Asked to envision the school of the future, a group of sixth-graders from Stewart Middle School in Tacoma dreamed big.
Their imaginations conjured a scale model of Shamrock K-12 School – a school energized by wind, water and solar power, topped with roof gardens and supplemented by underwater classroom space.
Their vision earned them second place in a multi-state regional competition sponsored by the Council of Educational Facility Planners International.
“We started at the beginning of the year coming up with ideas on how a school could be sustainable,” said Quintin Lenti.
He and classmates Maylynn Barquet, Esther Cantlin and Matthew Kaup clearly did their homework.
They designed their imaginary school to include a host of green features:
• “Grasscrete” walkways – paving with openings that let plants grow through for improved drainage and reduced runoff into nearby waterways.
• Solar panels on every window.
• “Smartboards” made of recycled materials that let teachers project computer-screen images to students.
• Energy generated by windmills atop the school and discs strung between the school’s main building and its annex; a waterwheel in the river that flows past the school also generates power.
• Desks and chairs made of recycled metal.
“If you can make a building with sustainable materials, it’s healthier for the environment and for the children,” Maylynn said.
Matthew said he learned how to include green concepts in a small, contained area.
Their ideal school would also be open to their community. In addition to a rooftop garden growing food for the school cafeteria, a ground-level garden maintained by students would offer food for the neighborhood.
“It’s for people to come and take what they need,” Esther explained.
One of their most intriguing ideas involved how the school’s handicap-accessible, multi-floor design would be used.
Kindergarten classrooms would be located in the basement, and as students progressed through the grade levels, they would move up a floor.
Students who make it to 12th grade would occupy the top floor of Shamrock K-12.
The school would be topped with a dome that allows sky views. At night, cameras would record the movement of the stars so that science teachers could review them with students the next day.
The contest award came with $500, which the school used to sponsor a school-wide performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by the Seattle Shakespeare Company.
A total of 28 students in teacher Edith Stewart’s class started planning in September and presented their projects to judges in February. Students worked in teams of three or four.
One team designed a school based on Aztec pyramids; another group included erasable walls.
Stewart said as students did their research, their knowledge grew.
“The contest was fun, but what kids really got out of this was amazing,” said Stewart, who teaches in her school’s highly capable program.
“They were doing math, reading and writing that brought real life into the classroom.”
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635