Boston Latin School’s (BLS) award-winning education for sustainability program and high impact sustainability initiatives include extensive community outreach, powerful youth leadership, sweeping facilities and curriculum change, and a demonstrated track record of community partnerships and service that are unparalleled in our region.
BLS students founded a Youth Climate Action Network (YouthCAN) that now has 30 member-groups at schools across Massachusetts. Students host a free Annual Climate Summit at MIT serving hundreds of students and educators . Students run an Environmental Mentoring Program for elementary students. We’ve twice sponsored Teacher Institutes on Sustainability drawing 50+ educators yielding interdisciplinary sustainability lessons for sharing.
Within the science department at BLS we are constructing a senior capstone course that incorporates project-based learning and service learning with an environmental science theme. The course is designed to help students learn the skills to be critical independent thinkers that can solve global sustainability issues that we will face in the future. The students initiate action in the community to address a local sustainability concern.
According to a recent survey at BLS, over 90% of educators surveyed said sustainability is addressed in their curriculum. Teachers are passionately developing curriculum that focuses on the issue of climate change and sustainability both in science classrooms, as well as throughout all disciplines. Students are exposed to a multitude of sustainability lessons ranging from assemblies that deliver A.C.E presentations, garden classes and hydroponics lessons, to discussions of consumer impacts on the environment in the novel Fahrenheit 451. A collection of lessons are shared on the YouthCan website.
Environmental sustainability is often integrated into assessments ranging from things as minimal as a DO NOW question on the effects of road salt on plants during Biology or constructing beautiful works of art with the medium of recycled materials to more complex service learning projects in Environmental science or energy audits in Physics. The energy audit assessment is a unit project where they study electricity and then use their new understanding to conduct an electrical analysis of their home, writing a report for their family detailing how their family can save money.
By integrating assessments on environmental sustainability it has allowed students to access the material in an engaging manner. The students’ high level of proficiency is unmatched. The curricula that the science teachers are using and the assessments that are being developed are directly impacting student engagement and involvement in clubs like YouthCAN, Garden club and recycling club at BLS.
BLS provides a Summer Teen Energy Audit Training Program that’s resulted in 8 youth-led energy audits at other schools. The Boston Latin School Annual Teach-In on Sustainability has tripled demand for environmental courses. Our Zero-Sort Recycling Program cut Boston Latin School’s trash in half, and was replicated in 50 additional schools. Our 2-School Composting Pilot has similar goals.
Boston Latin School conducted an energy audit, installed solar panels on our roof, and implemented a 75K lighting retro-fit,saving 200,000 KWh of energy/year and saving the city of Boston 33K+ per year. Since 2009, our energy action plan has reduced energy consumption by 35.57%. Students won a salad bar and developed an implementation plan that is now used in other schools. Students planted 6 fruit trees on school grounds, installed 350 rooftop trays of vegetation, planted and maintain a school garden, and launched a Youth-Led Summer Garden Program. Students designed a rain catchment system for the garden, and started a worm composting bin.
Boston Latin School participates in a Farm-to-School Program, and recently initiated a “Get Informed” Speaker Series to improve health outcomes and educate for sustainability.
Teachers at BLS conduct individual research across the globe in order to gain a better understanding of sustainability. Teachers have visited places like in Antartica, Brazil, USVI, MidAtlantic Bight, and Alaska. We then share this information at state and national levels by attending and presenting at PD conferences like NSTA, MABT and MAST. Within the BLS community we share through brown bag lunch seminars. The lunch seminars provide teachers with the opportunity to explain their latest research article or lessons. Most importantly, we share lessons that we’ve developed with our students on topics like green chemistry and ecosystem monitoring.
Our most innovative, high impact project is a student-led proposal for a Shared Green Roof and Community Learning Center where students and educators from across the city will come to learn how to think in terms of the world’s interconnected systems. It has already engaged a Shared Green Roof Youth Task Force made up of students from 20+ schools across the city. The goals are to promote education for sustainability, systems thinking, youth leadership, service learning, and collaboration.
