable of agriculture experts, scientists, and 300 students from around the world at the Global Youth Institute to be held virtually, October 16-21. Building on work of previous PHS research students, she was selected after submitting her paper researching the potential of black soldier fly waste products for improving soil and plant health.
Among the research questions on Monroe’s agenda are whether fly excrement can be a beneficial fertilizer for plant growth; whether chitin from the fly’s exoskeleton might improve disease resistance in plants; and whether cucumbers can be inoculated against powdery mildew. The cucumbers are one of many different plants in the terraced garden created since March 2022 by PHS science teacher and research program director Mark Eastburn and his students.
Monroe, according to a PPS press release, loves biology and is intrigued by plant science, plant genetics, and gene expression. She hopes to study environmental science and sustainable agriculture in college, as well as public policy.