About D-E
D-E Green

Green Curriculum

 
Within the curriculum for all academic levels within D-E -- from our youngest students in PreK (age 3) all the way through to Grade 12 -- the importance of sustainability is threaded into discussions both within the classroom and outdoors.  Provided here are brief overviews from all three divisions, Lower, Middle, and Upper, on how our curriculum addresses the role of individuals in supporting our environment.
 
D.I.G. (Dwight-Englewood in the Garden):
 
In the seventh and eighth grades, students can opt for the following D.I.G. courses:
 
D.I.G. (Dwight-Englewood in the Garden) - Grade 7
Students in this class will engage in hands-on discovery of basic conservation concepts and learn gardening skills in the school’s organic vegetable garden and greenhouse space. The class will work together on a series of projects such as tending garden beds, harvesting vegetables and herbs to eat in class, and planning and planting the next year’s garden. We will also do some research, reading, and watching of documentary films to help us explore questions such as “What are organic methods and why are they better for the environment?” and “What is soil stewardship?” Includes regular work outdoors. 
 
D.I.G. (Dwight-Englewood in the Garden) - Grade 8
This course gives students the opportunity to envision and build a new planting area to enhance the school’s organic vegetable garden. As we design the new bed, the class will look to tidy the areas around our garden and consider such practical elements as access paths and exposure. In the process of planning, construction and planting, the class will develop its gardening skills and learn more about soil, compost management, and selection and cultivation of food plants appropriate for our situation. Students will also engage in discussion of current issues in food gardening such as maintaining the genetic diversity of seeds and the effect of climate change on agriculture. We will do some research, reading and watching of documentary films to support that discussion. Includes work outdoors.

List of 3 items.

  • Serious about Sustainability: Starting Young (Lower and Middle Schools)

    What can a child in the elementary grades do to help create a sustainable world? You’d be surprised. The most comprehensive environmental programs at Dwight-Englewood were first developed in the Lower School.
     
    One example is the program to recycle paper and plastic, which was developed by 5th grade students four years ago. With the support of fifth grade science specialist Erik Swanson, students took a trip to the Englewood Recycling Center to learn what materials were being recycled by the town. Students then discussed, collaborated, and created a plan for the Lower School to recycle paper, cardboard, and certain plastics. Recycling containers were purchased for all Lower School classrooms and offices, and large collection receptacles were secured so the fifth graders could collect, weigh, record, and set out recyclables for Maintenance Department staff to handle properly.
     
    About that same time, 3rd and 4th grade students showed a strong interest in establishing a Lower School garden. Under the guidance of Beth Lemire, Lower School science specialist for pre-K through 4th grade, the students built raised-bed plots, hauled endless buckets of dirt, and made the gardens a reality. They planted vegetables, with the idea of making soups from the harvest for all to taste at lunch.
     
    Shortly after the gardens were established, it just made sense to use leftover food waste to establish a Lower School composting program. With a donated composter and plastic containers for each classroom, students discovered that they had a source of natural fertilizer right at hand. Soon the single composter was not enough to handle the load. Students researched and purchased two more composters with money that they had raised during a green walk-a-thon. That meant food waste from the cafeteria could be composted as well. The gardens benefited from the compost, but so too did the fruit flies in the building, as the compost containers in the classrooms did not have tight tops. This challenge necessitated more problem solving by the students. Again they researched and purchased composting containers that solved the fruit fly problem. The School purchased its fourth “ComposTumbler” in early March 2012 and continues to be supported by FLIK Dining Services in these efforts.
     
    Having demonstrated the capacity to effect change in their immediate environment, Lower School students have not shied away from leadership among D-E’s three divisions. After studying alternative energy with Erik Swanson, 5th graders stepped up when the Upper School’s Environmental Club decided to get involved in the national Green Cup Challenge, a competition encouraging schools to reduce energy consumption. The 5th graders took on measuring Drapkin Hall meters and helped the Lower School to cut electrical energy output more than any other division for the first two years of the Challenge.
     
    Moving to Middle School
    What happens when environmentally conscious and active youngsters get older? At D-E, they keep pushing their agenda. Beth Lemire likes to say that she and her Lower School colleagues are “training our students to become ‘Planeteers’—future leaders who consider the impact of all our actions on our planet. These efforts are also all about trying to connect more of this line of thinking into the future Middle School years.”
     
