Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School: Where “Every Day is Earth Day”
Many schools claim to have a commitment to sustainability, but few do quite like Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School in Morrisville, Pa.
Two years ago, the school underwent a massive renovation that included upgrading 56,000 square feet of existing space as well as adding a 28,000 square foot wing that with a new library, classrooms, and an entry pavilion. Efficient air conditioning was also added, parking lots were remodeled and a new playground was constructed.
Through these modifications, the school has experienced a significant, positive change in environment for the staff and students, and the school recently received LEED Silver certification.
LEED makes a difference
“The natural light in the classrooms really makes a difference for the atmosphere,” said Principal Elizabeth Aldridge, “Especially in special areas like the library, the gymnasium and the art room. There’s tremendously more natural light that helps kids engage better.”
Aldridge went on to say that the automatic light and automated toilets and faucets also make a big difference. “I think they help the students understand minute to minute, on a daily basis, what they’re doing… It helps them understand their impact.”
Nancy Van Der Bas, a music teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary, agreed that the environment of the school has significantly improved. She explained that before the renovation, the school had no air conditioning, and the new energy-efficient cooling system makes the school much more comfortable. “I can tell you this,” said Van Der Bas, “the air quality is much better.”
A better work environment is one benefit of a sustainable green building, but Van Der Bas knows that there are many ways a building can impact the learning of the students as well. She said she readily uses the arts to get communicate this message to her students. Recently, her students put on a play, “Every Day is Earth Day,” featuring music that emphasized the concepts reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose.
Van Der Bas also rejuvenated the school’s courtyards, which were made into a home for native plants as well as an herb garden. When asked why she chose to repurpose the courtyards, Van Des Bas said, “I want to leave the earth a better place for the next generation. I want them to know that we care about them and we do things to keep it environmentally safe. I really wanted to make them aware that you don’t just throw something in the trash can and it goes away.”
Along with the courtyards, there are several other features of the school that act as learning tools. Aldridge said some of the outdoor areas around the building were used as instructional spaces. The children are able to interact with the butterflies and plants in the outdoor classroom and that environment is used as a teaching tool.
“We also have a kiosk that reports on our energy usage,” said Aldridge, “It’s been used as a discussion piece.”
The LEED Silver certified Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School acts as an example to students of the different aspects of environmental sustainability, from natural light to automated air conditioning. The faculty and the students at the school seem very interested in having a discussion about what it means to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Principal Aldridge agrees, and said, “The building has helped us have that conversation.”