Environmental Sustainability

A commitment to environmental sustainability is shared across campus and manifests not only in the care of the school’s physical campus, but also throughout its curriculum and business practices.
As a community, we’ve always had a deep desire to preserve and protect the natural world. We must be stewards of both the world and our beautiful 75-acre campus for generations to come, and in doing so, model that practice for our students. — Head of School Aaron Cooper

Environmental Sustainability in the Curriculum

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • + Kindergarten Art Uses Recycled Materials

    The Kindergarten art program is designed with a focus on the creative process of exploration and discovery using found objects. Children engage with a variety of recycled materials along with more traditional art materials and tools. Children are encouraged to execute their own unique creative ideas in a studio setting that emphasizes problem solving, resourcefulness and sustainability. “The children are energized when they are allowed to interpret the inspiration and use the materials in a manner that is relevant to them and their own experiences,” said Kindergarten Art Teacher Mark Macrides. “The nontraditional recycled materials even the playing field by removing preconceived ideas and expectations about what art should be and help to create an environment where anything is possible for anyone. This leads to more student investment in the work and more ownership over the process.”
  • + Lower School Garden As a Learning Tool

    Second and third graders put their knowledge of plants and machines to work in the Lower School garden. In second grade, students study plants in depth — their structure, lifecycle and importance as an energy source for life. Third graders end the year learning about simple machines, such as wedges and levers. Pictured above Kayla Mouzon and Berkley Young work in the Lower School garden. “Students love to be outside and get their hands dirty,” said Lower School Science Teacher Ms. Detlefs. “The garden is a powerful tool for learning about the environment as children become responsible caretakers and witness how plant life is sustained.”
  • + Earth Day Book Recycling: What’s Old is New

    For the past several years, Country School families donated several thousands of used books to a popular recycling program in the Lower School library. Lower School and Kindergarten students are given coupons to go shopping and “buy” these books in the library. The Lower School partners with the Parents’ Association Community Service team to donate a portion of recycled books to an organization in need.

    “The kids get a first-hand, tangible experience recycling something they enjoy — books,” said Lower School Librarian Jean Stevens, who has been organizing the Earth Day initiative for more than 20 years. “They understand that what’s old to someone else is new to them.”
  • + Fourth Graders Repopulate Salmon

    The fourth grade science curriculum focuses on the study of the Earth and ecology, and the interconnectedness of plants, animals and humans. Every year, students participate in a statewide environmental conservation effort to repopulate Atlantic salmon in the Connecticut River. After charting and monitoring the growth of 200 salmon eggs and watching them become fry over the period of five months in their classroom, students travel to upstate Connecticut to release the fry in the river’s tributary. “The kids are surprised by how fascinating the life of a fish can be,” said Ms. Detlefs. “They learn how to observe closely, engage in real-time research and learn about environmental issues. A project like this connects the kids to nature through science. It also teaches them the importance of taking care of the world around them.”
  • + Seventh Graders Explore Long Island Sound

    The spring term of the year has the students up and out of their classroom, this time exploring the ecosystem of Long Island Sound. Taking a boat out onto the tidal estuary, the students examine water quality and observe firsthand the impact of environmental regulation, population growth and business development. This culminating experience brings together both life and earth science principles, as
    well as what they have studied, discussed, debated and seen for themselves about biodiversity, sustainability and the environment. The result is a deep and broad understanding of real-world environmental issues. “The boat we take out on the sound is literally an outdoor classroom,” said Upper School Science Teacher Sanjiv Maliakal. “Working with naturalists, we practice water
    chemistry, witness the food chain and see and touch wildlife. Students also get a firsthand look at how humans are having an impact on this local resource through the discarding of nitrogen-based fertilizers, sewage and trash.”
  • + Eighth Graders Tackle Complex Global Issues at World Congress

    Country School eighth graders tackle complex contemporary global issues during World Congress, an annual highlight of a yearlong study of world cultures. Over a period of two days in late May, students took to the podium to address their peers and teachers about the environment, climate change, renewable energy, global health and human rights.

