Delran Middle and Intermediate Schools recognized by Sustainable Jersey

Organization bestows bronze status for work to preserve and improve environment

In late October, both Delran Middle School and Delran Intermediate School were recognized by Sustainable Jersey, awarded Bronze Status for the second time, for projects led by their respective student bodies with an eye on improving their environment.

At the middle school, the sustainability project managers, Jennifer Frisella and Katie Conroy, work with roughly 65 students on undertakings such as creating a community yard sale event, along with trash collection and clearance along a stretch of Route 130.

There’s also the matter of an eco-challenge in which eighth graders participate: a global challenge where students can track their sustainability through daily practices, particularly in making conscious choices to do something environmentally friendly: buying certain healthy foods, shortening their water consumption, among other tasks.

“Whatever choice they make equates to things like more carbon dioxide taken from the air, or reducing pesticides used in agriculture,” noted Erica DeMichele, who serves as the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) co-coordinator and sustainability coordinator for the district.

“So the kids see the change that comes with altering their behavior, and how those small things can be amplified.”

Within the intermediate school, project managers Sharon Kernan and Patrick Meyers lead the largest green team, nearly 330 students strong.

“They are given choices of projects they can focus on for the entire school year. They are also working with Delran STEM ecosystem alliance, and a partnership between local businesses and community outlets like Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown and Rowan College at Burlington County,” DiMichele explained.

Children who joined up with that green team get to tinker with some machinery, fashioning vinyl stickers to be placed on T-shirts to promote the preservation of the monarch butterfly. In addition, third graders get to work with die cutters, to make 3D images which express the importance of preserving monarch butterfly habitats.

On Oct. 28, Superintendent Brian Brotschul tweeted his congratulations, “Excellent work by Green Team Advisors and @DelranSTEM for important leadership in the area of wellness and sustainability.”

“Kids are using technology and learning through the lens of sustainable efforts. When you talk about children, the keywords are: people, planet and prosperity. They’re looking mostly at the planet and trying to make a difference,” DiMichele offered.

“We’re trying to produce the world’s next Greta Thunbergs. It’s not just about using fancy technology in the ‘fab lab.’”

According to its website, since the launch of the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program in 2013, participants have successfully implemented and documented over 9,000 discrete actions from its list of best practices. Over $5 million in grants have been awarded

to municipalities, schools and school districts which participate.

“We’re proud of both our schools. We’re looking to get to silver status, which is about 200 more points away,” DiMichele said. “I can’t be more grateful for the sustainability managers and their leadership.”

To reach bronze status, a particular program has to rack up at least 150 points. and according to DiMichele, a team needs to reach 350 points to attain silver status. However, she noted that it would be almost like taking on another full-time job to get the district involved in enough activities to reach that goal.

For now, DiMichele is happy to see the younger generation become interested and passionate about having a stake in their future in a hands-on manner.

“If you don’t have a program like this for the schools, you are missing a large part of the population that can get involved and stay involved. As adults, it’s difficult to change your behavior,” she said.

For updates on the sustainability efforts in Delran School District, visit its Twitter account at: https://twitter.com/DelranSTEM, or visit its website at: https://www.delranstem.org/. For more information about Sustainable Jersey and its various programs, visit: https://www.sustainablejersey.com/.