SCH Academy is the first school in Pennsylvania to receive a 3-Star Green Restaurant certification through the Green Restaurant Association.
SCH is proud of our significant and enduring commitment to environmental sustainability. Our green footprints—over more than two decades—are purposeful and intentional. Initiatives extend from the classroom to the roofs and from the cafeterias to the Wissahickon Watershed. Through active engagement, SCH students become passionate environmental stewards and thoughtful agents for change.
1/2-acre of solar arrays on rooftops
gold LEED-certified science and technology building
For over 20 years, the environmental education program at SCH Academy reaches our entire student body, from our youngest students in Pre-K to our senior students. By being active stewards of our gardens, our campus, and the adjacent Wissahickon, our students learn hands-on about the environment and how to care for it.
From regular science classes in the woods and around the campus grounds in Lower School to environmental science courses in Upper School, students learn about environmental issues and solutions through hands-on, active, project-based learning and classes with professional scientists from a variety of fields.
Students regularly win awards at local science fairs for their investigations of ecological problems and in-depth study of natural areas.
Eco Clubs and Service: SCH Academy currently has three student Eco Clubs which meet to discuss and identify environmental issues of concern and actively engage in projects to help make our world a greener place.
Classroom projects and initiatives vary from year to year, depending on students’ interests and passions. They have included building a garden out of Eco Bricks and supporting the hungry in our local area; testing water quality in the Wissahickon Creek and creating videos about how to use water-testing kits and sending them around the world; capturing data and learning how to improve water quality; raising over $1,200 for a clean water initiative in Haiti using biosand filters.
SCH Academy is committed to making our cafeterias as green as possible. From our use of locally grown produce and composting efforts to careful choices about products and waste disposal, we strive to reduce cafeteria waste.
SCH is the first school in Pennsylvania to be a Certified Green Restaurant® through the Green Restaurant Association.
In 2011, the Sustainability Committee and the Eco Clubs designed a new waste disposal center. The center features three bins, one each for recycling, compost, and trash. The goal is to provide a system to facilitate waste disposal in the cafeterias and create zero-waste cafeterias.
Students enjoy a farm-to-school local produce program. Local and organic foods are offered frequently in the cafeterias.
Starting in the fall of 2015, SCH cafeterias no longer carry disposable plates, cups, or silverware and instead switched to reusable products only for daily breakfast and lunch service. This transition to reusable was funded in part by a grant from Recyclebank.
Middle School girls received a GRinCH (Green in Chestnut Hill) grant to help promote single-use water bottle awareness and reduction and a new water bottle filling station.
SCH Academy strives to implement best practices for green construction and building materials and is committed to the use of renewable energy sources.
The 23,000-square-foot Gold LEED-Certified Rorer Center for Science and Technology at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, built in 2008, is a vibrant learning center that serves as an active teaching tool for environmental responsibility. The high performance-building envelope features superior insulating value, air and vapor barriers, and double-glazed low-E window units. The glass lobby serves as a large-scale vestibule and transition zone from the outdoors. In addition, the photovoltaic panels, wind turbine, rainwater collection system, and real-time display in the main lobby are some of the more visible elements of sustainable design.
Bulletin boards in the Lower and Middle School hallways are made of a renewable, sustainable, nature-friendly product called “Forbo,” which is ranked first in an eco-balance product analysis.
The wainscoting in the Lower School hallways is made from earth-friendly sunflower seed husks.
Prior to construction of the new academic wing on the Cherokee Campus, rubble from the former Upper School building was sorted and separated. Metal and rebar were recycled and the remaining cement was crushed and used in the subsurface of the main visitor parking lot.
Special parking spots for hybrid and HOV vehicles (High Occupancy Vehicles) have been set aside to encourage carpooling and reduce the use of vehicles on our campus. Anyone with two or more licensed drivers in their car is encouraged to use these conveniently located spots. Additionally, both campuses are idle-free zones. While waiting for students at dismissal time, car and bus drivers are asked to turn off their engines.
SCH Academy is committed to living out the eco-mantra of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Recycling is part of our school culture, with students, faculty, and families engaged and committed to creating a “waste-free” school.
The school began its ongoing weekly recycling program in September 2005 and was the first school in the city to recycle all paper, plastic, glass, metal, and cardboard with Recyclebank. Weekly recycling efforts have taken over 320 tons of cardboard, paper, cans, plastic, and glass out of the waste stream since the program was initiated. We now have 30 paired recycling/trash receptacles all over campus.
Communication with school constituents is almost exclusivley paperless. A student-run Upper School Eco Club program to collect computers and cell phones means that, instead of ending up in a landfill, parts are sold or retooled.
