Hoboken’s schools were the only district in Hudson County to receive the bronze award from Sustainable Jersey for Schools recently. The certification is good for three years.
“Sustainabilty” in terms of the schools means not only being more environmentally friendly, but also educating students on the subject. They were able to show the nonprofit organization that they had kept up to date with sustainability initiatives such as recycling, host educational programming on climate change, and utilize green technology such as motion sensors for lights to conserve energy.
Kevin Metcalfe, elementary science and Project Lead the Way teacher, represented the district and the Connors Elementary School at the 2017 Annual Sustainable Jersey for School’s Award.
Connors Elementary School has now earned Bronze Level Certification in the program twice, and was the only school in Hudson County this year to be rewarded.
According to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Johnson, the district isn’t stopping there.
She says next year the district will strive for the silver certification. This year they also hope to be certified by Future Ready Schools New Jersey, a program designed to promote digital learning readiness in schools throughout New Jersey.
The program, a partnership of the state Department of Education, the New Jersey School Boards Association, and New Jersey Institute of Technology, will help schools promote the skills, abilities, and capacities essential for success in college, career, and citizenship in a digital age.
Johnson said these types of certifications are “critical” for the district. “They reflect key areas of focus,” said Johnson. “They keep us focused in areas where our priorities should be. More importantly, they are transparent processes to help us communicate with not only the community, but also to ourselves, what the realities are in terms of what we are actually doing, as opposed what we say we are doing. They are all evidence-based.”
Johnson said receiving the district-wide bronze award for sustainability initiatives “was somewhat challenging with aging buildings, but with the right efforts and right commitment, transfer from bronze to silver certification is definitely something we will pursue.”
Dr. Johnson said the district has created task forces to begin pursuing both types of certification.
The district’s schools fill out a self-assessment answering multiple questions and providing evidence to support their assessment. The organizations evaluate the district’s answers and evidence, and give each answer a point value depending on whether or not evidence was given. This point value determines its awarded certification level.
Sustainability and technology initiatives
District officials say they have worked hard to become more sustainable, doing everything from facility upgrades to implementing educational opportunities for its students.
“In terms of sustainability we are absolutely looking to continue our commitment to growing as a sustainable school district,” said Johnson. She said the district is working on a number of educational opportunities to help garner them more points and hopefully silver certification.
“The one major initiative is to partner with the city on number of projects,” said Johnson. “For example, our art department is engaged with some employees from the city in doing mural projects in local parks, including the pop-up park…Students at the high school can participate in a professional growth period, or PGP, and one of those programs this year is a sustainable architecture program. The goal is to engage our students with key city planners to get them interested in and understanding types of sustainable architecture. We are focusing more to do with educating kids and connecting kids to learning purposes and importance of sustainability.”
When it comes to technology and the Future Readiness certification, Johnson said the timing couldn’t be more perfect, as the district has implemented several new technology programs.
At the last Hoboken Board of Education meeting the board unanimously passed a resolution to participate in Future Ready Schools New Jersey which states “The Hoboken Board of Education will support and promote the development of individual school Future Ready teams that infuse Digital Learning across multiple disciplines including: math, technology education, media arts, science, language arts, and career and technical education.”
She said the certification process is very comprehensive. It covers everything from “teaching kids about technology and also what technology tools are we using in the classroom to enhance learning.”
“We are defining ourselves as the epicenter of global learning and the Future Ready certification is the vehicle for that,” said Johnson.
The district is striving to be Future Ready through the implementation of Project Lead the Way from kindergarten to senior year. “We are also a district that wants to embrace and capitalize what Hoboken is, which is a microcosm of the world,” she said. “We want to make sure our students have a high level of cultural literacy and global awareness.”
She said some of the high school students will take a trip to Japan in January to learn more about the technology used in biomedical sciences. Currently, students in the Classroom Global Conflicts and Resolutions Programs communicate frequently with leaders all around the world in a variety of subject areas using technology.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.