In 2016, Charlottesville City Schools received federal recognition for our environmental and wellness programs! To learn more about this 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award, click here.
Through our buildings, practices, and partnerships, Charlottesville City Schools strives for energy-efficiency, sustainability, and eco-friendliness. We also offer a number of hands-on environmental education programs so that our students can get their hands in the garden — or the Rivanna River. Click on a tab, below, to learn more.
Students at City Schools learn about the natural world through experiential learning projects that take them outside to the schoolyard and beyond.
All CCS fourth-grade students take a field trip to Camp Albemarle to learn about watershed issues through field-based activities.
City Schoolyard Garden
City Schoolyard Garden is a non-profit organization operating independently of the Charlottesville City Schools, though in close partnership with the division in developing opportunities for a district wide project-based learning initiative. City Schoolyard Garden has operated at Buford Middle School since 2010 and at elementary schools since 2012. City Schoolyard Garden works in partnership with Charlottesville City Schools to cultivate academic achievement, health, environmental stewardship and community engagement through garden-based, experiential learning.
Journey North Tulip Project
First and second graders at all elementary schools participate in the Journey North tulip project, an international science experiment where students across the northern hemisphere plant tulip bulbs in their Journey North Test Gardens each fall. When the plants emerge and bloom, the children input their observations online to announce that spring has arrived in their part of the world. Students discover the relationship between climate and geography as they watch the arrival of spring move across the globe. More at the Journey North website.
McIntire Park Herpetofauna Survey
Through this project, CHS biology students conducted a herpetofauna (amphibian and reptile species) survey of McIntire Park. They used their data to create a herptofauna field guide for the Park and a GIS map of the Park indicating the distribution of species, habitat parameters, and recreational usage, among many other thematic layers.
BACON “Best All-Around Club of Nerds”
The CHS Science Club’s (aka BACON, Best All-around Club of Nerds) takes club members outside and around the globe to explore and compete in science investigations. They have a “Green BACON” emphasis for students interested in environmental issues.
Learning Outside the Bricks
Design professionals at the Charlottesville Community Design Center’s Design Marathon in 2009 created a master plan for outdoor learning on the 20+ acre property of Jackson-Via Elementary School. The master plan includes 10+ acres of woodland, edible gardens, habitat gardens, and spaces where children can learn and appreciate the natural world while meeting curriculum goals. An already completed mini-meadow installation consists primarily of butterfly host and nectar plants, using 99% native plant material. The mini-meadow will eventually be part of a larger “meadow walk.” The group also plans to plant a child-size orchard of sour cherry and pawpaw trees.
Charlottesville City Schools and City of Charlottesville Public Works department work together to reduce the environmental footprint of our school buildings and operations.
- Seven of nine Charlottesville City schools are now certified as ENERGY STARS® by the US Department of Environmental Protection.
- All schools have single-stream recycling systems in place. Students and teachers recycle paper, plastic, aluminum, tin, glass and cardboard in bins placed throughout school buildings.
- All schools have adopted integrated pest management programs. Low toxicity controls are used for insects and other pests whenever possible.
- Charlottesville High School features a solar photovoltaic system on a section of its roof. A group of teachers works with the City’s facilities maintenance staff to develop plans for integrating the system into curriculum and instruction. The project was made possible in spring 2011 when the City of Charlottesville was awarded a grant from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.
- Charlottesville High School, Venable and Burnley-Moran Elementaries, and Buford Middle School have rainwater catchment systems that capture rainwater to use for the high school athletic field and gardens. Buford uses bicycle-power to pump the water for their garden classroom and solar-powered hoophouse.
- Charlottesville City Schools received the top award for its category in the 2011 Green Schools Challenge, an initiative of the Virginia Municipal League in partnership with the Virginia School Boards Association that encourages implementation of environmental policies and practices that reduce carbon emissions generated by the local school division and the broader community. The school division was a second-place winner in the 2009 Green Schools Challenge.
- An ongoing partnership with the Local Food Hub provides resources, assistance, and access to fresh produce from more than 80 local farms.
- When possible, local produce is served along with daily fruit and vegetable choices. (And we cook from scratch when we can to minimize sugar, salt, and fat.)
- Our staff and programs have won awards. In 2011, we were named a Trailblazer for our early commitment to local foods, and in 2015, our “Harvest of the Month” program received recognition. (The program supplies fresh, local snacks monthly to our elementary students.)
- School cafeterias have reduced solid waste by eliminating polystyrene foam food containers from daily use.
- Walker Upper Elementary, Buford, Burnley-Moran, and CHS work with Black Bear Composting in running a composting program for scraps from school cafeterias. Black Bear Composting picks up the bags of waste and returns three months later with compost that can be used to augment the school’s landscaping or schoolyard garden. In its initial stages, the Walker program converted 8.69 tons of would-be trash into garden gold.
- All schools feature “sharing tables” to minimize waste for items such as unopened milk or untouched fruit.
The City of Charlottesville and Charlottesville City School Division have been partners in addressing a spectrum of environmental concerns for many years. Plans, policies, improvements, and technologies are continually evolving and offering new opportunities including:
- Environmental Management Policy
- Energy Improvement Plan
- Greenhouse gas emissions inventory
- Energy STAR ratings for 7 of 9 schools
- Schools Energy Audits
- Renewable energy installations
- Dark Sky compliance measures
- “Green fleet” policy for school buses
- Integrated Pest Management
Other Community Partners
- Green Adventure Project (GAP) works with elementary students, bringing hands-on, nature, science, and environmental education programs and adventures.
- Jackson-Via Elementary and Buford Middle School are enrolled in the City’s Adopt-a-Stream Program.
- Charlottesville High School partners with UVA students and staff in monitoring performance of the biofilter at CHS and solar photovoltaic cells. The study of the biofilter is a collaborative effort between the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, under contract with the Rivanna River Basin Commission (RRBC), the City of Charlottesville and CHS, and the University of Virginia. The installation of the biofilter was partially funded by the RRBC through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency.
- The Center for Watershed Protection – A non-profit organization that provides practical and technical information for people and communities interested in protecting and restoring urban watersheds.
- Safe Routes to School — A national program that assists communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bike to school.
- Virginia Green Schools Challenge — A program sponsored by the Virginia School Boards Association that awards points for 33 environmental initiatives.