The Green School

Published: Jan. 31, 2018 at 3:50 PM CST
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BELVIDERE, Ill (WIFR) -- Recycling lightbulbs, installing geothermal heating and cooling systems, and making student life better. That's what you'll find when you walk into any Belvidere School District facility.

The district has recently adopted several eco-friendly practices ranging from green cleaning supplies to purchasing a specialized machine that grinds spent light bulbs for recycling. That machine will have already paid for itself in just under two years since it cuts the cost of recycling in half for the district and frees up valuable space. Recycling light bulbs isn't anything new, but the way the district applies eco-friendly practices to its student-centered learning structure is.

District Superintendent Daniel Woestman says the student body continually gives his team fresh ideas to protect our environment. One of those recent ideas included a new water station for refillable bottles. Woestman says, "That really started with a group of students who were really passionate about energy conservation and they said hey, this is an area where we can make a difference and the school district took that up."

Even the environment the students learn in is controlled by green geothermal technology, allowing the district to redirect hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings. "This has been a great impact on our bottom line here as a school district which in the end allows us to offer more resources that are directly student-facing", says Woestman.

One of those resources is a Green Club at Belvidere North High School which usually has 50-75 active student members each year. Students that participate in this particular club receive hands-on experience, taking various field trips throughout the year to conservation sites and participating in roadside cleanup efforts. "We offer opportunities for them throughout the school year to be an active part of their community as far as going out and doing things like Adopt-a-Road cleanup", says Jason Hain, an environmental science teacher at Belvidere North High School. The Green Club is also actively selling refillable water bottles to students around the school, reducing the need for purchased bottled water and the added plastic consumption.

Sofi Zeman, a junior, is currently taking an environmental science course taught by Mr. Hain. In this class, students are challenged by taking on a project for the semester. The goal of the project is to get the students out into the community, promoting environmentally friendly practices. "People always tell us to recycle but, I feel like it's not really pushed as much as it should be", says Sofi. For her project, she plans on reaching out to the younger students in the district by visiting their classroom and talking about what she has learned in class.

The district has won several awards for its sustainability efforts and was most recently received the Schools of Illinois Public Cooperative Stewardship Award.