Green Buildings: Better for Learning and Playing!

By Jennifer Thomas,
USGBC-MGC Marketing Committee

In 2013, the Green Schools Quest was launched by the U.S. Green Building Council-Missouri Gateway Chapter. This annual project-based challenge encourages public and private schools in Missouri and Southern Illinois to devise and implement creative, effective, and no- or low-cost sustainable practices for their schools. Each participating school is paired with a green building professional who serves as Green Mentor.

45 schools participated in the program’s third year (2015-2016). Each school formed a Green Team, which ranged from a student club to an entire school at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Each Green Team then engaged in a sustainability project that fit their school’s unique needs and resources. Projects varied widely in type and scale. For example, 5th graders at Alton School District’s East Elementary worked to help recycling efforts continue at the district level after teachers were informed that single-stream recycling had been pulled due to budgetary constraints. After studying waste and recycling, conducting waste audits, and visiting landfill and recycling facilities, students created a recycling awareness campaign for students, teachers, and administrators. Their efforts resulted in a second place finish.

Other teams tackled multiple projects at a smaller scale. At Nottingham Community Access Job Training High School in the St. Louis Public School District, students in Grounds Maintenance and Horticulture classes focused on the replacement of aging benches around the school’s athletic field. After finding a company that takes plastic caps and recycles them into benches, the students began a campaign to collect plastic caps. They also designed and created two mosaic bench tops, made planting pots out of toilet paper tubes, and grew plants to share with their community. The team won first place in the high school category.

Each participating Green Team documented their process and impact throughout the course of their project and submitted final documentation for judging by an impartial panel.

Winners received trophies and cash awards. The full list of 2015-2016 winners includes:

Elementary School Category

  • 1st Place – Hancock Place Elementary School
  • 2nd Place – East Elementary (Alton)
  • 3rd Place – City Garden Montessori

Middle School Category

  • 1st Place – North Kirkwood Middle School
  • 2nd Place – Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle
  • 3rd Place – Crossroads College Preparatory School
  • Honorable Mentions – Forsyth School & Little
  • Flower Catholic School

High School Category

  • 1st Place – Nottingham Community Access Job Training High School
  • 2nd Place – Governor French Academy
  • 3rd Place – St. Louis University High School

While the immediate impact of Green School Quest projects can result in energy and water savings, cleaner air, and healthier learning environments, the program further aims to catalyze a movement that fosters an attitude among youth to appreciate and model sustainable practices in their everyday lives.Congratulations to all of the 2015-2016 participants. They showcase how “Green Buildings are Better” for learning and playing!

USGBC-MGC is looking for both schools and mentors to participate in the 2016-17 Green Schools Quest! Registration is currently open for mentors through August 15, 2016, and schools through September 15, 2016. To learn more and register, visit www.usgbc-mogateway.org/green-school-quest.