In 2012, the Upper School Eco Club spearheaded a shoe recycling effort, collecting over 613 pounds of shoes for ShoeBox Recycling, which sends the shoes to areas in need around the world where residents then set up micro-businesses to resell the shoes at local markets. Eco Club received 50 cents for every pound of shoes collected, raising over $300 that will be used toward purchasing a handicapped-accessible raised garden bed that the students will construct at the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation.
SCH Academy is committed to being active stewards of our 62-acre campus and neighboring Wissahickon.
The SCH campus boasts several gardens with native plantings—including two American Chestnut and Hemlock trees donated by the Morris Arboretum—which serve as outdoor classrooms for our students. Over the years, students have planted thousands of native trees/seedlings, hundreds of native plants, and flowering bulbs.
In conjunction with the Fairmount Park Association and Friends of the Wissahickon, students have worked on trail restoration in the section of the Wissahickon adjacent to the Cherokee Campus.
Working with the Philadelphia Water Department and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, students installed traffic circle rain gardens in two parking lots on the Cherokee Campus. This project is a demonstration site that shows how planting islands in parking lots can calm traffic, help control runoff, and reduce the heat island effect of large patches of asphalt. The gardens feature native plants known to attract birds and pollinating insects and will clean the school stormwater runoff before it flows into the Wissahickon Creek and Schuylkill River.
Three giant 100-year storm recharge beds—which collect water from our roof and parking lots and slowly bring it back into the ground—were created under school parking lots and the playing fields. They are designed to eliminate runoff and erosion on Cherokee Campus property and the adjoining Wissahickon.
SCH Academy was the first school in the state to receive Bird Habitat recognition from Audubon Pennsylvania for creating a habitat that allows opportunities for student data collection and analysis of bird life, insect biomass, vegetation, etc.
At SCH Academy, we believe in growing greener together and we work diligently to build partnerships within our extended community.
For the past several decades students have tended to the Wissahickon woods adjacent to the school by removing invasive plants, planting natives, conducting trail work, adding berms to reduce runoff from the trail, and picking up trash. Often this work is done in partnership with Friends of the Wissahickon, Fairmount Park, and Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers.
In 2012, SCH received a grant from the McLean Contributionship to create an outdoor natural playspace which serves as both recreational space and outdoor environmental education classroom, features a seated amphitheater, a bird blind, and a natural playground comprising vertical logs of different heights for jumping and a giant drainage tube for scaling, hiding in, and crawling through. This outdoor space—open to the community—provides the opportunity to have unstructured playtime in a variety of settings, increasing both exposure to and interaction with nature.
Upper School art students have designed unique and attractive covers for the Big Belly trash compactors in Manayunk, in partnership with the Manayunk Development Corp.
In April 2015, SCH hosted a global climate summit for middle and high school girls, which was organized by sophomore Rekha Dhillon-Richardson as part of SCH Academy’s Venture Incubator program. The summit focused on the immediate impacts of climate change in the Philadelphia area and featured keynote speakers and activities to help spread awareness among middle and high school girls. After organizing and running the summit, Rekha participated in the 2015 TEDx conference. Additionally, Rekha was one of only 125 students selected from across the country to participate in the Green Schools Alliance Student Climate Congress in Washington, D.C.
From our solar panels to our wind turbine, SCH Academy is committed to the use of renewable energy sources.
In 2009, Springside received a $400,000 Energy Harvest Grant from the Department of Environmental Protection. These funds were added to those raised from a Parents Association event and the Class of 1966’s generous reunion gift to allow the school to move forward on blanketing the roof of the Vare Field House with photovoltaic solar panels. When the installation was completed, it was the largest nonprofit project of its type in this region.
In 2012, SCH Academy added five additional fields of solar panels to the roofs of the Upper and Middle Schools on the Cherokee Campus, bringing the total size of the SCH Academy solar panel system to 232 Kw. This second installation was accomplished at no cost to SCH Academy due to innovative financing with business and educational partners.
Our Gold LEED-Certified Rorer Center for Science and Technology, built in 2008, includes a wind turbine, photovoltaic solar panels, solar hot water system, and rainwater capture and purification system for use in the building. Excess rainwater is redirected into two ponds and thence to a cistern system located under the building’s permeable asphalt parking lot. In addition to the new Rorer Center, the pond and cistern systems serve the entire north side of the historic Wissahickon Inn, the varsity football field, and surrounding playgrounds. All energy and water systems are fully instrumented and the results displayed in real time and captured for further analysis as part of the school’s innovative environmental engineering curriculum.