Sustainable Jersey for Schools Certification Report

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This is the Sustainable Jersey for Schools Certification Report of Highland Park Middle School (Middlesex), a Sustainable Jersey for Schools bronze certified applicant.

Highland Park Middle School (Middlesex) was certified on August 26, 2019 with 195 points. Listed below is information regarding Highland Park Middle School (Middlesex)’s Sustainable Jersey for Schools efforts and materials associated with the applicant’s certified actions.

Contact Information

The designated Sustainable Jersey for Schools contact for Highland Park Middle School (Middlesex) is:

Name:Corey Carter
Title/Position:Teacher / Science
Address:330 Wayne St.
Highland Park, New Jersey 08904
Phone:732 572 6990

Actions Implemented

Each approved action and supporting documentation for which Highland Park Middle School (Middlesex) was approved for in 2019 appears below. Note: Standards for the actions below may have changed and the documentation listed may no longer satisfy requirements for that action.

  • Board Leadership & Planning

    Professional Development for Sustainability

    20 Points
    Bronze Priority Silver Priority School District

    Program Summary: Professional Development for Sustainability took place on January 23, 2019 from 3:15-5:15 pm in the Bartle School Art Room. The presenter, Tracey Maiden, targeted all staff and over 20 participants signed up for a transformative learning process designed to equip students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking we need to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship. The Professional Development focused on Climate Change. The workshop consisted of a PowerPoint presentation, discussions, a craft activity and group activities. Topics for this 2 hour workshop included: -definition of sustainability -why educate for sustainability? -incorporate sustainable education in the curriculum -increase the school district's sustainable practices -sustainable thinking in everyday life/behaviors -resources for EfS for teachers -discussions: concerns about (lack of) sustainable initiatives and what can be done It is our hope that the participants develop a personal rationale for sustainability, then be able to effectively educate for sustainability.

  • Climate Mitigation & Renewable Energy

    Buy Renewable Electricity

    10 Points
    School District

    Program Summary: As testified in the attached Statement of Certification, the Highland Park Board of Education opted in to the ACES Voluntary Enhanced Renewable Energy Product, whose electric supply consists of 16% greater renewable energy content than the requirements of the NJ RPS. Over the 24-month (Dec 2018 – Dec 2020) contract term, the voluntary ACES enhanced renewable energy product will consist of 40% renewable energy. The direct impact on the school district will be estimated savings compared to the PSE&G tariff prices for power supply of approximately 12%. The broader impact on the community will be felt in the schools doing their part to reduce GHG emissions and slow the pace of climate change.

  • Food & Nutrition

    School Gardens

    10 Points
    School

    Program Summary: The Highland Park Middle School Garden was established in 2010 with a grant from Sustainable Jersey. In conjunction with Middle School staff and parent volunteers, the Middle School garden which is currently shared with the High School, plants lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, herbs, peppers, and squash. The garden twines with the sixth language arts curriculum in that students read Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, care for the garden, plant and utilize some of the produce. More produce has been donated to the Highland Park Food Pantry, as well. Students have also written poetry and stories in the garden and about the garden. Sixth grade science coursework has used the garden to introduce topics like soil composition, plant parts, and the importance of a balanced diet.

  • Healthy School Environments

    Anti-Idling Education & Enforcement

    10 Points
    School District

    Program Summary: For many years we have had a effective idling reduction campaign. The Board of Education adopted a Resolution for “Idle-Free Zones” (see attached resolution and also p.4, #10 in attached minutes of 12/17/18 Board Meeting). We have collaborated with local police to develop and implement an enforcement plan, as documented in the two attached memos. The 11/13/18 Memo from Lt. Panichella to the Police Chief describes the new, more efficient drop-off plan for our youngest students we have implemented at Irving School (Pre-K-1). The improved traffic flow has minimized idling by parental cars. Our school buses are not allowed to idle more than three minutes. The second memo documents a meeting between Lt. Panichella, the Superintendent and the school principals during which the anti-idling enforcement policy was reviewed. Educational materials have been distributed to the entire school community via signage (see attached photo from Irving School) and a district-wide announcement, delivered via Honeywell alert via phone and email to all staff and parents (also attached). The impact on the community has been uniformly positive. Reduced fumes from idling cars and buses has reduced the exposure of students and staff to air pollution and asthma-triggers. The policy has increased environmental awareness, and may lead to reduced idling elsewhere in Highland Park. Greenhouse gas emissions have been reduce and fuel conserved.