    “What they are learning is vital preparation for a generation of leaders who will have to bring knowledge, empathy and creative thinking to inescapable global challenges,” said Eighth Grade World Cultures Teacher Bart Fredo. “They develop several vital skills such as critical thinking and research skills, of course, but equally important are peer collaboration, public speaking and the ability to think on one’s feet.”
  • + Ninth Graders Explore the Natural World Through Expanded Studies

    Ninth grade students spend part of their spring semester preparing for a one-of-a-kind immersive education experience. It starts in the classroom with a study of a subject and in April expands more fully when they go “on location.” For two of the three trips, this means exploring national parks and reserves. The Coral Reef Ecology Expanded Studies travels to Everglades National Park and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to understand the balance of nature on the reef. The Pacific Northwest Expanded Studies heads to Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula to understand the complexity of life in that part of the country, everything from salmon biology and logging to plate tectonics and volcanoes.
  • + Professional Growth in Sustainability Education

    Middle and Upper School Science Teacher Margaret Mackey is pursuing an Advanced Certificate in Education for Sustainability at Manhattanville College School of Education this fall. As the program description states: “This program seeks to increase the knowledge and skills necessary for professionals to become agents of
    change within their schools, organizations, communities, and institutions.”

    “I decided to participate in this program because I am interested in having sustainability be a more intentional part of our school’s learning experience for the students across all ages and content areas,” said Ms. Mackey. “There is so much more to sustainability than reducing energy usage, and it can apply to content
    areas other than just science. I want students to leave NCCS feeling passionate about sustainability.”
While the building footprint has grown by 10% from 2016-2019, electricity usage dropped by 20%, oil use has dropped by 48%, water has been conserved by 70% and overall energy use has decreased by 40%.

Campus Sustainability Measures

List of 6 frequently asked questions.

  • + Dining & Food Services

    The new Dining Hall has more room for preparation and storage, which has allowed for offering additional healthy food choices. Flik, NCCS’ dining services provider, uses organic, local and fair trade fruits and vegetables, when they are available. Flik has also committed to serving cage-free eggs and poultry produced with restricted use of antibiotics. Plates, cups and utensils are reusable, the napkins are made from 100% recycled material, and food waste is composted, further reducing waste.
  • + Grounds and Landscaping

    Country School has implemented a turf care and landscaping program that emphasizes “minimal input” practices, including no irrigation, minimal fertilizing, mulching leaves, planting hardy species, and limited mowing at longer heights, thereby reducing the carbon footprint.
  • + Energy Efficiency

    The facilities team has been working on retrofitting lighting, upgrading fixtures and improving the heating and cooling systems throughout all of the buildings on campus.
  • + Purchasing

    NCCS seeks partners and contractors who share the school’s values. In purchasing, we seek sustainably produced and locally sourced products over simply seeking the cheapest alternative.
  • + Water

    There are filtered water hydration (bottle filling) stations all over campus. Students, faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to use personal water bottles as opposed to disposable ones. 
     
  • + Solar Panels

    In early 2021, 692 solar panels were installed on the new Athletics and Wellness Center roof to complete the construction of a 280km solar system. This effort furthers Country School’s commitment to environmental sustainability and will increase the school’s solar energy use from about 10% to about 50% while saving the school nearly $27k in utility costs each year. The school has already been using solar power generated by a solar array atop the Stevens Upper School Building.

Recent News

Alumni and the Environment

Many Country School alumni go on to pursue careers in service to the environment and sustainability — most recently, the following alumni have been featured in publications or have returned to NCCS classrooms to speak with Eighth Grade World Congress students:
» Liz Barratt-Brown ’74: Senior Adviser, Natural Resources Defense Council
» Allie Beck ’98: Environmental Engineer at CH2M
» Greg Erdmann ’80: Vice President Global Sales, NRG Systems
» Jill Greiner ’02: Water Efficiency Program Coordinator at City of Charlottesville
» John Isham ’75: Professor of Economics & Environmental Studies and Director of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Middlebury College
» Lauren Oakes ’96: Conservation Scientist & Adaptation Specialist, Wildlife Conservation Society 
» Lisa Pike Sheehey ’83: Vice President of Environmental Activism, Patagonia