WVC elementary school catches 'green' bug

Education » Recycling and conservation are part of the curriculum.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

At Gearld Wright Elementary School, "green" isn't just a trendy buzzword.

Caring for the environment colors everything that happens at this West Valley City school.

The building itself recently became LEED-certified, recognition given to structures from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The 4-year-old school, designed by architect Jim Day, was built with energy conservation and cost-efficiency in mind.

Ninety percent of the space has an outside view, and less electricity is needed to keep it bright. And -- unlike the builders of Stonehenge, who transported slabs of rock great distances -- the brick and concrete used to erect Gearld Wright Elementary was bought just 5 miles away.

Fifteen percent of the building was made from recycled materials. Inside, the school is full of "low-emitting materials," says Principal Marilyn Laughlin, noting the carpet and paint don't give off toxins, a benefit for asthmatic students in particular.

The school, Laughlin says, has ambiance, a feeling of openness and no sharp corners.

While sitting in the environmentally healthy building, students learn to do their part to save the planet. Recycling and conservation are emphasized, and teachers "incorporate the natural world" into lessons, Laughlin says.

Students also participate in "service learning" by planting tulips, and they spend time in an "outdoor classroom."

It's not just the students who have caught the "green" bug.

"A lot of our teachers have jumped on board, not only with the recycling in our classrooms ... some of our teachers walk and bicycle to school," Laughlin said.

"The children know they are our future," the principal said. "They can be a productive and a vital and important part of looking at the world in a different way."