We are thrilled to announce that Mackintosh Academy Littleton has been named a recipient of the U. S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Award for 2018.
Mackintosh Academy Littleton is the first Colorado independent school to win this award, as well as one of the smallest honorees, with an enrollment of 115 students. Mack Littleton was nominated by the Colorado Department of Education.
Across the country, 46 schools, six districts, and six postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.
The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 25 states and the Department of Defense Department of Education Activity. The selectees include 40 public schools, including two magnet schools and two charter schools, as well as six nonpublic schools.
As Head of School Diane Dunne says, “We are a small school with a big heart and a deeply held conviction that will lead the way to a brighter future. Our students have sounded a clear call to action that the adults in our Mackintosh Academy community are excited, and, in fact, compelled to follow.”
Read on to learn more about the achievements that led Mack Littleton to this recognition. We are deeply grateful to our staff, parent community and, especially, our students past and present who inspire us to work on behalf of our planet’s future every day.
On a snowy day in May 2015, six seventh grade students at Mackintosh Academy in Littleton, Colorado, flipped the switch to turn on solar panels on all three campus buildings. The year before, as part of their International Baccalaureate (IB) Exhibition project, these same students won a $96,000 grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board to bring solar power to the school. Installing solar panels brought monetary savings and a reduction in carbon footprint to Mackintosh Academy Littleton, but, more importantly, it lit the way to a living vision of the school as a smart village that strives every day to be a wise, compassionate, collaborative, innovative, diverse, and sustainable center for teaching and learning. Solar panels are an exciting and useful technology, but their influence at Mackintosh Littleton extends far beyond the clean energy they generate. Those original six students established the basis for a Solar Scholar tuition assistance fund, seeded with the savings from the solar panels. As a result, the funds now support four Solar Scholars at Mackintosh Littleton.
For the solar power project and ensuing environmental initiatives, Mackintosh Academy Littleton was awarded the President’s Environmental Youth Award by the EPA in April of 2016. In addition, the school has been awarded two grants from the Colorado Garden Foundation, for researching and planting native plants as a sight barrier, and for installing a hydroponic system in the greenhouse. Students were involved actively in planning and implementing both of these projects. In the fall of 2016, Mackintosh Littleton was invited to participate at the bronze level in the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment’s Environmental Leadership Program (ELP). In 2017, Mackintosh Littleton applied for and received acceptance in the ELP at the Silver level, and the school is already taking steps to go for Gold.
Students have spearheaded efforts to make the switch to reusable plates. A Parent Council initiative has resulted in a water bottle filling station in the gym, and the avoidance of some 500 plastic bottles. The school also has robust single stream and glass recycling programs. Well-used blue recycling bins sit in every classroom and, on Wednesday mornings, parents and children drop off bags of bottles and jars for the glass recycling program. Students recycle school supplies, including used notebook pages. The school introduced energy-efficient windows, insulation, solar tubes, venting skylights, and motion-activated LED lighting in the most recent capital improvement, and makes use of sustainable cleaners. Students can be found casting shadows along the water of the school’s popular solar-powered outdoor fountain.
Other student-driven initiatives include a terracing erosion control project, gardening tasks, and a greenhouse with an elaborate hydroponic system and student-built supports. Eighth-grade gardeners pick tomatoes and basil and then sell them in the car line to support additional greenhouse projects. The use of organic fertilizers and community garden potlucks to suppress weed growth is critical, as parents and students pull weeds and trim bushes year-round.
In addition to a vigorous physical education curriculum, students enjoy outside lunch and recess every day. Middle school students do Mack Movement before classes, and all students walk the student-designed meditation path.
Mackintosh Littleton also relies on outside partnerships in its health and wellness programs. A contract with a children’s hospital provides health and safety training and oversight, and a relationship with Littleton Police Department provides safety practices and procedures for fire, secure perimeter, and lockdown drills.
As an IB school, Mackintosh Littleton supports environmental education with a series of speakers on environmental topics, as well as courses such as the popular How We Share the Planet class. Students use repurposed materials to create designs for energy-saving devices, and perform an annual solar inquiry to analyze data from the solar panel monitoring system and figure out how much energy the school generates from the panels. Mackintosh Littleton’s middle schoolers participate each year in the World Affairs Challenge, recently winning an award for presenting an idea for using aquaponics to address food insecurity in Puerto Rico. Students also take personal responsibility for saving power with all-school Conserve Energy days, during which the school community disables “energy vampires” in classrooms.
The faculty green team promotes environmental undertakings and focus, and plans activities for the annual Earth Day festivities and community service activities, which take place on and off campus. The school has adopted the nearby Ridgeview Park, and students take responsibility for keeping it clean, picking up trash, and overseeing cleanliness.
The Mackintosh Littleton community is living the values of sustainability and environmental awareness. Students continue to be the driving force behind what the school community is doing and why. Starting with the hard work and clear vision of those six students, Mackintosh Littleton students are intricately involved with, and initiate many of the examples of the school’s sustainability. These students will forge the path in future endeavors, expand Mackintosh Littleton’s green team, and continue to incorporate sustainable components, like a green roof, into the school’s proposed capital expansion. As Head of School Diane Dunne says, “Mackintosh Littleton is a small school with a big heart and a deeply held conviction that will lead the way to a brighter future. Mackintosh Littleton’s students have sounded a clear call to action that the adults in the school community are excited, and, in fact, compelled to follow.”