Waste, Water and Watts – Green STEM in Action

What does Waste, Water and Watts have in common? For students of three elementary schools in Massena, NY, it means learning about how to reduce waste, water and energy (Watts) on their campuses.

Thanks to our sponsor, the Alcoa Foundation, we will help Jefferson, Madison and Nightengale elementary schools learn how to transform their building and grounds into sustainable places of learning.

Nightengale green team
Photo via Nightengale Green Team

The Waste, Water and Watts program or the Alcoa W3 program, is a Green Stem program. Through environment-based education, it is designed to engage and support Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning. NWF’s Eco-Schools USA program and seven step framework help students explore these sustainability issues in their schools.

These schools participated in training for teachers and received funding to support sustainability actions at the school. Local Alcoa volunteers will participate in the programs and help the schools to conduct audits, create actions plans and take actions. A spring day of action is also planned at each campus in Massena.

Nightengale Elementary School

At Nightengale Elementary School, Amanda Converse and her sixth graders formed a Watts team to take a look at how their school was using energy in individual classrooms.  The students decided to conduct an audit by emailing teachers questions through a survey. They quickly found out, trying to gather valid data was not easy when done through email. They are now researching the best ways to do an energy audit in their school.

Nightengale energy audit
Energy Audit via Nightengale Energy Team

“The kids love being in charge of figuring this out.  They are engineering ideas and coming up with solutions and when it doesn’t work, they try again.  They are excited to get the data so they can move on to taking action at our school.” said Amanda Converse, 6th grade teacher at Nightengale Elementary.

Recently students created a tri-fold poster and had the opportunity to present some of their findings to staff, students and parents at a community school dinner.

Jefferson Elementary School

At Jefferson Elementary, Paige Arcet and her students are focusing on waste and how best to reduce the amount of trash their school throws away.  Students conducted an audit to determine what was being thrown away. This required sorting through a days’ worth of waste to see what could have been recycled or composted instead of being sent to the landfill.  The data they collected resulted in the realization that a lot of their waste could have been recycled and even composted.

Photo via Jefferson Litter Audit

“Right now our students are researching about composting, what can be composted, and what bins would be the best for us to purchase. They have also been working on getting the message out about recycling and educating other students about how to recycle. They have created posters and will be starting a tip of the week over the school morning announcements,” said Paige Arcet, teacher at Jefferson Elementary.  Some actions the students have taken include making calls for donations for new recycling bins for every classroom, and reorganizing how the cafeteria recycles both food and other waste.

Madison Elementary School

At Madison Elementary, Darcie Fregoe and her students are busy as well studying waste. They researched how waste is composted and the best ways to compost their school cafeteria waste.  Some of this research included students working in groups to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each type of composter.

“My students will then use this research and the data we collect through our audit to determine the best type of composter to use at our school. One of our goals is to significantly reduce the amount of waste that is being thrown away during lunch at our school,” said Darcie Fregoe, teacher at Madison Elementary School.

The Alcoa W3 program is also being piloted in schools in Texas and Tennessee.  Since Eco-Schools is also a global education program, the Alcoa Foundation supports similar programs in four other countries including Italy, Norway, Brazil and Australia. Students in the United States will have the opportunity to share data and stories of success with their counterparts across the globe.

For more information about the Alcoa W3 program please contact: Elizabeth Soper, NWF Director K-12 Education, soper@nwf.org