Clean Energy for Bright Futures

Bloomfield Vocational Technical School (Bloomfield Tech), a PLT GreenSchool in Bloomfield, New Jersey, is an ideal laboratory for the program’s student-led investigations. 

The school’s Green Team, facilitated by teacher Todd Menadier, has completed all five of the investigations. In the process, they found ways to make their already green school even greener.

Bloomfield Tech is an unusual school, offering a Green Energy Academy as one of four career clusters available to its students.  Green Energy Academy students study the environmental, economic, political, and social impacts of energy usage, and are encouraged to think about alternatives to current energy models. The intensive energy-focused curriculum, combined with a strong academic program that has earned Bloomfield Tech a coveted Blue Ribbon School designation from the U.S. Department of Education, prepares students for careers in the green energy field.

The school’s focus on energy led to innovative—and money-saving—projects, as students completed the PLT GreenSchools Energy Investigation. With help from $8,070 in PLT GreenWorks! grants, students designed and installed systems to monitor temperature, humidity, and energy use in the school’s greenhouse 24 hours a day. They even designed an “app” that turns off grow-lights in the greenhouse remotely from a SmartPhone if the automated monitoring system indicates there’s enough light to meet the growing plants’ needs.

“We have installed systems that give us more data and, as a result, have achieved significant energy savings,” said Menadier. “We installed a 400-watt wind turbine and a 1 kw solar system to provide power for the greenhouse,” where the students raise vegetables for school families and for distribution to needy community members.

Students enrolled in the program have become polished and articulate ambassadors of the PLT GreenSchools program, not only in their community but also to national audiences.  A student team made a presentation at the annual meeting of the  National Youth Leadership Council in Minneapolis. They also were featured presenters in a PLT GreenSchools webinar.

A formal partnership with the local power company, Newark-based PSE&G, means that Green Energy Academy students make regular presentations to company executives and staff. They also have presented their work to the local school board, and to New Jersey staff of the international consulting firm Ernst & Young.

Kathy Westra

Kathy Westra

Kathy Westra is a writer and environmental communications consultant based in Rockland, Maine.

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