So I went on a little field trip.  It was a surreal experience is many ways.  I packed a “brown bag” lunch, had a name tag, signed a waiver, and loaded on to a van with roughly a dozen other folks (students, faculty, and staff from UMD).  Here I am with another Evan on the trip – lunch in hand, showing off my name tag.


The field trip was to the Sidwell Friends school.  Specifically the LEED Platinum middle school.  If you’re unfamiliar with LEED, it is a third party energy and environment rating system for building construction and design.  Platinum is their highest rating.  The Sidwell LEED school cost $28 million to build/design/etc.

The Sidwell Friends school has a very informative interactive website describing almost all of the components of their design and function.  From a green roof, to low-no VOC paints, optimal sun shading, to grey water filtration – minimizing their water consumption by 93%.  Check it out.

In the online tour you’ll notice that each segment has an audio description presented by a student so I guessed correctly that our tour would be led by a student(s).  I wasn’t disappointed…our 8th grade tour guides.

img_0287 img_0279 Alec describing the solar chimneys


Looking perplexed.  This science stuff is much too complex.  Alec, can you repeat that?

Surreal indeed.  What a role reversal.  Adults from UMD arriving at a middle school for a field trip and being led around by 8th graders.

img_0277 img_0288

Their wetlands and biology pond – key components of the water runoff and gray water filtration system.  Note the vertical solar “fins”, angled to prevent direct radiation from penetrating the windows, but allowing ample sunlight to light rooms.

img_02911 The low-e glass cuts down on excessive heat entering the building while still allowing lighting and preventing thermal energy loss to the outside.  The horizontal light shelves reflect solar radiation away from the windows, especially during hot summer days when the solar zenith angle is greatest.  They have angled fins, similar to the vertical ones above, to optimize this reflection effect based on seasons.  Inside the building, a reciprocal shelf is coated white on top to reflect what light does enter the window into class rooms, thus reducing the need for day time lighting.

I was immensly impressed with both the design and application of conservation building practices, and also with the kids at this school.  Bright, friendly kids.  Granted, it costs $30k a year to attend, so little Jimmy better be minding his p’s and q’s.  But it gave me hope that all is not lost for our future generations.  It also clearly demonstrated how far a good curriculum and small class room size could go torwards a better education.

Side note – it’s been said before by many people that our society (and I mean the U.S.) has it’s priorities so messed up.  We idolize musicians and athletes and pay teachers crap.  Perhaps standards should be raised for teachers, but first there needs to be an incentive to get the best and brightest to go into this field.  Incentive = more $.  This should be obvious, but I don’t see the Feds bailing out our education.  At least not yet.


~ by Indy on November 13, 2008.

One Response to “Green”

  1. The school has Quaker roots. Maybe you’d qualify for a scholarship since the Ellicotts were Quakers. (Doesn’t everyone want to repeat JHS?) It is a fact, that the kids w/monied parents get the best educations. We do indeed need to raise the bar for public school teachers and I agree, attract the brighest with better saleries. Glad you had fun on your field trip (no Mommy chaperones?)

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