  • Innovation Projects

    Innovative Project #1

    10 Points
    School District

    Program Summary: In August 2018, the Borough of Highland Park was awarded a $30,000 New Jersey Urban and Community Forestry grant to plant trees on school grounds. This innovative, collaborative project will beautify and improve the environment around each of the four schools in the district. Plantings will be concentrated at the High School/Middle School campus to create three ecological communities (floodplain, riparian and upland forest), as well as a small fruit orchard that will form a learning environment that will be integrated into the curriculum and enhance the existing outdoor classroom. The preparation of the grant application and, subsequently, the operational Tree Planting Plan has been a collaborative effort between the district and the borough, represented by a stakeholder committee comprised of the four principals, the High School Environmental Club, facilities staff, the Highland Park Shade Tree Committee, the Department of Public Works, and Tobiah Horton, Rutgers Professor of Landscape Architecture. A stakeholder meeting was held on March 27th to provide input to the proposal, followed by a planning meeting (October 4th), after the grant was awarded. The High School Environmental Club conducted research on the optimal choice of tree species, which they presented and discussed with Mr. Horton, STAC members and the high school Sustainability class on January 23rd. Where possible, Mr. Horton incorporated their suggestions and preferences in the planting plan. The Environmental Club will take the lead in promoting the project at school assemblies and at the upcoming Earth Day Green Fair, which they co-organize with Sustainable Highland Park every year (another example of close Borough-School collaboration). The detailed planting design has been completed and approved by the District and the NJDEP. Due to delays associated with project award and contracting, the team postponed the major planting until Fall 2019/Spring 2020. In order to maintain momentum and to celebrate and promote our achievement and plans to students, staff and the wider community, we held a project launch event on June 5th in front of the high school, at which a ceremonial first tree was planted. The event was attended by Borough Council member, Susie Welkovits, Communications Officer, Harry Glazer, Superintendent Scott Taylor, Principal Michael Lassiter, members of the Shade Tree Advisory Committee, Professor Horton, members of the High school Environmental Club, as well as other students and teachers. See attached Press Release and photos. We were proud to be featured on the NJDEP's Urban and Community Forestry Facebook page (see screenshot). The Borough also posted an item on its Facebook page and plans an article on the project and launch event in its next newsletter issue.

  • Learning Environment

    Student Participation in the Arts

    10 Points
    District

    Program Summary: The Highland Park Board of Education, parents and the community are strong supporters of arts education in all the schools. High school students are required to complete one year (5 credits) of visual and performing arts classes. Sample classes include drawing, sculpture, digital photography, choir, band, orchestra and music theory. Middle school students have one to two marking periods of art/music/drama. Elementary school students (K-5) participate weekly in music and art classes. All of the visual and performing arts teachers are certified and highly qualified. The impact of students participating in the arts has many benefits to the Highland Park community, including contributions to the Windows of Understand Program, which is described further in the accompanying letter. The high school and middle school orchestra have performed in the senior center and street festivals. These dedicated music teachers continually seek new venues to connect students with members of the community who may not otherwise have an opportunity to enjoy live music.

  • School Grounds

    Green Infrastructure Installation

    10 Points
    School

    Program Summary: The Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resource Program installed a beautiful rain garden at the Middle School and High Schools, with both schools sharing the same outside grounds. Science teachers from both schools were very interested in getting their students involved in learning about benefits of rain gardens and the role of native plants in the rain garden. This project is important and exciting because of the adoption of Next Generation Science Standards. Having a rain garden, a vegetable garden, and butterfly garden, offers students numerous opportunities to learn about and contribute to environmental stewardship. On June 16, 2016, RCE program associate, Sara Mellor, gave a talk to 6th grade science class about the benefits of a rain garden capturing stormwater runoff in preventing flooding and contamination of local waterways, how a rain garden works and the benefits of planting native plants to attract pollinators. The students enjoyed being outdoors and planted butterfly milkweed, black eye susan, bee balm, goldenrod, purple coneflower, blue flag iris, new england aster, etc. Funding for this project came from a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and installation was performed June 13-16, 2016. Maintenance of the rain garden will be a joint partnership between the middle and high school science teachers and their students during the school year. In the summer, staff and campers from summer camp that takes place in the middle school will maintain the rain garden. Maintanence will include watering, pruning, weeding and replanting. The facilities department will assist as necessary.

