Willow School: Teaching Sustainability
by Doug Pushard
first thing that you notice at The
Willow School is the closeness of nature to each classroom.
Each room has its own door so children can move outside at a moment's
notice, and the ample windows draw the outside into the room.
the natural beauty of the area, the grounds design features include
many outdoor learning spaces and constructed wetlands for the
filtration of wastewater.
meadows, butterfly gardens, rainwater harvesting and hedgerows
are incorporated into the design of the campus. The school's goal
is to teach in a building that not only houses the students but
serves as a model to study responsible living. The school
curriculum actively incorporates sustainable-living
principles at each grade level.
13,500 square foot (1,254
square.meters) roof area
> 80-90% Recycled Stainless
Steel roof and gutter system
> 1 - 50,000 gallon (189,500
liter) Rainstore tank
> 1 - 600 gallon ( 2,274 liter)
> 1 - 35 gallon (132 liter)
> 10 - 1.6 gallon (6 liter)
> 1- 1 3/4 HP pump
> 1 - 100 micron filter
> 1 - Ozone Systems Skid-mounted Ozone sterilization
school building includes the latest in environmentally-sensitive
design. Clerestories provide passive-solar heating, supplemented
by high-efficiency gas heating. Rainwater runoff is recycled to
flush the building's toilets and maintain the surrounding plantings,
and the remaining wastes are processed in the most environmental
I of the school's master site plan - involving the construction
of a 13,500 square foot (1,254 square meters) classroom building
and site infrastructure including roadways, parking lots, and
landscaping and was completed in September 2003.
rainwater harvesting system was put in place in this phase. According
to Mark Biedron, Co-Founder/Trustee at the The Willow School,
"Installing a catchment system was a great way to address
both our storm water management and re-use water at the same time...it
seemed to make all the sense in the world."
Lower School Academic Building runoff is captured in an approximately
50,000 gallon (189,500 liter) below ground tank made out of recycled
plastic. The tank was installed below the frost line (i.e. about
2 feet, .6 meters) using the earth's insulating capabilities to
prevent the water from freezing during the winter school term.
With over 40 inches (101 centimeters) of rain in a typical year,
the school is capable of capturing nearly 400,000 gallons (1.5
million liters) a year.
is used both for irrigation as well as in the low-flow toilets.
Sixty-thousand native grasses and perennial plants that require
limited or no irrigation were planted. The plants were installed
partly to cut down on water use, but also to reduce the need to
mow and fertilize the large site as well as open up the soil for
better water absorption.
is stored in the large underground tank and then cleaned before
being stored in a 600 gallon (2,274 liter) holding tank in the
basement. Sediment traps eliminate the large debris entering the
system, which is further filtered with another smaller filter
before entering the large tank. Water entering the smaller holding
tank is treated with an ozone sterilization system. The water
in the holding tank is clean and always available for use by the
irrigation system and the toilets, eliminating the need for portable
city water for these uses. An added benefit of the ozone system
is the lack of colorization in the water, so water in the toilets
looks just like clean potable water.
water and any rainwater overflow go to the on-site constructed
wetlands that process waste. These wetlands are simply a rubber-lined
rock-filled pond, where plants are grown hydroponically in septic
water and the micro-organisms and plants feed off the pollutants.
The cleaned water is then pumped into the ground to help recharge
the local aquifer.
Willow School will be adding to another 50,000 gallon (189,500
liter) cistern to their existing system installed on the new art
building. This should be complete in December, 2006.
school's water system is continually monitored and displayed so
students can monitor how much water is reused. This beautiful,
progressive facility is truly an active learning center, with
kids surrounded by wonderful, interactive facility and yet it
is not using any drinking water for either irrigation or flushing
are a school that sees sustainability as a key element in our
relationship with the natural world as much as with our social
world. Children learn to share intellectual resources with
peers to sustain a community. They also learn to share, respect,
and conserve nature’s resources. As we marvel at the gifts nature
provides, we also learn that nature, like our social relations,
must not be wasted by profligacy or indifference," states
Richard Eldridge, Head of the Willow School, explaining the school's
Willow School is located on a 34-acre site in the New Jersey countryside,
near the Gladstone town center, at the corner of Highway 206 and
more information on the school visit their website.
On site tours are available by calling 908.470.9500.