Kenosha Students “Grin” for the Environment

A member of the Wisconsin Green Schools Network, the Dimensions in Learning Academy reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, conserves water, and improves air quality in the school’s neighborhood with an innovative program of “idle free zones” around the school. Thanks to the students in the Green Initiative (Grin), Dimensions of Learning was named a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. 

The K-8 charter school in the southern part of the state is also a PLT GreenSchool. Here’s how they put PLT GreenSchools to work to benefit students and the environment.

Energy Investigation

Dimensions of Learning Academy received Energy Star certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in recognition of its efforts to reduce energy consumption. Those efforts have resulted in a 6.8% reduction in the school’s greenhouse gas emissions, and a 3.6% reduction in energy use. These savings are especially significant in a school building that was constructed in 1911, more than a century ago.

School Site Investigation

Students in the Green Initiative (Grin) program at Dimensions of Learning work with adult volunteers on service projects designed to make the school and community greener. One of these is the school garden, dubbed “Food for Learning,” which supplies food for the cafeteria. The garden uses rainwater diverted from gutters and downspouts to fill rain barrels. Students explore the issue of food production during “buy local” field trips to farmers’ markets.

Waste & Recycling Investigation

Grin students created “Landfill Larry,” a figure made of galvanized wire to call attention to the trash that often ends up in landfills. Students covered Larry’s frame with different types of landfill waste that are monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency: paper and cardboard; yard waste, lumber, and construction materials; food scraps; plastics; metals; textiles and rubber; and glass. The students have conducted research about waste, and look for ways to reduce the amount of trash in each category that ends up in landfills. Students used Landfill Larry as a visual aid to teach other students how to be “Waste Wise.”  Their efforts had an effect; the school reached a 50% recycling rate.

Environmental Quality

The school also has a serious commitment to reducing neighborhood pollution. After conducting a transportation audit in 2011, students raised money for  signs showcasing the school’s new idle-free zones—the first at any Kenosha city school. The signs encourage community members to “turn the key and be idle free” in hopes of improving neighborhood air quality and educating community members about responsible environmental behavior. 

Kathy Westra

Kathy Westra

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

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