  • Student & Community Outreach

    Green Team

    10 Points
    Bronze Required Silver Required School District

    Program Summary: Highland Park has a District Green team and one for each of the four schools. They were established before our first certification application three years ago. Please see attached the letter from superintendent appointing the current members, lists of those members, and the annual report from the District Green Team summarizing progress made by all four school green teams as well as by the District. (Several of the schools also provided their annual reports). Having an active district green team has provided support and impetus to all four school green teams to implement Sustainable Jersey actions and thereby benefit the whole school community, by saving costs, protecting the environment, and enriching student education.

    Green Fair

    10 Points
    School

    Program Summary: Highland Park Middle School partnered with Sustainable Highland Park and the borough for the Earth Day Festival at Highland Park's Environmental Education Center on April 22, 2018. The goal of this annual festival is to enlighten the public on living a "green" and sustainable lifestyle. The theme was centered around water. Students in the Environmental Club had two presentations for visitors. One was a trifold board with facts about water usage, along with things people can do to limit their water use. The other was an interactive card game where participants had to match common items to the amount of water used to produce them. It was a very eye-opening experience. The students met with the club advisor to plan and develop activities for the green fair, then did research for the game, and made posters for their tables. They also met several times with a representative from Sustainable Highland Park to discuss their ideas for activities and how to attract fair goers to their tables. The students did a wonderful job of promoting the fair by posting flyers all over the school, announcing the fair multiple times on the PA system and informing their families and friends about it. In addition, the school sent the green fair flyer electronically to all the students' parents/guardians.

    Civic & Stewardship Volunteer Initiatives

    10 Points
    School

    Program Summary: Students in Action is a club that engages students in character building through service activities. It is open to all students in our school. Last spring, the group took a field trip to the Ronald McDonald House in New Brunswick. They toured the facility and learned about their mission. The group focused most of their efforts this year on supporting their cause. Throughout the year, they have engaged in activities for Ronald McDonald House and variety of other causes including Pennies for Patients and the Highland Park Community Food Pantry. Students also participated in a conference to showcase their work and share their ideas with other schools. Over three car loads of food were collected for the food drive - the food pantry noted that this was one of their biggest donations to date. Pop tops and proceeds from holiday candy grams went to the Ronald McDonald House to purchase goods on their wish list. Students working in our Project Based Learning Elective raised money to purchase a washer and dryer for use by families in need in our community. Students raised over $500 in donations from local businesses, but also reached out to Home Depot who donated two washer and dryer units. They were installed in late January and are currently being used by families in need two evenings per month

    Enrichment Programs through Partnership

    10 Points
    School

    Program Summary: Our school was provided with a day of service from L'Oreal corporation through Jersey Cares. Over 100 volunteers came to our school and engaged our students in beautification projects including empowering murals in the stairwells, painting bathrooms and locker rooms, providing picnic tables and benches near the field, creating a rock garden, and installing planters and raised beds alongside the building. The volunteers also led a variety of workshops with students on topics including recycling, STEM, theater, and career jeopardy.

  • Student Learning

    Education for Sustainability Grades 4-12 Social Studies

    5 Points
    School

    Program Summary: The concepts of global interdependence and sustainability are woven throughout the curriculum in our eighth-grade Global Civics course. After learning about these concepts early in the year, students applied them to current events by reading news articles related to the plight of refugees and the links between climate change and displacement. Students synthesized their analyses through Socratic Seminars in which they practiced dialogue skills. Later in the year, students will learn how public policy is formed and the rights and responsibilities of citizens to influence it. They will be charged with researching a current issue related to sustainability that is under consideration at the local, state, or national level. After considering various proposals related to the issue, the students will use their collective voice to try to influence public policy by writing letters to the appropriate elected officials. Toward the end of the year, students will engage in a Model United Nations conference that will include topics centered on sustainability. As they assume the roles of diplomats from various countries, students will work to build consensus for global resolutions on topics such as access to clean water, displacement, and climate change. In preparation for the conference, students will research the backgrounds and interests of their assigned countries, develop ideas for resolutions, and prepare position speeches. They will focus their efforts on finding sustainable solutions to the root causes of global problems. At the end of the conference, each committee of students will present its resolution to the entire eighth-grade class. Through the aforementioned exercises, we hope that our students will gain knowledge and skills that will help them to become informed and active global citizens. In particular, we hope they will be mindful of their potential to work toward sustainable practices on the local, state, national, and global levels.

