Sustainable. Steward. School.
What do these three words have in common? Well, for one, they all begin with the letter “s”—but they also accurately describe Bullis School, located in Potomac, MD.
Bullis School made a commitment to environmental stewardship and education several years ago—and as an independent, college preparatory school, the decision to embed environmental consciousness within the school community was solely a decision of their own.
All of this seemed to jumpstart in 2005 with the Green Cup Challenge, a recycling challenge in which middle school classes participated pioneered by teacher, Rita Gerharz. Clearly inspiration was drawn from this, as many other efforts followed shortly after. In 2009, the school implemented an 11kW solar photovoltaic system (consisting of 540 panels) on the roof of their Blair Family Center for the Arts, with all remaining electrical needs fulfilled through the purchase of 100% wind power. The Bullis Community Garden grows 30 different types of crops, providing food for the school’s dining hall and space for classroom use. It does so without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Also, as a Buddy Bison School, environmental education is incorporated throughout the curriculum and the partnership with the National Park Trust.
Second grade teacher, Carolyn Cohen, won the first Buddy National Teacher Award for Outstanding Environmental Stewardship from the National Park Trust. Bullis was also ranked fourth in the country for its renewable energy use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Partnership, awarded membership to the 2011 Green Power Leadership Club, and received a Green Award from Bethesda Magazine in 2011.
Efforts have not ceased, however, with recognition in the last couple of years. Students at Bullis continue to be environmentally aware and interested. “Young people enjoy making a difference and leaving an impact,” explains Susie Zimmerman, the school’s Communications Director. She attributes some of the school’s success in this regard to the early exposure provided to students. Environmental education is incorporated into the curriculum starting in the second grade.
Susie stresses the importance and effectiveness of engaging students in hands-on experience that will connect students to the natural world and allow them to make a difference. These experiences culminate in environmental stewardship becoming second nature—a part of everyday life.“
“Bullis seeks to prepare all students to become caring citizens who further demonstrate life-long proficiency in 21st century skills related to critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration, and resourcefulness,” the curriculum mission states. Critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration, and resourcefulness are all vital skills necessary to lessen environmental impacts for a more sustainable future.
A school—teaching sustainability, acting as an environmental steward—that is Bullis.
A recent graduate of Denison University, Jon Akpapunam is an intern at both Clean Currents and the City Parks Alliance. He is passionate about both learning and developing new perspectives and strategies to create a more sustainable future.
Bethesda Green celebrates 5 years of promoting sustainable living with a fabulous Gala at the historic Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Thursday, October 3. This event brings people from DC metro area who share the vision of a more green and sustainable community. See more info about the Gala.
Highlights of the evening include honoring the 2013 Bethesda Magazine Green Award winners — businesses, organizations, communities and individuals who are providing green services or promoting and living a green lifestyle.