Upland Hills School
Discovering and Monitoring Systems in Our School
Upland Hills School
My goal was to make my students aware of these 'systems'. To realize that there are things that come into our school, are used in certain ways, and then leave our school as waste. I wanted my students to find ways to reduce the use of these elements and eliminate the waste where possible.
The 4 systems we worked with were: water, electric energy, paper and food.
How we are doing it
First, we had to discover ways to measure these elements as they came into our school, find out how they were being used and finally, how much waste was leaving our school. Our water system was the easiest because we have a well and a septic tank. We calculated how much water was being used in various ways and decided it was a fairly sustainable system.
The electric energy use was easy to monitor; we just read the meter every week and calculated our usage. We also went around the school and calculated how much energy was being used to light each room, run the copier, phones, etc. The thing that surprised me the most was that as my students began tracking usage, they naturally wanted to conserve. They never wanted me to turn on the lights. We finally installed a SolaTube in my classroom and the natural light is so much better than the humming artificial bulbs.
The food system was primarily lunch. We don't have a cafeteria so the kids have to bring their lunches from home. My students went around and weighed everybody's lunch one day and then, after lunch, we dumped all the 'garbage' out onto a large tarp in the big middle room and divided it up into 3 piles: compost, recycle, and landfill. We talked about ways we could reduce the landfill pile and are working toward a 'garbageless lunch'.
The paper was weighed as it came into the school. Its various uses noted and when it left the school it was divided into landfill and recycle piles. We now recycle all our paper.
What we are learning
After becoming aware of these cycles that flow through our school, my students have become natural conservers of resources. We discussed ways we could make each system sustainable and came up with some great ideas.
Once we became aware of these resources and began to monitor their use, my students became almost obsessed with not using anything. Maybe we humans have a 'natural' tendency to conserve. I think that's a great discovery.