Sustainable Squires: Sustainability Education and Practice in Newburgh, Indiana

The students of Castle North Middle School (CNMS) located in Newburgh, Indiana are working hard to make their school a more sustainable place to learn and take action.  Through a partnership with the Alcoa Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has developed the Alcoa W5 (Warming, Waste, Water, Watts and Wildlife) program where students are introduced to principles and ideas that help create a more sustainable future for students and wildlife.  The Indiana Wildlife Federation (IWF), an affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation, is providing support on the ground in Newburgh for this program.

Source: Alcoa Foundation

In early 2018, CNMS teachers were trained on the NWF Eco-Schools USA program framework and the 5 pathways of sustainability that would provide the content and ideas to plan and execute action projects throughout the school.  These projects are student-led and implemented, and focused on measurable sustainability achievements like reducing waste, water and electricity consumption or ways to utilize the school grounds to best attract and support wildlife.

Since then, students on the “Green Team” have worked on several pathways. In addressing energy, the team conducted an energy audit throughout the school to find “energy vampires” such as computers in sleep mode that needlessly draw small amounts of power.  After identifying some energy draining culprits, they have taken steps to ensure that – when possible – electronics are completely switched off at the end of the day to conserve energy.

Photo Credit: Emily Wood / IWF

Additionally, the Green Team took on the issue of waste.  While the school already had a recycling strategy, the students determined that because there were only a few clearly labeled receptacles throughout the school, very few people actually participated.  The Green Team worked to create easy-to-follow signs and even educated students during lunch to encourage their classmates to take the time to properly sort recycling from compostable and waste materials.

With the support of the Alcoa Foundation, teachers and students at CNMS also recently completed a planting project inside their school’s courtyard aimed at increasing biodiversity on their school grounds.  

Assisted by the gardening experts of the Newburgh Garden Club, students planted ten different species of native flowering perennials and grasses to attract and support wildlife and pollinators around their school.  In the spring of 2019, they plan to build on their success with a community action day—where parents, friends and volunteers from the surrounding community will have the chance to get involved with the projects that will enable Castle North Middle School to move towards becoming a Green Flag Eco-School.  

Go Squires!


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