Cranbury School participates in Sustainable Jersey for Schools

The Cranbury School during a rainy evening in Cranbury on Feb. 10.
The Cranbury School during a rainy evening in Cranbury on Feb. 10.

Cranbury Township’s Board of Education has approved the Cranbury School’s participation in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools Certification program.

Earlier this year, Board President Karen Callahan, Vice President Pramod Chivate, Board members Amy Dixon, Laura Hoffman, Dominque Jones, Peter Katz, Lindsay McDowell and Lisa Rue voted ‘yes’ to approve the school’s participation.

According to district officials, the participation helps to encourage the school community to implement sustainable, energy-smart, eco-friendly, and cost-effective solutions.

“Sustainable Jersey Schools has been a big part of Cranbury School’s Sustainability Initiative for the last three years. Cranbury School became Bronze Certified for New Jersey Sustainable Schools in 2017,” said Susan Shiffman, Cranbury School enrichment teacher. “At that time, Cranbury School was one of 91 schools, and only one out of four in Middlesex County, that achieved Sustainable Schools Bronze Certification in 2017.”

She added that the certification for bronze is good for three years.

“This year we are working hard to become Silver – level Certified through the program.  To date, out of 906 participating schools, there are 223 schools now certified Bronze with only 18 certified as Silver,” Shiffman said. “Crossing the bridge from Bronze to Silver is a considerable amount of work for everyone at Cranbury School.  Our parents, students, our custodial staff, teachers and Administration continue to support our efforts and we are grateful.”

Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a state-wide nonprofit certification program for public schools that want to go green and conserve resources.

The nonprofit organization provides tools, training and financial incentives to support and reward schools as they pursue sustainability programs, according to Sustainable Jersey officials.

The Cranbury School officials have several options for the school’s continued effort to sustainability.

They include following Green Building Standards for construction and major renovations; to form school partnerships; to eliminate toxic chemicals; to purchase (or produce) clean energy; and to purchase recycled paper, energy-efficient equipment and other green products to protect the global environment.

There will be a Sustainability Leadership Team established by the board of education known as a ‘Green Team.’

“Cranbury School is working hard to go Green.  We have integrated sustainability into student learning, are promoting student and staff wellness, participating in several recycling projects: Crayola Color Cycle and Terracycle just to name a few,” Shiffman said.  “Integrating Aquaponics into the school’s curriculum has allowed both hands-on STEAM instruction and an extension beyond the classroom to a broader discussion of Sustainability.”

The Cranbury School’s aquaponics program is a method for growing plants without soil.

Aquaponics is a form of agriculture that combines raising fish in tanks with soilless plant culture.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the nutrient-rich water from raising fish provides a natural fertilizer for the plants and the plants help to purify the water for the fish.

“Kindergartners are using rain gauges to study water sustainability, and are composting, the middle school is studying garbology, third , fourth and fifth grade are studying the science behind our aquaponics system as well as Global Food Waste, water pollution and Access to Clean Water,” Shiffman said.

School officials said students harvest vegetables from this system and farm raise fish.

“By establishing a STEAM Aquaponics program that also supports our community, Cranbury School has significantly grown our sustainability initiative, as well as created a sense of stewardship among our students,” Shiffman said.