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Photo Essay

Elementary students from P.S. 41 in New York City Public Schools record observations on the green roof during class. The roof was the first official NYC Greenroof Environmental Literacy Laboratory installed in the city. (Photo: Vicki Sando)
The P.S. 442 green roof requires little maintenance after the first year of planting. (Photo: ©2015 Ari Burling Photography)
Students from P.S. 442 in Brooklyn grow grapes on the roof along with flowers and other plants.
A bee pollinates a flower on the green roof at P.S. 442, also in New York City Public Schools.

Learning to grow vegetables and flowers. Digging in the dirt. Understanding how seasons affect plants. Such learning experiences for students come with a green school roof.

Promoting green school roofs is part of New York City’s larger mission to combat air pollution, conserve energy and reduce the amount of stormwater flowing into sewers and waterways.

Green roofs also reduce the need for air conditioning, thus lessening the “urban heat island” effect—a phenomenon in which concentrated human activity and energy use make metropolitan areas hotter.

A bright new classroom space welcomes students with books and Snoopy of the Peanuts gang.
The completed magnet school in September features the name “Victoria Soto School” on the exterior panels.
A view of the new elementary school playground that includes slides and monkey bars.

December 14, 2012 is a day of tragedy that claimed the lives of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old first grade teacher who died trying to protect her students, has been honored by her hometown of Stratford, Connecticut, with the a newly constructed $18 million magnet elementary school bearing her name.

Students from Burton Hill Elementary School, part of Forth Worth ISD in Texas, get hands-on learning opportunities for all academic subjects using an outdoor garden and classroom.
Nationwide, some 94 percent of teachers in the school garden program reported seeing increased engagement from their students.
Burton Hill Elementary teachers attend professional development sessions to learn how to connect their lessons to activities in their school garden.
Over the past 12 years, REAL School Gardens has worked with more than 100 schools and trained 3,500 teachers.

School gardens used for instruction are on the rise nationwide, and with them, student engagement and test scores, according to a recent study.

The nonprofit REAL School Gardens works with corporations to build outdoor classrooms at low-income schools. The gardens include 150 square feet of vegetable beds, perennial and herb beds, rainwater collection systems, composting bins, earth science stations, and animal habitats.

Sandy Grove Middle School’s solar panels sit on the roof.
An interior hallway. More than 80 percent of the building’s light fixtures are LED, supplied by Cree.
Students can work in a new laboratory facility to analyze the school’s energy performance.
A media center leads to a hallway with natural light.

Sandy Grove Middle School, part of Hoke County Schools in North Carolina, is the first energy-positive school in the nation to be financed by its own expected energy savings.

The 74,000-square-foot school opened to students in fall 2013, and was designed as a net-zero facility that produces more energy than it consumes. It will also meet LEED Gold standards.

Congress Elementary School’s STEM drama club after a performance about animals.
Students in the after-school Lego robotics program use STEM skills in their building projects.
Students work in the school’s garden, getting hands-on experience in the science of plants.

STEM came alive in a rural Arizona district after a state grant led to a culture change.

Congress Elementary School District has just 115 students and is located 80 miles northwest of Phoenix. Superintendent and Principal Stephanie Miller received a three-year grant of $42,500 from Science Foundation Arizona and the Arizona STEM Network in 2012 to develop STEM programs and activities in the district.

The 1-to-1 district embarked on a STEM program that includes:

San Diego USD's new football stadium includes synthetic turf and an all-weather track. The field is surrounded by new bleachers, which seat nearly 1,580 on the home side and 880 on the visitor’s side.
Kearny High School Principal Ana Diaz-Booz speaks to students and guests at the new facilities dedication ceremony in April.
An aerial view of the new baseball stadium.
The new weight room and attached concession stand.

San Diego USD student athletes now play in a new football stadium, baseball field, track and other sports facilities as an $11 million improvement project was completed in April.

The project’s funding came from Proposition Z, San Diego USD’s general obligation bond passed by voters in 2012, as well as from the State Schools Facilities Funds. Construction began in winter 2014.

A Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School planes wood pieces for a toolbox and stonecutting. Hands-on projects like this prepare students for later study in the trades as they relate to preservation.
a historic-structures mason at the National Park Service’s Historic Architecture Conservation & Engineering Center instructs students in the trades.
A student in the “Introduction to Historic Preservation” class.
Students are introduced to masonry through stonecutting demos in the freshman “Introduction to Historic Preservation” class.
Field experiences for students include walking tours of New York City. Above, a teacher at Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School explains landscaping decisions in a local park.

New York City students are getting a taste of carpentry and other trades through a partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) focused on refurbishing historical buildings.

Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar challenged NPS’ New York regional department about five years ago to gather ideas to increase involvement with local communities that were not engaged with urban national park sites.

 QT can smell vapors from weapons such as ammunition or bombs in backpacks, even when they are no longer in the area.
student demonstrator carries shotgun shells in his backpack, and QT immediately picks up the scent.
QT the service dog now walks the halls of Calhoun County Schools searching for illegal substances.
Each dog trained in vapor wake detection must go through a six-month training at Auburn University, and pass a certification to be available for purchase.

Security dogs trained to detect the vapors in ammunition and bombs are being used in school district security for the first time. Calhoun County Schools in Alabama became the first district in the nation this year to pilot a vapor wake detection service with a canine officer.

The California-Arizona border, showing green amid brown desert, taken by elementary students in Hempstead ISD in Texas.
A view of the Sacramento Valley in California from the International Space Station, taken by students in the U.S. and Turkey.
An image of Nagano, Japan, requested by students in the U.S., Poland and Australia.

In November, middle school students from around the globe had the chance to take photos of Earth from the International Space Station. Sally Ride EarthKAM is a program meant to spark student interest in STEM subjects through photographing the earth from space.

Karner Blue Education Center's indoor playground gives students movement breaks and time to work on motor skills, particularly for long Minnesota winters when students are stuck indoors.
Students can access common-space areas for alternative learning spaces and movement breaks.

In September, the Karner Blue Education Center opened its brand new doors to some 100 K8 special education students in the Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District in Minnesota.