A School Where They’re Learning to be Green

WMS is featured in the Union Leader’s April 22nd edition.
New Hampshire Union Leader 04/22/2011, Page C01


By LORNA COLQUHOUN

Union Leader Correspondent

BETHLEHEM — Reading, writing and arithmetic are time-honored studies in any classroom, but in the 21st century, getting students out of that classroom in settings where the theory can be applied adds value.

At the White Mountain School, a program called Leadership for Global Sustainability provides just that setting for students, where everything from an organic farm to energy efficiency brings learning to a higher level.

And it’s fun, too.

“This gives our students an opportunity to see what their work can do,” said Headmaster Timothy Breen. Founded in 1886 in Concord, the school later moved to the White Mountains, with a foundation of academics, athletics and a love of the outdoors.

Developing a curriculum incorporating sustainability was a natural progression, Breen said.

“It flows from our mission of teaching students to be responsible citizens,” he said.

About 100 students attend the school, which was once known locally as the Seven Springs estate.

With a collection of older buildings, it gave students an opportunity to conduct an energy audit of several buildings.

Their calculations and assessments have led to a number of changes, not the least being a $150,000 low interest Community Development Finance Authority loan, which, Breen said, “will be paid back through energy savings.”

The student-led energy audit has also led to “tightening up” the buildings, by means of such things as quilted shades and replacing fluorescent lights.

The school also has an organic farm, which is largely tended by students who apply science lessons to the cultivation of the garden and the care and feeding of the chickens, as well as the muscle and manpower necessary to hand 2,600 pounds of fruit and vegetables harvested each year.

The sustainability program is not just confined to the North Country campus of the school.

“We have an international program for community service in Nicaragua and the Domincan Republic,” Breen said. “It provides them with an opportunity of seeing what life is like outside the school and work with local organizations.”

When the students depart from the school and begin their lives, they take with them more than memories.

“They are not just environmentalists, they become ecologists, they go into civics and politics,” Breen said. “They will always think about issues of sustainability.”

Classes in Bethlehem include everything from organic farming to energy efficiency, with homework giving the students an opportunity to make the whole school more eco-friendly.

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