Bethany Christian Schools receives Green Ribbon Schools Award
Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen received the US Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools Award for its environmental and educational programs.
The school was recognized for its commitment to reducing the school's environmental impact and its unique educational programs that focus on the health and well-being of its students.
Nationwide, 63 schools received the 2017 Green Ribbon Schools Award.
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jennifer McCormick congratulated Bethany Christian and Burris Laboratory, the other Indiana school to receive the award.
“Preparing children for a bright and active future means teaching lessons both inside and outside the classroom,” said Dr. McCormick in a press release. “Both Burris Laboratory and Bethany Christian have created an atmosphere that stresses the importance of personal and external sustainability through physical wellbeing and environmental care and concern. I personally congratulate these schools for being recipients of this award.”
Excerpt from Green Ribbon Schools 2017 report
Bethany Christian Schools is a parochial school housing fourth through 12th grades, located on the south side of Goshen, Ind. Since its inception in 1954, care for the environment and community, along with health and wellness, have been key components of the educational programming. Bethany has been recognized locally for its unique and innovative approaches, winning several awards and being covered on a regular basis by local media.
In 2014, Bethany embarked on a capital campaign focusing on three areas: technology, finances, and environment / energy. The third aspect of this campaign made possible the installation of roof insulation and a full-fledged HVAC system in the old portion of the building to improve indoor air quality and heating efficiencies; a geothermal wellfield for operation of the HVAC system; a 3.6-
kilowatt wind turbine; and solar panels that can provide 77 kilowatts of electricity. Restrooms were updated with low-flow fixtures, and hallway and parking lot lights were retrofitted with LEDs. Skylights were preserved and enhanced to provide natural lighting. Paper use has been reduced 31 percent, water consumption has been cut 19 percent, energy consumption has been reduced 31 percent, and greenhouse gas emissions have been lowered by 12 percent. The school generates 12 percent of its energy needs on campus with wind and solar, and purchases the rest from wind and solar sources.
Bethany participates in schoolwide recycling, accounting for a diversion of 24 percent of waste from the local landfill. Food scraps from the cafeteria are composted and used in the student-tended school garden, which provides fresh produce for the school’s salad bar, as well as providing an educational opportunity for students to learn about gardening and sustainable living. The school’s biannual fish fry fundraiser has become an opportunity to educate students and the general public about sustainable practices. Food scraps and paper products are composted, rather than going in the trash. At the most recent fish fry, 12 cubic yards of compostable material was diverted from the landfill.
Environmental and sustainability concepts are taught in multiple courses at all grade levels. In the lower school, students study traditional energy and environment concepts, while taking advantage of a multitude of field trips to local parks and environmental centers. In high school, most students take Environmental Science. A highlight of this course includes two weeks outdoors studying the plants and organisms in the school retention pond, which was planted with native species in 2006 by students. High school Bible classes also address issues of environmental sustainability. Students study pacifism and its connection to nonviolent environmental activism and stewardship of resources, including stewardship of environmental resources like energy.
During a unit on renewable energy, Environmental Science students host students from the neighboring public elementary school. The Bethany high school students teach the visiting fifth graders about fossil fuels, wind and solar power, and conservation. They compare electrical consumption of appliances, design wind turbine blades to compare voltage output, and use mini solar panels to study factors that affect the amount of energy created. Also led by Bethany students, first graders from another local elementary school come to Bethany to learn about plants and animals in the school’s retention pond.
Experiencing the outdoors is an important part of education programming at Bethany. At the beginning of the school year, most students participate in one to two days of activities outdoors. Fourth and fifth grade students go to Camp Mack for a day to study colonial and Native American life. They build primitive shelters in the woods, find and eat wild edibles, and play games applicable to those time periods and cultures. Sixth and seventh grade students spend two days at Amigo Center for their Wilderness Experience, during which time they participate in outdoor education classes including nature games, canoeing and other outdoor cooperative activities. Eighth grade students have an overnight campout at Camp Friedenswald, learning wilderness survival skills including fire building, shelter building, orienteering, and canoeing. Ninth grade students spend two days at Camp Mack for a retreat, during which time they do a climbing wall, swim, take part in an ecology scavenger hunt, canoe, and cook over fires. Eleventh grade students take a daylong canoe trip on the Elkhart River. Most years the high school offers a course during January term,such as Winter Sports (cross-country skiing, ice skating, downhill skiing) or Bike Camping (bike maintenance and trip planning in January, with a four-day bike camping trip in June). The entire school has taken impromptu all-school recesses on the first warm day in the spring or unusually warm days in early December.
Because Bethany is a private school, students must provide their own transportation. The majority of Bethany students carpool, and many bike or walk during the warmer months. Bethany also holds an annual Bike/Walk to School Day, with nearly half of students participating.