As I walked in the front doors on 19th Avenue the other day, I started thinking about what has changed since I was a student here. The students travel the halls just as we did in the 70’s although book bags are even a little lighter due to textbooks in digital version. The teachers are teaching in the same thoughtful and engaging way, and K-12 students mingle effortlessly with each other.
Our students are making some important changes for the future of our school and the future of the world.
USN employs a full time Naturalist, Cynthia Lee. Starting in kindergarten, our Young Naturalists program connects our young students with the wonder of the natural world. Throughout lower school, students learn about the importance of clean water for the life cycle of trout. They study the habitats of Tennessee wildlife, canoe on Lake Woodhaven, and kayak the Duck River to learn about freshwater mussels. Cynthia says, “The students become naturalists. Every other week they go out on journeys with a bag filled with naturalist tools. Clipboard, paper, colored pencils…. We have a focused exploration and draw what we see.” USN also has an outdoor classroom and a garden on the Edgehill campus.
Our programmable HVAC system and automatic light switches are saving energy. Several years ago, students helped USN receive a grant from the Benedict Foundation which funded a new dishwashing system, and non-disposable plates, trays, cups, and cutlery ending the cafeteria’s use of styrofoam and disposable paper goods. The installation of hydration stations on every floor reduce the use of plastic water bottles on campus.
In 2011, solar panels were installed at our River Campus, and Freya Sachs ’00, Environmental Studies teacher, says, “What I love about our sustainability initiatives is how student-driven they are….from solar panels to increased recycled content of our paper, from our school garden to less waste in our cafeteria take-out system. Our students are asking questions about how they can make their campus reflect their values and choices.”
Yes, we’ve come a long long way since the '70’s, and the list of initiatives is ongoing year after year. Our students are always working toward a greener school environment.
This is truly the PDS/USN you remember. Progressive and extra special.