Earth Day is Every Day in Readington Public Schools

This year more than a billion people around the world celebrated Earth Day to protect the planet, and make our world a happier, healthier place to live. In Readington, Earth Day is every day, especially in our schools. All four schools in the district are US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Awardees, and are certified as Sustainable Jersey Schools. 

So what does that mean? Green schools aim to create optimal, healthy learning environments and save money, energy, and resources too. In Readington Schools, educators integrate social emotional learning, inquiry, academic rigor, and sustainability - in context - while forging community partnerships to prepare learners to become engaged, productive, and environmentally conscious global citizens. 

At Readington Middle School (RMS), EcoAmbassadors work with schools around the world to support the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development as they identify problems in their environment and work with local and global experts and school administrators to investigate issues like plastic pollution and cafeteria waste, and propose and develop solutions together. This year, RMS students presented their work globally, regionally, and locally at the International Conference for Sustainable Development, NJ Climate Education Summit, and to partners at Readington WaterWatch. Exploring life on land, each year the entire 7th grade class team with community leaders for an annual Walk in the Woods to build a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the protected natural beauty of our community and the ecosystem services it affords for all.

In Holland Brook School (HBS), students and teachers actively investigate the condition of our natural world, donning waders with experts from Raritan Headwaters as they hone skills in scientific observation and data collection to analyze water levels, water flows, and currents in the South Branch of the Raritan River to understand their impact on erosion. They test water quality, examine organisms, and determine levels of pollution as they evaluate how surrounding land contributes to the quality of our water, important skills for stewardship in a community where the majority of homes are supplied by well water. 

In turn, our district administrators, board members, and green committee work in concert with our township environmental commission to help tackle local water pollution by reducing run-off and improving groundwater charging. Green infrastructure projects like the stormwater retention basin between RMS and HBS is an approach to water management that protects, restores, and mimics the natural water cycle as it filters sediment and pollutants out using native plant materials that also serve as habitat for wildlife. In planning now is restoration of a bioswale at Three Bridges School (TBS) which will provide cleaner water and air and provide added value for the community through flood protection, diverse habitat, and a beautiful green space that will serve as a springboard for student learning. The Rutgers Water Resources program is a partner on the project along with district and township leaders.

Sustainable facilities design and management is key to maintaining a healthy commons. Analyzing the district’s carbon footprint is an educational opportunity for all; electricity production from the schools’ solar arrays are logged in real-time on the district website. Rife with learning potential and in line with the launch of New Jersey’s new, and first in the nation, Climate Change Education standards, the Board of Education recently allotted funding for curriculum writing this summer in all Readington Schools to support the use of school buildings and grounds as learning labs. Case in point: since energy conservation initiatives began in 2010, total energy costs have dropped from approximately $1 million per year to $400,000. In the 2020-2021 school year, the district met 35% of its total electricity needs from our solar arrays. The district is currently evaluating the potential expansion of solar installations in the district, and grants for electric buses too.

When First Lady Tammy Murphy visited schools across the state tagged as leaders in climate change education and sustainability, Whitehouse School was one of her first stops. Third graders there created their own recycling campaign, collecting and diverting over 300 pounds of plastic headed for landfill. From planting trees to growing food from scraps to reduce food waste, Whitehouse School cultivates hands-on, minds-on learning. Complementing their outdoor Sensory Garden, a hallway Sensory Path invites students to hop, reach, and skip, engaging different parts of the brain as they enjoy physical activity and mindful movement while developing motor skills. 

Three Bridge School, a Sustainable Jersey for Schools Champion, invites students to flex their math and science skills in their Seed to Plant program. Students learn and exercise patience, care, teamwork, and responsibility as they use companion planting to grow pesticide-free vegetables for a whole school salad from their soil-based and hydroponic gardens.

In Readington Schools, education for sustainability threads through, and weaves together, school subjects and extends far beyond the classroom. Our approach is rooted in real-world problem-solving, critical thinking, and action, so learners are poised for discovery as inquisitive, engaged, and productive citizens in an ever-evolving world. Education for a sustainable future produces schools that learn too.