Springside Chestnut Hill Academy named a “Green Ribbon” school

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH) is among four other Pennsylvania schools to receive a Green Ribbon School award for maintaining their facilities and school curriculum with a pro-environmental focus.

SCH is among 78 other schools who have received this honor across the country. The award is granted by the U.S. Department of Education to recognize schools that save energy, reduce costs, feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces, protect health, foster wellness, and offer environmental education to boost academic achievement and community engagement.

Dr. Priscilla Sands, SCH president, says the schools rooftop solar arrays, rainwater recycling and composting system are a few of the elements that make the school “green.”

“Being a Green Ribbon School is a noteworthy affirmation of our powerful green footprints as an institution dedicated to sustainability,” said Sands.

Carie Szalay, a science teacher at SCH, says the school is committed to environmental issues. She says the school’s sustainability committee, which is comprised of teachers and parents, and the student-run eco-clubs enable the school to focus on “green” projects.

“We don’t just celebrate Earth Day here,” said Szalay, “we’ve had a dedicated environmental education program in place for over 15 years. I think it’s part of our culture – everyone is involved.”

Szalay says that because the school is adjacent to Fairmount Park, science classes have the opportunity to go for nature walks.

“As a science teacher it’s one of my favorite things to do,” said Szalay, “we study water quality in the stream, track seasonal changes, test soil and go for hikes to exercise and enjoy nature.”

She says the school is working on reducing waste in their cafeteria. In addition to a compost system, the school will soon feature a seasonal garden with vegetables like peas, lettuce and radishes that will be a part of the cafeteria menu.

Frank Aloise, chief financial officer at SCH, says the school’s Wissahickon Watershed Outdoor Classrooms help students learn about proper ways to handle storm water.

“We take storm water out of the Wissahickon,” said Aloise, “we designed a down spout, so our storm water is not going into the sewer – it’s being utilized in our rain garden.”

The school also boasts a Gold LEED-certified physics lab, a certification granted by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED or “leadership in energy and environmental design,” is a rating system that determines if a building is “green” in terms of construction and design.

“We received points for different environmental factors,” said Aloise, “Our building is made with local materials and the builders sorted and disposed their trash properly.”

Aloise, who has been a part of SCH for 12 years, says that all of the environmental work at the school is connected to student learning and thinking on a global level.

“Everything we do – managing storm water, installing and retrofitting efficient lighting – all of those tell the story of what we trying to do.”

He says students are encouraged to pitch projects and collaborate with teachers to bring their ideas to life.

“It has to be grassroots, said Aloise, “it’s a team effort – the way things happen in the real world.”

The Pennsylvania Green Ribbon winners include: A.W. Beattie Career Center, in Allegheny County; Radnor Middle School in Radnor Township School District, Delaware County; Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School in the Chambersburg Area School District, Franklin County; and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Philadelphia.

Award winners will participate in a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Department of Education in June.

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