Environmental education awards target sustainability projects

Posted March 22, 2012, at 2:23 p.m.
Last modified March 22, 2012, at 5:27 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — An ambitious student-led project to conserve energy at Lincoln Middle School in Portland is among the award-winners being announced Friday at the Maine Environmental Educators Association’s annual conference in Wiscasset.

Fran Rudoff, executive director of an organization called the KIDS Consortium, said projects such as the one at Lincoln Middle School are part of a wider emphasis by the consortium and other organizations on STEM education, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Students at the school studied the use of paper towels and hand-dryers to determine the school’s carbon footprint and which option would be more environmentally friendly. After research on a paper towel’s life cycle, they chose to purchase high-efficiency dryers, the newest of which were installed earlier this month. The students calculated that the hand-dryers will reduce the school’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 122 kilograms a year.

Lincoln Middle School Principal Steve Nolan said the hand-dryer project was the latest of several energy conservation projects undertaken by students at the school. Among the others were heat conservation methods such as the installation of weather stripping, a conversion to motion-sensing light switches, the mounting of solar panels to generate electricity powered by the sun, and new cafeteria practices, including doing away with styrofoam trays in favor of wax-cardboard containers.

Students also have begun a composting operation to supplement a vegetable garden at the school. Nolan said projects such as these interest students because they go beyond the classroom into real-world applications.

“It’s a chance for them to apply the skills they’re learning in class and to learn in an integrated way,” he said.

Rudoff said that aside from the education benefits, these projects have a significant impact on the school’s budget and environmental friendliness.

“They’ve been making a huge impact,” said Rudoff.

The Maine Environmental Education Association will bestow the awards on Friday at the Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset. Other than Lincoln Middle School, the winners include:

• Oakhurst Dairy, Business of the Year, representing the first for-profit business ever recognized by the association. Oakhurst is being recognized for its long-term commitment to sustainability, for reducing its carbon footprint and for its charitable contributions to environmental education in Maine.

• The Kennebec Land Trust, Excellence in Environmental Education program award. The land trust is being recognized for its mission of working with landowners in central Maine to conserve land, support sustainable forestry and farming and educate the public.

• Joanne DeFilipp Alex, lead teacher at the Stillwater Montessori School in Old Town, winner of the 2012 Eberhard Thiele Environmental Educator of the Year Award. DeFilipp Alex, who was Maine’s 1998 Teacher of the Year, has served for 20 years as a facilitator for Project Learning Tree and Project Wild and has written books on environmental education.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust is a winner of the Maine Environmental Education Association’s Excellence in Environmental Education award. The organization winning the award is the Augusta-based Kennebec Land Trust.

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