  • Student and Staff Wellness

    Policies to Promote Physical Activity

    10 Points
    District

    Program Summary: The school district has committed to fostering personal wellness for all in the community by codifying efforts in its strategic plan. The plan’s goal related to this work reads, "The district will ensure that curriculum and instruction support the ‘whole' child (i.e. the academic, social, emotional, and mental wellness of every student).” Actions that have resulted from the strategic planning work include the inclusion of a daily recess period of not less than 20 minutes for kindergarten through fifth grade. The elementary schools no longer withhold recess as a form of disciplinary action; all students participate in physical activity during the day. As the attached "Wellness Policy" (#3 Goals for Physical Activity) indicates: - Elementary school students are encouraged to participate in physical activity during recess - Classroom teachers are encouraged to incorporate Physical Activity Breaks throughout the day - Middle and High School students are offered opportunities to participate in intramural and interscholastic teams, as well as after school activities and clubs which have a physical activity component In addition, various extracurricular programs encourage children to include personal wellness activities in their lives. Run for Fun engages kids at the elementary level in Friday afternoon group runs around the school grounds. Monthly activities at the early childhood school urge families to find alternatives to driving to school. The middle and high schools provide a plethora of after-school athletic activities that are wide-ranging enough to engage students with a variety of interests. For a low fee, the two elementary schools provide before and after school programs that incorporate more outdoor play time as well as other opportunities for physical activity. Highland Park residents see the school district has a hub for recreation activities. A close partnership has been created between the township’s recreation department and the school district that has led to frequent use of gymnasium and track and field facilities. Regional soccer clubs and a newly minuted flag football program have taken advantage of the school district’s facilities. Many members of the public run on the high school track on a regular basis. On May 1, 2019, the Superintendent issued an update through the Honeywell alert system to the parents and staff all four schools concerning ongoing District policies pertaining to health and wellness, including our policies to promote physical activity among other topics. This documents that the policies are currently being implemented (as are all our District policies).

    Staff Wellness Program

    10 Points
    School District

    Program Summary: A Staff Wellness Program has been developed at Highland Park Middle School. 1. To begin, warm vinyasa yoga is offered to staff members of the Highland Park School District, focusing on staff members throughout the district. Yoga is offered to staff members at a local yoga studio, Kinetics, housed at 409 Raritan Avenue in Highland Park. Directly after school on specified Wednesday, from 3:30-4:30, between the months of November and June, staff meet at the studio and take a yoga class designated for Highland Park staff. The class is intended to be progressive and build week-to-week in intensity. The response from staff has been excellent. It is a fabulous opportunity for staff to decompress, stretch, and become healthier. Prior to receiving the Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant, staff signed up and paid for sessions. It is also an opportunity for staff to utilize downtown Highland Park resources. Prior to class, staff sign up on the Google doc, declaring their intent to attend class and Dara Botvinick sends out weekly reminder emails to staff, inviting all to sign up for yoga. As many as forty individuals utilized the yoga classes. After receiving the grant in January, free yoga classes have been available for staff and more staff continued their yoga usage and more staff who had been unable to budget for yoga previously now joined weekly yoga. 2. Staff was able to participate in a Yoga for Classrooms workshop, sponsored through the Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant to help staff create a more responsive, peaceful and mindful classroom for themselves and their students. During the workshop the rational, the research and the implementation of such a classroom was expanded upon. All attendees were given yoga activity cards to be utilized in their classroom: yoga poses, breathing exercises, partner exercises, and such. It is an invaluable resource! 3. From the very beginning of the year Safeschools courses to ensure the safety of staff and students were mandated by the district to ensure safety for all. All staff members were given time and required to take courses on the following: Pandemic Flu, Asthma Awareness, Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Prevention, HIV/AIDS Awareness. All staff members were given time to take these online courses to be completed by October of 2019. Additionally, the Rite Aid pharmacy came to the High School on Oct. 9, 2018,to give flu, pneumonia , DTaP, and Zostavaz shots to members.This helps staff be current on their immunizations without taking time off to go to their physicians which decreases staff absenteeism. They take our staff's insurance so there is no cost to them. 3. We developed a Staff Wellness Committee comprised of our Health and Wellness Team Members: Dara Botvinick-6th Grade ELA Teacher Corey Carter-6th Grade Science Teacher Gina Dunatov- Technology Teacher Rich McGlynn-Physical Education Teacher Dan Mladnick- 8th grade Global Civics Teacher Kimberly Kershaw-School Nurse - Community member and Municipal Green Team We met on the following dates as well as informally, discussing our plan to further wellness in our school formally - September 17, 2018, October 29, 2018, December 17, 2018, February 8th, 2019, March 28th, 2019 In these meetings we discussed staff morale as it affects their health, scheduling needs, wellness needs, weight management and stress management, creating a survey for Staff Wellness to understand the staff needs and desires. We also discussed incentives for staff wellness actions. 4. March 31, 2018, Diversity Day was held school-wide. Planned and executed by staff, wellness activities included: a talk by The day began with a keynote address to the school by David Acouth, a  Lost Boy of Sudan who was forced to flee his home country when he was a child. After a long journey, David made it to the US where he is currently working in D.C as a legislative fellow in the US House of Representatives. David spoke to students about courage, resilience, determination, and the import of giving back to the community. Additionally, students heard testimony from Holocaust survivors, Henry Shanzer, who spoke about his personal experiences and life lessons as survivors of the Holocaust.  Throughout the remainder of the day, students attend self-selected workshops. Workshops by Hip-Hop Fundamentals and Mexico Beyond Mariachi, active dance workshops, as well as yoga, meditation, badminton, and LGBTQ workshops were available to students. This year's upcoming Diversity Day is also scheduled for May 31st: May 31, 2019.

