New Jersey’s Ben Franklin Elementary is the Highlight of My Week (and a Silver Award Eco-School)

from Wildlife Promise

Laura Hickey, Ben Franklin students, US EPA's Director Jane Nishida and Justin Harris (Photo by Justin Harris, US EPA)

On Monday I had the privilege of traveling to New Jersey with Director Jane Nishida and Justin Harris of the US EPA Office of Regional and Bilateral Affairs  to visit with our partners, Sustainable Jersey, at The College of New Jersey, and the Ben Franklin Elementary Schoolin Lawrence Township, NJ.

But this wasn’t just any trip.

Director Nishida and Justin Harris will be part of an EPA delegation that is visiting Taiwan next week, and our New Jersey trip was scheduled so that she would have a better understanding of what Sustainable Jersey and NWF’s Eco-Schools USA program are trying to accomplish by working with Taiwan: helping them to develop a ‘sustainable communities and schools program’ based on our US programs.

The highlight of the trip for me was the visit to Ben Franklin Elementary School.  Ben Franklin is one of our registered Eco-Schools and is a Silver Award school in our programTheir motto is: “If I work hard enough, I will succeed.”  Ben Franklin is a Pre-K-3 school, and the students are incredibly engaging.  They also have a ‘sister school’ relationship with Jian-An Elementary in New Taipei City, Taiwan, and their principal, Mr. Christopher Turnbull, has been on a former EPA delegation to Taiwan to visit with his sister school counterparts.  Even Amos the Mouse – the school’s mascot – has been to Taiwan!

Ben Franklin received its Eco-Schools USA Silver Award for addressing the program’s seven steps and three Pathways:  Energy, Water, and Consumption and Waste.  Each class has what they call EPA representatives, and they rotate this responsibility among students over the school year.

Ben Franklin Principal Chris Turnbull, Randy Solomon (SJ), Jane Nishida (US EPA), Laura Hickey (NWF) (Photo by Justin Harris, US EPA)

Their Eco-Schools Eco-Action Team is called the BF EPA Project for Sustainable Living, and is designed to introduce students to the importance of the environment, and natural and renewable resources, as well essential topics such as energy, air, waste, and water.  On our trip, the EPA committee, Principal Turnbull, and the Superintendent of the Lawrence Township Schools, Dr. Crystal Lovell, warmly greeted us with a handmade sign at the front of the school and several wonderful videos on the work that the school has undertaken to improve environmental and sustainability literacy for their students and staff.

The best part of my job is being able to visit our Eco-Schools and see what wonderful things that they are accomplishing on the path to sustainability.  Principal Turnbull assures me that Ben Franklin will be applying for the coveted Green Flag award in the near future!  I look forward to being there when they receive that prestigious honor!