Hampton Bays Middle School was recognized Monday as one of the most environmentally friendly schools in the country.
The school, with 586 students in grades 5-8, was one of 78 schools awarded the first-ever Green Ribbon School recognition by the U.S. Department of Education. Since the school was built in 2008, teachers, staff and students have blended friendly environmental practices into both its curriculum and facility, and taken these lessons into their homes and communities.
Nicholas Kolb, 13, a seventh-grade student, said he is proud of the school and hopes that other schools can learn from the program. He talked about how he recycles now.
"It is a testament to how well the building is built and the teaching and learning that is taking place in the building," Superintendent Lars Clemensen said soon after the announcement from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
The school was built with a focus on green energy and sustainability, and meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. The $42-million, 146,400-square-foot school was designed by BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers of Patchogue.
"I am over the top," said Roger Smith, BBS president and principal architect.
About 100 schools were nominated nationwide under the Green Ribbon Schools program by state education departments. More than 350 schools submitted applications to state education departments, which in turn selected nominees for the federal competition.
The Green Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools that save energy, reduce costs, feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces and offer environmental education to boost academic achievement and community engagement, according the state Education Department.
Methods go into practice
The school has dual-heating systems that run on gas or oil, whichever is less expensive. The building also has sensors on its sinks and uses waterless urinals, which Clemensen said saves nearly 100,000 gallons each year when compared with similar schools.
He also touted the strong emphasis on environmental teaching. The school's staff has integrated health and conservation efforts into the curriculum, including a planned composting program using cafeteria leftovers and a community garden.
Fifth-grade teacher Joan Moran said the community garden opened last year. She said the cafeteria will serve fresh produce from the garden, such as lettuce, carrots, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Moran said the compost generated by the cafeteria is slated to be used in the garden. She said the school is now looking into building a greenhouse.
But the greening work doesn't stop in the school.
This weekend, about 30 students participated in a beach cleanup in Southampton, including Jenna Haines, 12, a seventh-grade student. She put on rubber gloves and helped fill large black trash bags. Jenna said they found litter such as glass, tires and candy wrappers.
Excited to go green
Hampton Bays art teacher Kathy Dayton said she couldn't fall asleep Sunday night because she was eager to hear whether the school had won the designation and was relieved to hear it had.
The middle school's eco-consciousness has jump-started sustainability efforts in other district schools, Clemensen said, pointing to use of environmentally friendly cleaning products and motion-sensor lights.
"I think it is going to have a ripple effect," Moran said.
Two upstate New York schools also received the honor: Sleepy Hollow Middle School in Sleepy Hollow and Bethlehem Central Middle School in Delmar.
"Green Ribbon Schools demonstrate compelling examples of the ways schools can expand their coursework while also helping children build real-world skill sets, cut school costs and provide healthy learning environments," Duncan said in a statement.