  • Student Safety

    Safe Routes to School District Policy

    10 Points
    District

    Program Summary: The Highland Park School District adopted a transportation policies that embodies Safe Routes to School. Spurred by the initiative of the Green Team and with the support of the Safe Routes to School program at Keep Middlesex Moving, the Highland Park School District developed an active transportation policy. The policy describes the benefits of active travel to school (inclusive of walking, biking, skateboarding, and scootering), the rules for safe and efficient arrival and dismissal using active modes of travel, and the current and future steps the district is taking to support walking and bicycling to school, in cooperation with the borough and other supporting organizations. Individual schools already promote active travel through their own policies and programs, such as walking school buses and the bi-annual Walk to School Day. The Borough of Highland Park benefits from a compact and connected street network with sidewalks. On May 1, 2019, the Superintendent issued an update to the parents and staff at all four schools concerning District policies pertaining to health and wellness, specifically concerning our ongoing implementation of the Safe Routes to Schools policy.

    Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety and Promotion Initiatives

    10 Points
    School

    Program Summary: Highland Park Middle School has participated this past year in a "Bike to School Day" and a bike lock workshop on May 25, 2018 as well as the town-wide "Bike Rodeo" on October 4, 2018. Walking and bicycling to school is encouraged by the school administration (support letter from HP Superintendent is attached) and several bike racks for students to park and lock their bikes (picture is also attached).

    School Travel Plan for Walking and Biking

    10 Points
    School

    Program Summary: A Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Travel Plan for Walking and Biking at the middle school has the support of Keep Middlesex Moving and the NJ SRTS Resource Center at Rutgers, and was completed in June 2016. The plan has the buy-in of the school principals, the Green Team, and the superintendent. Highland Park schools already promote active travel through their own policies and programs, such as walking school buses and the bi-annual Walk to School Day, and the Borough of Highland Park benefits from a compact and connected street network with sidewalks. The plan will build on current conditions to identify short term and long-term actions that could be taken by the school, municipality, police department, and other organizations to improve the safety and ease of walking and biking to school. The plan will include all required elements of a school travel plan specified by the NJ Department of Transportation including a school description, a working group, a map of the school neighborhood, a walk and bike assessment, identification of the barriers and opportunities associated with walking or biking to the school, a list of goals, actions and priorities to increase walking and biking to school, and a strategy for evaluating progress. As of January 2016 the participating schools are conducting student travel tallies to record how students get to school today, and a working group is being assembled.

  • Waste Management & Recycling

    Recycling Non-Mandated Materials

    10 Points
    School

    Program Summary: In November 2018, the Environmental Club organized a collection of materials for Terracycle within the school. This was done in partnership with the Reformed Church of Highland Park. Flyers distinguishing items that can be collected for TerraCycle versus those that go through normal recycling were placed in the school cafeteria and teachers' lounge. The program is also promoted through reminders during the morning and afternoon announcements. Members of the Environmental Club count the collected items at the end of each month. The amounts are shared during the daily announcements. The items are then brought to the church by members or club advisors. Members share the responsibility of transporting the items by rotating month to month. If the assigned students is unable, one of the advisors takes care of it. The church ships the items to TerraCycle. This action has had a positive impact in the school community. The number of collected items has increased each month. Also, custodians have reported seeing fewer recyclable items in garbage bins.