An important part of the The Pennington School’s vision is that “Our students develop a sense of responsibility for themselves, for others, and for the world in which they live.” It permeates the work we do in our classrooms, on the field, and in the greater community. Given that the concept of sustainability is inherently central to this vision, we have been working to support and advance sustainable practices and thinking throughout the School. This work has been taking place, and is continuing to develop, in several different areas.
Various classes and student clubs visit and work in the garden to engage in hands-on learning, conduct observational studies, and perform community service. Food from the dining hall is sometimes sourced from the garden as well.
We are continuing to enhance and develop interdisciplinary curricula that get students outdoors, in the pond, at the School garden, and exploring campus ecologies. This environmental education opens students’ eyes to the various effects—both positive and negative—they have on local and global environments and provides them with the tools and opportunities to make a difference in the world.
The pond serves as a wonderful outdoor classroom, laboratory, space for meditation, and active site for fieldwork and ecological restoration. We are also working with an ecologist and invasive species specialist to develop a remediation plan for the pond that will involve the removal of invasive species and identification of native plant species that will provide critical wildlife habitat and improve the pond’s water quality.
As of fall 2019, The Pennington School is a no-idling campus. This change began a couple years back, spurred by student research, projects, and proposals. Students expressed concern about the number of cars left running at pick-up and drop-off. They conducted background research on the topic and carried out studies of idling cars on campus, concluding that idling has an impact on the environment, human health, and your wallet. Students wrote proposals and met with School leadership before the new policy was officially adopted and put into place following completion of the new perimeter road and introduction of new traffic patterns.
In February 2019, The Pennington School began composting the food waste produced in the kitchen during food preparation. Each advisory was responsible for carting the food over to our on-site compost area in an effort to involve the entire community in the process. In September 2019, we scaled up and have started composting all non-meat and non-dairy food scraps produced in the dining hall and kitchen during breakfast and lunch. Advisories will continue to assist with the transport of the kitchen scraps. We are tracking the amount of waste produced and the Green Team will work on public education, with the ultimate goal of reducing the amount of food waste we produce.
Environmental Science and Chemistry students visit Lewis Brook—a headwater tributary of the Raritan River—each fall and spring to conduct biological and chemical monitoring.. Data are shared with the Watershed Institute as part of their StreamWatch program. The ultimate goal is for the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to benefit from high quality, student-collected data.