Lipscomb Academy Elementary School was recently recognized nationally for its environmental sustainability program. Lipscomb Academy Elementary School was named a 2013 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, announced U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chair of White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley, and Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Bob Persiacepe.
Lipscomb Academy’s elementary school was one of 64 schools (and one of only 10 private schools) recognized nationwide and one of only two in Tennessee. Schools receiving this designation were “honored for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs; improve the health and wellness of students and staff; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education, which incorporates STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), civic skills and green career pathways.”
Lipscomb was nominated for consideration by the Tennessee Department of Education.
“Lipscomb Academy Elementary School is honored to receive national recognition for our efforts in environmental sustainability,” said Jonathan Sheahen, elementary school principal. “Our students have worked together to make a difference in our school and community through awareness campaigns, schoolwide recycling, school gardens and much more. Margaret Meade once said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.’ Our school has embraced this motto and as a result made an impact on the world around us.”
Duncan said the schools selected are models for others to emulate.
“This year’s honorees are modeling a comprehensive approach to being green,” said Duncan. “They are demonstrating ways schools can simultaneously cut costs; improve health, performance and equity; and provide an education geared toward the jobs of the future. In fact, the selected districts are saving millions of dollars as a result of their greening efforts. And the great thing is that the resources these honorees are using are available for free to all schools."
Lipscomb Academy Elementary School has received much recognition for its integration of environmental sustainability into its curriculum and culture.
“We are excited that this honor validates what we do - taking students at the youngest age and helping them learn how to be stewards of God's earth by integrating environmental sustainability in how we live here at school. We are instilling in the children a lifelong appreciation of God's creation and the way we interact together in a positive way to make a difference,” said Ginger Reasonover, science coordinator for the elementary school.
Located in suburban Nashville, the Lipscomb Academy Elementary School campus features an outdoor classroom equipped with a sundial, a fishpond, a math patio, a butterfly garden, and a covered pavilion. All grade levels use the outdoor classroom for hands-on environmental learning. Each grade level maintains a garden, including a pizza garden, a healing garden, a flower garden, a “five senses” garden, a gourd garden and a square-foot garden.
Students also maintain a National Wildlife Foundation-certified Monarch butterfly way station, which provides a habitat for Monarch butterflies as they migrate through Tennessee.
“While developing the project, students learned about the butterfly cycle, the web of life, land and water conservation and the value of recycling. Students raise hundreds of Monarch butterflies in classrooms,” said Becky Collins, Lipscomb Academy kindergarten teacher and elementary school “Green Team” member. “They tag the butterflies and release them each fall for migration to Mexico. Kindergarten students compare their Monarch butterflies with those taken to the International Space Station on Space Shuttle Atlantis. Six of the school’s butterflies have been recovered in the Mexican overwintering sites.”
The school’s science curriculum features a number of creative science projects linked to sustainability. In addition, the elementary school’s after-school Green Team participates in the NEED project, in which students study 10 sources of energy using books, simulations and hands-on projects.
The only private school to earn Tennessee’s Green School Recognition flag, Lipscomb Academy Elementary School is a three-star partner in the Tennessee Green Star Partnership, a state recognition program for businesses and organizations that demonstrate a commitment to sustainable facilities practices. For Lipscomb Academy Elementary School, this commitment included implementing a number of energy and water efficient improvements to the school’s 1960s-era building. The school replaced an old boiler with a new HVAC system. It undertook an energy audit, conducted by a representative from the University of Memphis. It recently installed a new roof, which meets LEED new construction standards. It cools one classroom with a renewable geothermal unit used in a Tennessee Valley Authority pilot project. In addition, the elementary school sends newsletters and registration packets electronically, which has resulted in a 44 percent reduction of copy paper ordered in one year. The school has added touchless faucets and energy, is planning a major building renovation, and is exploring strategies to make the project energy efficient.
The elementary school has an award-winning recycling program for traditional items as well as non-traditional items such as chip bags, juice containers and candy wrappers among other items. As part of the PepsiCo Dream Machine Rally Program, third graders collect the cans, tally and chart the school’s output. In November, students recycled more than 15,000 plastic bottles and cans. The school’s program is ranked in the top 20 nationally. The school was also named Tennessee’s 2011 Recycling School of the Year.
In addition to providing a publicly available recycling receptacle in their parking lot, the school also recycles plastics, aluminum, paper, cardboard and does its own composting. Since January 2010, over 60 tons of mixed recyclables have been collected at Lipscomb and kept out of landfills. Due to its many accomplishments, the elementary school has achieved Performer Level in the Tennessee Pollution Prevention program. It was the first K-4 school in Tennessee to attain highest-level performer status.
Lipscomb Academy Elementary School is quickly becoming a model for other schools. In 2012, the school’s third-graders earned first-place honors in Tennessee as part of Disney’s Planet Challenge. Lipscomb Academy was the eighth-ranked elementary school in the nation out of 1,900 schools entering the contest nationwide. Last year the school also received the 2012 SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Environmental Excellence Award in its category along with a $10,000 grant to help fund an environmental initiative at the school in recognition of its School Children’s Recycling Action Program (SCRAP). In 2009, the school received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Green Schools - K-12.
Although the accolades are rewarding, Reasonover said that what is really important is that the elementary students are changing the world.
“Lipscomb students understand at an early age that they have the ability to make a difference in the world around them,” she said. “At Lipscomb Academy Elementary School students see environmental education in action. The children are learning to reduce waste and reuse items so that less refuse is sent to landfills. They understand ecological connections between the needs of butterflies, other creatures, plants, and people. While working in the square-foot gardens, students experience the joy of growing and consuming their own vegetables. As these environmental practices become automatic to them, they become better citizens, using thoughtful practice with appreciation for their responsibility in the natural world. When you change a child, you change the world.”