Grimm + Parker Encourages Environmental Literacy & Engagement

By Rachel Leber

CALVERTON, Md. — September is traditionally the month for Green Apple Day of Service — an international USGBC event that draws forth volunteer projects to transform schools into safe, healthy and sustainable learning environments. Grimm + Parker Architects (G+P) in Calverton has participated in Green Apple Days since the event’s inception in 2012 at a number of schools in Maryland and Virginia, with this year being no exception.

Over the years, G+P has hosted Green Apple Days with the Ducketts Lane Elementary School in Elkridge, Md., in the Howard County Public School District (HCPSS); the Wilson Wims Elementary School in Clarksburg, Md., in the Montgomery Public School District (MPSD); and the Discovery STEM Elementary School in the Newport News public school district in Virginia.

September is traditionally the month for Green Apple Day of Service — an international event which draws forth volunteer projects to transform schools into safe, healthy and sustainable learning environments.
Photo Credit: Grimm + Parker Architects

In addition to its participation in Green Apple Days, encouraging environmental literacy and community engagement have been a major part of G+P’s mission as an architectural firm for many years. The firm has been partnering with nearby school districts since 2003, when a discussion and early meetings with Montgomery County’s Great Seneca Creek Elementary School took place, according to Amy Upton, AIA, principal and director of Environmental Design at G+P. Since 2006, further collaborations have been “ramping up” with Ducketts Lane Elementary School.

G+P has created programs that educate teachers, students and the community about sustainability in their buildings as well as programs that enhance the school with interactive teaching tools both for new construction and schools that have been open a few years.

“As a school continues to operate, there can be a disconnect from the original intentions around sustainable operations, and refreshers are often valuable,” said Upton. “Sustainable construction and LEED design are important, but if you don’t do educational commissioning for sustainability, you miss an opportunity to leverage the sustainable gains that you have made in design and construction.”

G+P designed the Ducketts Lane Elementary School in 2010 and saw it through to construction until it opened its doors in 2013. The school earned LEED Gold certification for its achievements in energy- efficient design and construction. G+P worked with HCPSS on its sustainability goals from the concept phase, and designed the building and site to maximize opportunities for environmental literacy and tie-ins for future lessons. G+P met with the principal of the school before hiring staff to explain sustainability goals of the project, led construction tours and engaged staff in the development of sustainable signage.

Once the school opened in 2013, G+P partnered with staff for the school’s first Green Apple Day of Service in 2013, which won the Best of Green Schools Community Event award from USGBC’s Center for Green Schools. The school continued hosting these events every year since. Additionally, G+P has hosted professional development days for teachers at Ducketts Lane, taught a geothermal lesson to the school in 2016 and will host a booth at the school’s Healthy Harvest Festival in 2017, with green feature games with dry-erase dice and Earth Day Prizes as well as earth-themed face painting.

“Amy Upton provided professional development opportunities and traveled to our school on multiple occasions. She helped train teachers on how to use the site in their classroom such as the water cycle — living and non-living — erosion and energy,” said Katherine Kidd, second grade teacher at Ducketts Lane. “She was instrumental in aligning the curriculum with the environmental features of the building and taught us how the building works. We have truly enjoyed the partnership with Amy and Grimm + Parker and look forward to working with her and the team each school year.”

The LEED Gold Wilson Wims Elementary School, also designed by G+P, is a 91,000-square-foot two-story school that opened in 2014 and was designed to accommodate 740 pre-K through fifth-grade students. Special sustainable features of Wilson Wims include the use of educational signage inside and outside the building, and include visible features such as sunshades, lighting controls in classrooms and dual- flush toilets.

In addition to hosting a Green Apple Day of Service at the school in 2014 and teaching geothermal lessons to the school in 2015 and 2016, G+P set up a construction tour and “green feature charrette” with teachers and first and fourth graders the winter before the school opened. G+P explained some green features to them such as geothermal well fields, vegetative roofs and the use of recycled materials.

Check out the entire article in the September/October issue of School Construction News.