From organizing Sustainable Jersey for Schools to partnering with the NASA professional development alliance, the New Jersey School Boards Association has made a substantial commitment to sustainable practices and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics education) education. The Association is pleased to recognize recent achievements by local school districts in these areas.

“Sustainable practices result in healthier schools, with benefits for students’ physical and academic well-being,” explained Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “They also reduce operating costs, making more funds available for classroom initiatives.”

He continued, “The importance of STEM education to our students’ future is indisputable; a majority of the new jobs created during this century will require a background in STEM.

“We congratulate the districts which were recently recognized for their successful STEM education and sustainability initiatives.”

Livingston School District: Eco-Lancers

A team of students from Livingston High School recently won an award at the Shell Eco-marathon, a competition for high school and college student teams from around the world. The students design and build energy-efficient vehicles; winning teams are those that can travel the farthest distance using the least amount of energy.

The Livingston High Eco-Lancers team has taken part in the challenge since 2012-2013, and is the only high school in the state to participate. The team is advised by James Novotny, the district’s technology supervisor. (Stevens Institute of Technology is the only other New Jersey educational institution that sent a team to the competition.)

This is the third year that Livingston High school has sent a group to the competition. After beginning in 2012-2013 with two vehicles, one powered by diesel and the other by gasoline, the 2013-2014 team focused only on a gasoline-powered vehicle. With design modifications that included changes to the frame surrounding the engine, the team was able to push the efficiency of its vehicle to more than 370 miles per gallon at the 2014 competition in Houston, Texas.

This year the team, which uses computer-assisted design software, further refined its design, adding more sensitive sensors to the fuel injection mechanism, replacing the  two-speed rear axle with a lightweight efficient rear axle/tire/rim, replacing the rest of the frame with lightweight chromemoly steel, replacing the canopy, and improving drive communications and performance data.  In April 2015, the team competed in Detroit, achieving a fuel efficiency of 588 miles per hour.

While the 2014-2015 team didn’t win the award for the highest miles per gallon (a University of Toronto team achieved the equivalent of 3,421 miles per gallon), the Livingston students won the Communications Award for what judges called “an impressive array of communications efforts and activities” to promote the project.

Several local sponsors have generously supported the team over the years.  For more information, go to www.ecolancers.org.

Jersey City School District: P.S. 5

Perth Amboy School District: Perth Amboy High School

In October 2014, the U.S. Green Building Council selected two New Jersey schools – P.S. 5 in Jersey City and Perth Amboy High School –to help create a statewide framework for a green school master plan that can be replicated at schools nationwide. The plan will include strategies for schools to achieve cost savings through various sustainability strategies, and will include the establishment of a set of measureable objectives, the development of a credit matrix for bridging the various green school certifications and conducting facility audits, the sharing of resources through an online platform, and development of the Sustainable School District Guidebook.

Newark School District: Peshine Avenue School

The Peshine Avenue School in Newark has recently received a $50,000 grant from Samsung to increase access to tools from science, technology, engineer and math learning. The school was chosen following its completion of a pilot program that aimed to inspire fourth- and fifth-grade girls to pursue careers in engineering and computer science by introducing them to the people, technologies and processes behind the software and hardware in their everyday lives.

Spring Lake: Spring Lake Heights Elementary School

Spring Lake Heights Elementary School won a $10,000 grant to create a model classroom, the HEAT lab (Heights Engineering and Technology Lab) in late 2014. The classroom will be used in the implementation of the district’s iSTEM – integrative STEM – curriculum. John Henry, the NJSBA STEM and sustainability specialist has been assisting the district as it promotes active engagement in learning and applying STEM concepts.

The grant was from the Ocean First Foundation of Toms River. Other public schools receiving grants to develop “unique and creative classrooms” included Brielle Elementary School; Clara B. Worth Elementary School (Bayville); Eagleswood Elementary School; Elms Elementary School (Jackson); Manalapan High School; Manasquan High School; Manchester Township Middle School; Matawan Regional High School; New Egypt Middle School; Osbornville Elementary School (Brick); Point Pleasant Borough High School; and Walnut Street Elementary School (Toms River).

A Commitment NJSBA’s commitment to sustainable practices includes the development of Sustainable Jersey for Schools, a certification program that provides school districts with guidance and resources to promote sustainable practices. Launched in October, Sustainable Jersey for Schools has 193 member schools in 66 districts.

In addition, through partnership with organizations, such as the NASA professional development alliance, NJSBA is providing training to school board members on policy initiatives to promote integrative STEM education. It is also providing onsite consultation and services to districts in STEM and sustainability.

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