    When those environmentally energized students moved up to the Middle School, they wanted to continue their composting efforts and address other “green” issues. The result was the establishment of the Green Team, with Tasha Urbanowski, the 6th grade dean, as the lead faculty advisor. Today the Middle School composts Dining Hall waste to sustain an organic garden just east of Graham Field. The Green Team and with MS DIG (D-E in the Garden) Discovery class students, the MS Garden Club, and even Summer Connections Garden course students work to maintain the garden and donate its outputs—mostly herbs and some vegetables—to FLIK for the Wharton-Lessin Dining Hall.
     
    Composting and gardening one’s own plot is, of course, more about going out and getting your hands dirty. In going through these efforts, students are exposed to sustainable gardening practices, avoiding harmful fertilizers and pesticides. They learn about water conservation and the nutrient cycle, and they even get exposure to how to prepare food in a healthy way. Urbanowski speaks to how there are exciting opportunities for D-E to further explore connections between science/environmental teaching and sustainable environmental messages, pointing out how these “outdoor classrooms” can enhance learning at all grade levels.
     
    The Green Team has also partnered actively with the School’s Upper School Enviromental Club, students in the AP Environmental Science course, science faculty members, and Maintenance Department staff to modify other school habits and reduce energy use as well. The installation of “green” light bulbs in the Large Gym of Modell’s Sports Complex; the use of biodegradable cleansers and recycled paper products throughout D-E; the regular replacement of HVAC filters; and earth-friendly water fountain filtrations are just a few examples.
     
    Urbanowski notes that D-E helps guide students from education to a focus on facilities, and finally toward institutional change. For example, first came education in the classroom, when Erik Swanson initially taught students to think about the answer to the question of: “Where does our garbage go?” This leading question turned into a curriculum centered on recycling and the importance of composting. The next step involved facilities, when Maintenance, FLIK and the Green Team coordinated the purchase of the composters. Then the idea of composting food waste from the dining halls became an institutional habit.
     
    If they can change their institution as young students, these kids can grow up to change the world. As Beth Lemire states, “We want to keep the momentum of all students being interested about these complex topics. We want to help them each find appropriate ways to make change. Hopefully, in the future, they will use some of these ideas and motivations to make changes in our world!”
  • The Middle School Program on Sustainability and the Hudson River

    By Diane Langmuir, Former Middle School Science Teacher

    The first semester of the 7th grade focuses on the importance of water, an essential element for life, and specifically the ecology of the Hudson River. Understanding water systems and how to preserve them might very well be one of the most important issues for our 7th graders in their lifetimes. The days of seemingly abundant supplies of clean water are ending. Discussions of sustainability must necessarily include conversations about water.

    Students first learn to become aware of their household water usage and how they can develop better conservation habits. Students learn about properties of water, the water cycle, and what a watershed is. Then they focus on the Hudson River, one of the most important rivers in U.S. history and a wonderful resource that we can access because it is close by. To understand the river, students study aspects of the organisms that live in the river, food webs, rocks in and around the river, land use affecting the watershed, and the human history affecting the river. Human settlement and livelihoods affect the river and the river affects our lives. A repeated theme throughout the course is that “Everything is connected.”

    Students learn that the river is complex—ever changing with weather, seasons, tides, and human impact. The Hudson provides us with a laboratory to study biology and ecology, and to understand how living and non-living factors interact. Students go to the Hudson and measure water temperature, dissolved oxygen, tide level and direction, turbidity, and salinity. Donning waders, they use nets in order to see what they might catch. These are some of the same tests scientists to analyze how the river works. Students often comment that they feel like “real” scientists.

    Many students initially have the misconception that the river is dirty. Indeed, once it was overwhelmed by sewage and industrial waste. They learn about the Hudson’s remarkable recovery and success story due to the efforts of many people’s hard work and the passage of the Clean Water Act. At the beginning of the semester, they take a cruise on the Clearwater (run by the organization of the same name started by Pete Seeger). This is a teaching vessel modeled on a sloop. Helping to hoist the sail, and then rotating through various stations on board, students learn about many aspects about the river. For example, the crew teaches them that the water is not clear because it is alive with algae that form the important basis of the river’s food chain. Pollution controls are now in place to improve water quality.