Collaboration is a core commitment across our sustainability initiatives at Boston Latin School. We partner with numerous city officials and government agencies, more than 20 local businesses, 30+ schools, and 35 non-profits. Our work has established BLS as a go-to example for how schools can become greener. In the recent years BLS students have given presentations at Hingham High School, the Denver McCormack, Mansfield HS, and the Boston Green Academy. BLS has presented to educational organizations such as the Massachusetts Environmental Educators Society, Primary Source, Mass Audubon, National School Board Association); non-profits (TCI, the Children’s Museum, Roots and Shoots; World Wide Waldens; the Franklin Park Zoo, and The Children’s Museum, etc.); and at environmental conferences like the Chicago School Building Expo, the Cambridge Science Festival, Boston GreenFest, Massachusetts Sustainable Communities Conference, Down to Earth, Moving Planet and more.
A partial list of Boston Latin School’s environmental awards includes: the President’s Youth Environmental Award, an EPA Merit Award, the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education. BLS won first prize in the Student Conservation Association Awards, and the National Wildlife Federation’s Chill Out Competition. BLS won the Green Heroes Award (15K) and the Green Award (25K). BLS was one of four schools in the Americas short-listed for the Zayed Global High School Prize (100K). BLS Youth CAN also became the first public school in the country to receive Eco-School’s USA’s Green Flag Award. We won the Grand prize in the Eco-Schools sweepstakes; won the “Do Something Increase Your Green Competition” (2008,2009,2010); won “Outstanding Green School” in the Green Schools Green Difference Awards in 2009; earned a citation from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick; and received special recognition award from the IFMA Boston Awards for Excellence. BLS also was given the only youth member seat on Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s Climate Action Leadership Committee. In 2012 we were one of three schools nationally to receive the Samsung Sustainable Energy Award for 10K. Students also won both Rounds 1 and 2 of the Lexus Eco Challenge for the 2012 and 2013, providing 40K ($28,000.00 of that amount in scholarships.)
Successful Youth Leadership
The school wide sustainability effort at the Boston Latin School represents an educational model that is preparing students for the future and building youth leadership in the process. Boston Latin School has a demonstrated track record that illustrates what young people who are engaged in meaningful service learning can really accomplish and provides a compelling case for the vital learning and important skills that are acquired along the way. Equipping students with the skills to be responsible and engaged citizens is central to our mission, and educating for sustainability supports these goals in powerful and timely ways. In the past 5 years, youth-leaders at BLS have generated more than $285,000.00 in support of student sustainability initiatives, with more than $100,000.00 of that sum put contributed back into the community as funding for free sustainability programs. BLS students have also produced 65 educational videos aimed at furthering sustainability, and a website for sharing: www.blsyouthcan.org
A Regional & International Example
We are proud that Boston Latin School has become a regional model for how schools can become greener. From making our basic facilities more energy efficient and ensuring that our academic programs and classroom curriculum incorporate educating for sustainability, to encouraging youth leadership and community outreach on sustainability issues, the Boston Latin School has become a respected leader at the forefront of the green schools movement. Our sustainability work has drawn visiting groups from France, Mongolia, Japan, and two from New Zealand. We’ve consulted with groups from Cleveland Ohio, and Los Angeles about our Annual Summit and our green schools model. We earned Boston Magazine’s “best green school” title in 2010. BLS has garnered other media attention and awards as well. Our sustainability work has been covered in the Boston Globe, on local radio and TV, and was featured on the Today Show.
The Strategic Planning process for BLS formally acknowledged the impact, reach and importance of Boston Latin School’s sustainability initiatives in the summer of 2012. After a one-year planning process with input from students, parents, teachers, and alums, the Shared Green Roof project that will benefit the entire region became an official part of the long-term strategic plan for the Boston Latin School. In making this decision, Boston Latin School took another important step in fulfilling its commitment to preparing students for the 21st Century by educating for sustainability.