Maria Montessori believed that nature should be an inspiration for learning. MSNV has always included nature in the curriculum-the students recycle, compost, and participate in nature studies ranging from indoor research and observation to outdoor gardening and nature hikes. Because being respectful of the earth and providing a healthy learning environment for our students go hand in hand, MSNV faculty and staff also observe these and other green practices.
MSNV has taken numerous steps to cut down on the waste that comes in and out of the building, including:
Waste-Free Lunch. In addition to encouraging healthy, lifelong eating habits, we teach our students to help preserve the planet by recycling, composting, and packing “no waste” lunches. Our lunch guidelines recommend a reusable lunch box, reusable food containers and flatware, and cloth napkins.
Recycling and reusing materials. Students reuse materials whenever possible and every classroom has recycling bins for paper and plastic/glass.
Often before purchasing new items, we search for used ones that would meet our needs.
Eliminating disposables. Children use washable plates, utensils and glassware instead of paper or plastic for their daily snack. Parents are encouraged to bring class snacks to school in reusable bags; many classrooms have a dedicated snack bag that gets sent home to the weekly snack family.
Our elementary students surveyed the daily trash and realized that paper towels take up more space in our trash cans than any other single element. Our Primary and Elementary classrooms participate in the Reusable Towel Program, in which each student is given a hand towel to use for the day. Based on success in the classrooms, MSNV staff use small towels in their bathrooms as well.
Due to these combined efforts, we noticed our regular dumpster is less than half full at the end of the week. We changed from a 4 cubic yard to a 2 cubic yard dumpster which in addition to helping out the planet also reduced our costs.
MSNV strives to conserve energy wherever possible:
Saving energy. Our classrooms get so much natural light that most teachers rarely turn on all of the lights; lights are turned off when rooms are empty. Our thermostats are set to conserve energy as much as possible.
Conserving water. The school has installed low-flow aerators on all sinks and has replaced or converted most toilets to low-flush.
Using people power. MSNV encourages the use of rakes, hands, and elbow-grease at all work parties. Gas-powered tools are discouraged.
Carpooling: MSNV enforces a school wide plan that reduces the number of cars coming to and from the school. We promote carpooling and the use of our shuttle bus for events and regular student transportation.
Busing: MSNV purchased has 2 activity buses serving as student shuttles to pick up and drop off points, a special events shuttle and field trip transportation.
MSNV uses only environmentally safe cleaning products for daily school cleaning, and our integrated pest management program avoids using pesticides and herbicides.
As with their indoor work, the students work outdoors with child-sized tools and self-directed lesson boxes. They learn about worms and soil, observe sun and shade, listen to sounds, and identify colors. These activities reinforce a respect for all living things and help them reflect on nature to experience an inner quiet and peace.
In 2008, the National Wildlife Federation recognized MSNV’s environmental leadership by certifying the schoolyard as a wildlife habitat. Our certification stemmed from our long history of providing clean water and shelter to wildlife, as well as of abiding by sustainable gardening practices such as mulching, composting and eliminating chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Rain barrels are located on both sides of the school. Students use this water for all outdoor projects from watering plants to cleaning up. The students are conscientious about composting their food waste into MSNV’s two large compost bins. The composted material is then used in the school’s gardens. Leaves and garden debris are raked into the woods to decompose instead of being bagged and put into the dumpster.
Our students and families also participate in community activities. Over the summer of 2008, MSNV families rescued plants slated for demolition and used them to start a native plant garden along the school’s hiking trail. In the fall of 2008, the school organized a trash pick-up at the entrance to the Hillbrook neighborhood, across from George Mason library. The students routinely pick up trash along the stream valley when they take their weekly hikes.
At MSNV we are always looking for ways to be more responsible inhabitants of the earth and to provide a safe, forward-thinking learning environment for our students. We hope that through these small steps, our students and families will learn the golden rule of sustainability – that we should leave our world a better place than we found it. MSNV aspires to be the healthiest, happiest environment it can be. If you have suggestions for green policies or practices, please contact the Coop Committee chair.
Our new green roof at the Valleybrook campus.