Healthy Children are a priority at
At Philip’s Academy making a difference in the lives of children is a priority. So much so, that the EcoSpaces Program was created to be an integral part of the fabric of the school. It was a top down approach that allowed us to develop the comprehensive program we now call EcoSpaces Education. Although we present to you the final products, be assured this has been an evolution. A process that included trial and errors, but one we know works. It is not the only approach. Whether the process be teacher, parent, or administratively driven each may differ in its pursuit. We present you with our approach in hopes that it inspires stakeholders to the table where real change can make a difference.
Creating the Learning Environments
In designing EcoSpaces Education at Philip’s Academy, an emphasis was placed on interactive learning in the various EcoSpaces Learning Environments. The Dining Room, Teaching Kitchen, Rooftop Garden, EcoArts Studio and Indoor Growing Lab were all developed as spaces to engage children in hands-on, interactive learning.
Nourishing The Body
Every student at Philip’s Academy participates in nourishing his or her body with a delicious, fresh, seasonal sustainable and nutritious lunch. The lunch program is aimed at providing students with healthy meals while building a deep understanding of the importance of a well-balanced diet…this is a priority.
Understanding that the number one health epidemic in this country relates to the food our children consume, education at Philip’s Academy addresses living a healthy life based on good nutrition and meaningful exercise. We know these lessons of food, wellness, and community will last a lifetime.
The National School Lunch Program &
Family Style Dining
At Philip’s Academy, the belief that life is given more meaning and beauty with the daily ritual of the table defines our approach to family style service. Students and Staff are involved in all aspects of the meal including setting, serving, communal eating, clean-up and composting. To exemplify the importance of healthy eating and community, Philip’s Academy, under the direction of the EcoSpaces Program, offers a meal program to all students and staff.
The Philip’s Academy Culinary Team prepares all meals from scratch. These seasonal meals also include a full salad bar offering an array of fresh, seasonal, local (when available) ingredients including some grown on the rooftop garden. With an open kitchen design, the students are able to observe their meals being prepared and feel more connected to the understanding of the closed loop food cycle.
Philip’s Academy stayed true to its philosophy and became the first school in the state of New Jersey to be approved for the National School Reimbursable Lunch Program by fitting the food standards and community table service (where students serve themselves) into their program. The hope is it proves that nationally it is possible to participate in the program using the highest nutritional values, while taking advantage of local produce, served in a setting that reinforces a sense of community and the “family” meal. Finally, it demonstrates that student responsibility and ownership can be built into a system where they are both partners and innovators themselves.
The EcoART Studio is a tranquil environment where students work with their hands and natural materials (some from the garden) while reinforcing concepts of awareness of the earth, sustainability and wellness. When students use natural materials to make art, they see how the earth supports us, and learn the importance of stewardship. Handwork teaches students to become makers, fixers, and doers by introducing creativity and craft into their daily lives.
Indoor Growing Lab – AeroFarms
Philip’s Academy strives to not only introduce their students to cutting edge technology, but also to ensure they understand there are other methods that have been used for centuries and are now being rediscovered. AeroFarms is part of the indoor, controlled environment, growing system (another one of the learning environments). Students study the concepts of water usage, plant selection and care, plant nutrient requirements, photosynthesis, seed germination, and agricultural technology. Philip’s Academy is the only school in the country to own an AeroFarms System. The system is integrated into the middle school science curriculum and operated by our students.
Philip’s Academy Charter School’s physical building offers a unique opportunity for hands-on education about the environment and sustainable living. The school which was built to conform to LEED specifications (the first in Newark), offers students cleaner air, brighter classrooms, and a rooftop garden.
As the earth’s human population has increased, natural ecosystems have declined and changes in the balance of natural cycles have had a negative impact on both humans and other living systems. The desire to help preserve future generations’ natural resources is why Philip’s Academy Charter School is doing everything they can from providing fresh fruits and vegetables to students, to growing produce on the rooftop garden to using working solar panels for class instruction.
Philip’s Academy takes being green very seriously. From learning the importance of recycling to the understanding of utilizing alternative energy, students have a core comprehension for caring not only for their community but the natural world as well. EcoSpaces Education at Philip’s Academy instills in students a culture of respect for protecting our valued resources.
A way to recycle garden and kitchen waste while producing soil amendments; composting is a fundamental garden and science activity. At Philip’s Academy both traditional bin composting and vermicomposting (a method of composting using worms to decompose) are practiced.
Students take daily trips to the Dining Room to pick up scraps for both the rooftop compost and the classroom vermicomposting bins. Both types of composting allow for students to understand concepts and benefits in a “hands-on” way, as they add composting materials from garden waste, to lunch plate scraps and kitchen leftovers. Once the cycle is complete, this enriched soil is put back onto their garden beds giving nourishment back to the soil.
Step out onto the Rooftop Garden and look up. Philip’s Academy is home to 12 solar panels. These panels provide a place for the sun’s energy to be absorbed and to therefore use the energy in a number of ways: a light fixture, a computer or a smart board in the classroom.
The solar panels are an integral part of the on-line energy monitoring system. TV monitors throughout the building provide a real time picture of energy usage and generation at Philip’s Academy. It is easy to see for example, when the elevator is running. Students are able to see the difference in energy production from the solar panels on sunny versus cloudy days. This information is also available to our classrooms via the Internet and is even a part of the science and math curriculum.