A Project-Based Perfect ENERGY STAR Score
The Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (ANCS) is a kindergarten through eighth grade charter school with two campuses formed by the merger of two successful charter schools. Since the school’s founding, ANCS has been committed to improving the well-being of the students and community in variety of ways. First and foremost, it strives to reduce the environmental impact of the school through facilities and transportation initiatives. Two separate awards given to ANCS (in partnership with Southface Energy Institute) from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s Grants to Green program resulted in the installation of energy efficient LED lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, water bottle filling stations, high performance windows, thermal envelope insulation, and web-based centralized climate control for HVAC units. ANCS reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent and energy by 50 percent in just one year. These efforts led to one of the building’s receipt of an ENERGY STAR certification with a score of 100 in 2015, as well as to participation with the City of Atlanta in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge program for sustainable buildings.
The school received a Safe Routes to School infrastructure grant to make walking and biking to school easier through community infrastructure improvements, and now oversees walking and biking school buses. ANCS participates with the Georgia Clean Air Campaign’s schools program to encourage cleaner, healthier forms of transit to and from school, along with no-idling policies. The schoolwide recycling and composting program limits the impact of the school’s consumption.
ANCS seeks to improve the health and wellness of the students and staff. It has implemented a successful farm to school program providing fresh, locally sourced food for students and staff. During the school day, there are regular periods of daily physical activity for students at all grade levels, and mindfulness practices are incorporated into all classrooms. All staff members are invited to participate in a voluntary wellness program sponsored by Humana. As a school, ANCS organizes and holds an annual five-kilometer road race and health fair for the community.
These environmental and wellness efforts are interwoven with learning. With support from a grant from the Aetna Foundation, a student FitWit club was formed to provide greater learning about health, and also to provide materials to help launch the farm that supports the school’s farm to school program with students. Students at the middle school campus are involved in tending the school farm. They have planned out entire meals for the school cafeteria using the school farm -- determining what they would need to plant, when the crop would yield, how they could use cisterns to irrigate the farm, and how they could use as much of the yield as possible in the meal.
ANCS is a project-based learning school, and the major culminating projects for units include a focus on sustainability and environmental impact. In grades five, six, and seven, students take a major overnight field trip to different parts of the state, where they take part in an outdoor education program to learn more deeply about environmental issues affecting Atlanta and the region. ANCS’s partnerships with the Jackson Park Farm, Grant Park Community Farmers Market, and the Captain Planet Foundation provide students with a range of learning about gardening, math and science, and civic engagement.