The Summerfield Elementary School earned its reputation as a green school early on: The year after it was built in 2006, the K-5 school was honored as the first New Jersey public school to earn a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certification, for its energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and other sustainable benchmarks.

Summerfield’s green practices continue, and in 2013, it received the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools award. The school was also recognized by the Design Build Institute of America as its 2006 Project of the Year in the “Legacy” category.

The school uses many innovative technologies to reduce its environmental impact and cost. Two electric vehicle-charging stations are located in parking spots near the main entrance. A geothermal heating and cooling system captures energy that would normally be lost through exhaust. Sunscreens placed over the south- and west-facing windows control the effects of sunlight, by allowing passive solar heating in the winter and window shades in the summer.

Day lighting controls, occupancy sensors, and a building automation system add to the energy efficiency. Water-saving is also on the daily agenda. To reduce water use, waterless urinals and low-flow toilets were installed, and the roof was designed to direct rainwater to an underground collection tank able to store 6,000 gallons of water, that students use to irrigate gardens.

The district’s commitment to improving student and staff health is evident, too, through efforts to control and improve indoor air quality; manage chemical use; encourage fitness; provide healthy meals, and educate students about nutrition. Research finds healthy environments are the key to improving student and staff attendance, which directly correlates to student achievement.

But the most unique aspect of Summerfield is that all of these innovative technologies and programs allow the building and campus to serve as a “living textbook.”  To this end, there are three elementary environmental science teachers employed, teaching four district environmental and sustainability literacy programs that engage students in interactive learning by taking them on learning trips to Sandy Hook; a Green Acres preserve adjacent to the school; and elsewhere.

As an elementary school in an urban school district, Summerfield makes a concerted effort to rescue children from what “Last Child in the Woods” author Richard Louv calls “nature deficit disorder” – the ill effects of not spending enough time in natural environments.


Contact: Jerard L. Terrell, principal, [email protected]

2013 Green Ribbon Schools award winner