COVINGTON -- Middle school students from the Montessori School of Covington recently had a chance to gain some experience in the real world.
For the past few weeks, the school's seventh- and eighth-grade students have been learning about The Center, an organization in Covington that facilitates community preservation and planning, to study a variety of environmentally sustainable features that are incorporated in its building on Washington Street.
The environmentally friendly features include recycled building materials, solar panels, compact fluorescent lighting, dual flush toilets and programmable thermostats.
Kay Lee, director of The Center, said the organization has used the Grants to Green stimulus funding from the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta in partnership with the Southface Institute to incorporate some of the features. So far, the organization has spent about $100,000 in upgrades to the historic building -- mostly in grant funds and donations -- to set an example for other nonprofit organizations to show how it makes sense to invest in environmentally efficient measures.
"Once your investments are paid for, you have savings forever on with lower energy costs," Lee said.
After visiting The Center and learning about some of its features, the nine Montessori students in the class each had to research and write about one of the environmental features. Students researched and wrote on topics like reusable dishes, tankless water heaters, copper window film and other green features at The Center.
They learned how many of the products reduced water and energy use, were cost effective and reduced wasting energy and water that wasn't needed, the students said.
Afterward, they worked with Brian David, a local graphic designer from Triple Horse Productions, to create visually appealing plaques with descriptions of each feature. The plaques will be displayed in the building to help with The Center's focus to create a passive learning environment.
Students presented their findings and plaques at The Center on Tuesday morning to the organization's staff, their parents and students from the University of Georgia's design school who use the building for similar projects.
"We sure do appreciate you," Lee said. "This helps us look at projects and get a different perspective. You are the next generation that we are doing this for."
Teacher Sara Vinson said one of the charges of the Montessori School is for students to get out into the community to do "real projects."
"This will have a long-term impact, not only for The Center, but for these kids' lives," Vinson said. "This is planting that seed."
Montessori students have also visited the Newton County landfill to learn about recycling, working in gardens, using compost sites, eating a waste-free lunch with recycled items and washable dishes and researching other environmental projects.
Next, the middle school students plan to create some solutions for Newton County's litter problems.