Environmental Stewardship at Potomac takes a multitude of forms. From composting to using the outdoors as a classroom, students, faculty and staff alike are committed to being stewards of their surroundings.
Students and Nature
In fall 2012, a dedicated group of 13 teachers led the entire faculty and staff through a day of campus exploration and learning in the outdoors. Whether sitting at desks in Pimmit Run or measuring the height of a tree, groups of teachers explored and brainstormed ways to utilize our campus as a tool for powerful teaching.
Outdoor Education is a once-a-week opportunity for fourth graders to explore the natural spaces of Potomac's campus. From nature hikes and species collection to woodland recess and outdoor games, this time is spent honing children's observation skills and appreciation for nature. Many of the ecological and biological parts of the science curriculum goals are met during Outdoor Ed.
Upper School Outdoor Education is a fall and spring sports elective for students in grades 9-12. Our mission is to help young people experience and appreciate wilderness areas and to help them live, travel and work responsibly in wild places. It is equally important to recognize what is wild and beautiful in our everyday surroundings, so we spend considerable time and effort managing and cultivating the woodlands and watersheds of our 90-acre campus.
Recycling at Potomac
In recent years, The Potomac School has worked with Waste Management Incorporated (WMI) to expand our longstanding recycling program. We now collect and recycle mixed materials, including multicolored paper, soda cans, plastic water bottles, glass bottles, aluminum foil and a host of other items we used to throw away. We have extra bins for convenience and student-generated signage that encourages recycling.
For years, the Intermediate School has been coordinating recycling on the North Campus. The US Students for Environmental Action (SEA) made a study of the recycling processes and needs of the new buildings. They then ordered additional recycling bins where needed and organized a collection system through advisory groups.
For years the School has recycled ballasts and fluorescent tubes, and it currently phasing in LED lighting wherever possible.
Bus and truck batteries, motor oil and filters and antifreeze are all collected and recycled or disposed of professionally.
Electronic waste (computers, printers, monitors) is recycled through Turtle Wings, Inc. Blue collection tubes are found in each division for the collection of batteries. These batteries are then shipped to Battery Solutions for proper recycling.
Students for Environmental Action (SEA) researched options for composting school waste and identified DC-based Organic Waste Haulers (OWH) to collect our compostable waste. Students throughout the School now put their compostable waste in special bins in the dining hall, which OWH collects three times a week and takes off site to be composted. Plans include bringing the prepared compost back to use on campus, completing the cycle. In addition, Middle and Upper School representatives from SEA have made and now manage their own experimental compost bins.
Upper School and Middle School students cultivate organic herbs and vegetables throughout the year in eight raised beds located behind the Upper School. The gardening program is developing into an integral part of the School's K-12 stewardship mission by helping to educate K-12 students in organic gardening practices and nutritional eating habits. Future goals also include a "garden to cafeteria" program and a monthly Potomac School farmer's market.
Our Transportation Fleet
The Potomac School has one of the most comprehensive bus transportation systems in the Washington metro area. We are powered by biodiesel (B20 soy) fuel, which is delivered to a 3000-gallon tank on campus. Our 37 biodiesel buses also use an additive called ethos that burns the fuel more efficiently, reducing tailpipe emissions by 10 to 12 percent. We recycle all fluids, oil and transmission filters, and batteries, and we use biodegradable solvents in our parts washers.
All of our students in grades 1 through 11 are required to take the bus to and from school, reducing our traffic to a maximum of 2,080 vehicle trips in or out of the campus each day. That’s pretty good for a school of just over 1,000 students with a robust calendar of after-school sports, music, drama and other activities. We have Neighborhood Bus Service as well as conveniently located Shuttle Bus Service, throughout northern Virginia, DC and Maryland. Our bus system reduces traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods as well as serious air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and particulate matter on our campus.