Trio of Cherry Hill schools receive state sustainability grants

Kingston, Harte and Alternative School plan to use financial windfall for various projects

Three schools in the Cherry Hill Public School District received Sustainable Jersey for Schools grants funded by the New Jersey Education Association during the week of Feb. 11.

Kingston Elementary School was one of only 11 educational entities across the state to receive a $10,000 grant. Bret Harte Elementary School and the Alternative High School were among 36 schools to receive $2,000 grants.

With its $10,000 grant, Kingston will create an outdoor classroom to provide an alternative learning environment for students. The space will include standing work tables created by an alumna of Kingston who experienced challenges learning in a traditional classroom setting and wanted to create a permanent outdoor space for future students.

“The classroom will include raised garden beds, flexible seating, a mindfulness area and permanent stations providing information on local plants, trees and animals,” Kingston Elementary School Principal William C. Marble said.

“The concept for this project crystallized this year when Alexa Caputo, a former Kingston student, donated several repurposed, decorated electrical spools to serve as outdoor tables. Her idea for this Girl Scout Gold Service Project was based on her experiences and her belief she would have benefited from an alternate classroom. So, for Alexa and all of the students at Kingston School who love to be outdoors, Kingston will now have a room with a view and a breeze.”

The award additionally includes partnerships with Sustainable Camden County, Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, Cherry Hill Public Library and Cherry Hill Education Association, Marble added.

The Alternative High School is planning to utilize its grant for a pollinator garden in an unused courtyard located on its property.

“The entire Cherry Hill Alternative High School community is thrilled to be the recipient of this Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant,” Alternative High School Principal Dr. Lawyer Chapman said. “Our students have done wonderful work with our vegetable garden, providing hundreds of pounds of produce to our local food pantry these past five years. We look forward to building the butterfly garden that this grant will fund, increasing our pollinator population and thereby boosting the bounty our vegetable garden produces.”

Harte Elementary will use its grant for a more sustainable mealtime environment, producing reusable lunch trays for its cafeteria.

“When we ask our students to be Harte SMART, we are really challenging them to be respectful of themselves, our school and our community,” Harte Principal Dr. Neil Burti said. “The awarding of this grant reinforces our commitment to this mindset by aligning with two major components of our character education framework: student voice and sustainability. When children feel empowered to initiate change and take an active role, both locally and globally, all things seem possible.”

Proposals were judged by an independent blue-ribbon selection committee. The Sustainable Jersey for Schools grants are intended to help school districts make progress toward a sustainable future in general, and specifically toward Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification.

Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a certification program intended to help public schools. It was launched by Sustainable Jersey, an organization that provides tools, training and financial incentives to support and reward municipalities and schools as they pursue sustainability programs.

To date, more than 300 school districts participate in the program. Sustainable Jersey for Schools has awarded more than $1.7 million in grants. In 2019, Sustainable Jersey is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a year-long campaign that will include special events to educate and engage communities and create a vision for the future.