    Students study how we humans impact the river through development and technology. They learn how we can solve our needs for development and livelihoods in ways that have less negative impacts on the watershed and the river system. They learn about the PCB problem and the efforts made in order to remedy that problem. They learn how bald eagles are coming back and many fish species populations are being restored after the DDT ban. They understand the importance of preserving the wetlands because they are the nurseries and breeding grounds for many species that are needed to sustain a healthy biodiversity.

    The goal is for students to take away an appreciation for nature and become more aware of how they are part of life on Earth and can be thoughtful and responsible stewards. They will learn more about how a water system works and become engaged and thoughtful as citizens, understanding that we face challenges. They can think about how we can manage to reduce negative impacts on the environment, and maybe even help solve some of those challenges. They will also learn how science works—by making observations, questioning, gathering data, and analyzing what the data shows.

    As a teacher who worked every day with children to understand the complexity of sustainability, I feel that human action is at the center of solving our environmental issues such as the availability of clean water. Students need to feel hopeful and confident about their futures. They need to feel empowered to take action. If students learn about the science of environmental issues and have hands-on experiences engaging them in that study, they will have the background knowledge and awareness to be interested to stay informed. They will also be more likely to develop and model habits that correspond to good environmental stewardship. This could be actions like turning the water off while brushing their teeth, noticing a dripping faucet and trying to do something to get it fixed, encouraging the use of nighttime sprinkler systems to cut down on evaporation, or even installing more efficient toilets in their homes. Some might even go on to become the innovators, organizers and future problem solvers. In any case, they are all future citizens and who need to be informed to make intelligent choices as to how they live, and the policies and practices they will support.
     
  • Sustainability in the Upper School Curriculum

    An Overview from Don McNeil, Upper School Science Teacher
     
    Study of environmental issues is an important part of the Upper School science curriculum. All 9th and 10th graders take a two-year integrated biology/chemistry course, and they apply biology and chemistry concepts to a variety of environmental challenges. Indeed, the best way to understand sustainability issues is to apply a variety of disciplines in an integrated approach. Students learn about acid rain, the genetics of habitat fragmentation, the thermodynamics of energy production in power plants, the depletion of the ozone layer, and global warming.
     
    More advanced studies are available for juniors and seniors. For over ten years now, Dwight-Englewood has offered two Upper School courses in environmental science, a semester elective and a full year Advanced Placement course. Each course explores a range of environmental issues, focusing in particular on the fundamental principles of ecology, global warming, energy resources, and water quality issues. The full year course also studies a number of other topics, including air pollution, food and forest resources, human population trends, solid and toxic waste, and biodiversity. Students do lab work in the science building and fieldwork in the school Nature Sanctuary. Students also go on several field trips to witness environmental efforts in action. The classes see where our campus water comes from during a visit to the local water treatment plant in Haworth, and, although slightly less aesthetically pleasing but still important, they also see where our wastewater is treated, the county wastewater treatment plant in Little Ferry. A trip to the PSE&G coal-burning power plant in Jersey City, one with modern pollution control equipment, shows students where some of the electricity to turn on our campus lights comes from. In contrast, students record and analyze energy production data from the science building’s solar panels, learning first-hand about that specific energy option. Other experiences range from watching the original Dr. Seuss version of The Lorax to studying detailed atmospheric pollution chemistry, and everything in between.
     
    While each course focuses primarily on the science and technology behind environmental issues, students also learn about related political, economic, and ethical aspects of environmental problems. The primary goal, however, is not just to understand the problems, but to learn how to solve them. The goal is for students to develop practical problem-solving skills, be motivated to implement them in their own lives, and become responsible leaders in dealing with these issues on the community and global level. Some veterans of the courses have gone on to study environmental issues in college, and whatever field they pursue, they will all need to make sound decisions regarding how we use resources and impact our environment.
     
    As an environmental educator, I find that it is exciting to see students’ knowledge and awareness of these crucial issues grow throughout their careers at Dwight-Englewood. One can sense their initial frustration that more is not being done, and then watch them develop an understanding that not only do feasible solutions exist, but that they can—and should—be part of those solutions. Many are willing to accept that challenge. It is especially exciting to hear back from graduates about the contributions they are making to sustainability issues on their college campuses, and their pursuit of related professions. Their energy and talent will inspire and lead others to “change the world” for the better.
Located in Englewood, New Jersey, Dwight-Englewood is a greater New York City area private school with a rigorous college prep curriculum for boys and girls in preschool through grade 12.