Kromrey Middle School, a 2017 Green Ribbon Schools honoree, is an example of what happens when a school district and community embrace sustainability. The vision and concept for the new Kromrey Middle School building was a result of district-wide sustainability initiatives.
"One of our guiding principles as we develop our long-range master planning for facilities is to make sure they incorporate sustainability practices and provide learning opportunities for students,'' said Superintendent George Mavroulis. "Kromrey is a great example of what we can do when we make that a priority.''
In 2016, the school was awarded ENERGY STAR certification and U.S. Middle School Design Project of the Year. Many steps have been taken to create a modern facility that incorporates sustainable practices and features. The new building has geothermal heating and cooling, solar hot water, and LED or fluorescent lighting used in tandem with natural light to reduce the need for artificial lighting. More than a quarter of the landscaping is native and building materials were sourced locally, wherever feasible.
There are places for students to gather that provide views of nature, including an outdoor amphitheater and a living wall on the edge of a nature conservancy. The students and teachers work together to incorporate everyday environmental impact reduction techniques to make the best use of the new facility. “This school has a great collaborative culture between the community, staff, and students. The Green Ribbon process has allowed us to analyze and explore these relationships and take advantage of opportunities afforded to us,” said Brian Miles, the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) Technology Integrator and Student Council Advisor.
The school’s proximity to Pheasant Branch Conservancy provides teachers and students an opportunity to work with environmental and conservation agencies to incorporate environmental education and outdoor learning. Moving to a building with views of the adjacent nature preserve, teachers are writing curriculum to learn about and connect with the environment. English classes go outside for observations related to writing poetry or observational writing. Sixth grade teachers are planning lessons where students will be adopting different portions of the extensive rain gardens that receive stormwater from the adjacent parking lot. Eighth grade science teachers are planning stream monitoring activities with their classes this fall.
“The school grounds provide so many opportunities for outdoor learning. It is so very exciting for students to take a role in decision making for their learning and also in maintaining the rain gardens by identifying native plantings and removing invasive species,” said Debra Weitzel, district sustainability coordinator.