Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes Home Page

The Sustainability Academy


ImageThe Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes is an elementary magnet school located in the Old North End of Burlington, Vermont.  The Big Ideas of Sustainability are integrated into curriculum and campus practices by interpreting state and district curriculum through the lenses of economics, the environment, and social justice.

 The Mission of the Sustainability Academy is to learn together to gain the knowledge, skills and habits of responsible community members. We are engaged in making a difference by learning to create social, environmental, and economic justice in our community and world. As one of the most urban schools in Vermont, we used place-based education to explore our local community and city, and implement service-learning activities in order to improve our community and the greater world. 

  Sustainability in the Curriculum  



Sustainability is deeply integrated into the curriculum, campus practices and culture at the Sustainability Academy.  Each grade-level team plans curriculum around a year-long essential question focused on sustainability and creates lessons that embed the Big Ideas of Sustainability into reading, writing, math, social studies, and science.  Each teacher has a Sustainability Curriculum Map that is aligned with the Burlington School District Curriculum Map. In addition, sustainability is integrated into Art, P.E. Music and Library classes, providing a whole-school approach to Sustainability Education.  

The Sustainability Academy is the first K-5 Magnet school centered around sustainability and serves as a model for the state of Vermont and beyond.  Reports from an independent evaluation team conclude that the sustainability work has improved student engagement (especially for students with special needs), increased community engagement in schools, and presented new opportunities for family involvement.


Sustainability on Campus
Energy: We use geothermal energy to heat and cool our building and solar panels   to power our school. During our building renovation in 2010, a geothermal heating system was added to the building and, along with better insulation and triple paned windows, has reduced our fuel bills by over 100%. In 2011, thanks to $50,000 grant from the government and a $10,000 donation from Seventh Generation, a solar array system was installed. Comprised of a stationary and tracker system, solar panels feed information to a kiosk in the main lobby that tracks all of our utilities in real time. 
School Meals: The Burlington School Food project provides the children at the Sustainability Academy with the healthiest and most nutritious food options while cultivating a rich environment for food education. Home to one of the top Farm to School programs in the nation, the Burlington School Food Project continues to set healthy food trends that positively affect our students and our community.

School Gardens:  Each classroom at the Sustainability Academy has a raised garden bed to use in cultivating flowers and vegetables. The kitchen staff has access to herb and vegetable gardens for use in preparing school meals. We hope to create an indoor community herb garden at the entrance to the school.  Blueberry and Raspberry bushes provides fruit for the school community. Our gardens situated in the back of the school offer a bounty of plants and a common area in which community members often gather. October was Farm to School Month - we were honored to host the press conference in our outdoor classroom. It was our pleasure to serve lunch to all of our distinguished guests! Read more about it here. More photos can be seen here. Stay tuned for our Farmers' Market which is run by students from the Outdoor Classroom space on the south side of our campus.

Composting and Recycling:  In 2014, the Sustainability Academy earned "Recycling Hero" status as part of the Green Schools Alliance "International Green Cup Recycling Challenge." Locally our school placed first in the Trash on Lawn Day results compiled by our partners from the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD). Students and staff use resources responsibly by composting and recycling.  We have on-site composting and a constantly evolving recycling program that requires students to think about ways in which we can improve our consumption and disposal of products.

Outdoor Classroom: At the SA, education takes place all around us and our outdoor classroom reflects this.  In use year-round, the main outdoor classroom is located behind the school next to the perennial garden, but there are several other mini classroom spaces around our campus. The main structure is made with reclaimed barn timber assembled with the help of ReSource Vermont and Youth Build.  Furnished with hand-crafted benches, reused cable reel tables and a scotch pine picnic table the outdoor classroom provides inspiring meeting places for the school and the community. 

Wellness and Fitness: In 2014, our school had the opportunity to increase the amount of fitness offerings at our school. One of our sister schools had started a program called "Move it! Move it!" When our students learned about it they expressed interest in creating a similar program for our school. Our wellness-fitness program called "Morning Move It!" occurs every Monday and Thursday morning from 7:50-8:10. Faculty, staff, students, siblings, parents, family members all gather around the back track on our campus to exercise and enjoy spending time with each other.  Last year we moved a collective total of over 1000 miles!! Our latest big news...Ryland has 'moved' more than 1,000 laps around our back track and will be celebrating 100 miles! We will be celebrating our gold medal mover at one of our upcoming Wednesday Morning Meetings.

   In 2014 our school community was awarded the National Wildlife Federation's Green Flag. We are the first Vermont school to earn this honor. We were recognized for our exceptional school grounds, use of sustainable food and improvements in our energy efficiency. 
   In 2014 our school joined the prestigious Ashoka Changemaker Network. We share with and learn from other changemaker school internationally.  We joined 2 other Ashoka Changemaker schools in March 2016 to present about whole school sustainability initiatives at the Green Schools Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. 

Partnership with Shelburne Farms

The Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes will employ the methods and pedagogy of Education for Sustainability (EFS) - learning that links knowledge, inquiry, and action to help students build a healthy future for their communities and the planet. The Burlington School District will build upon its partnership with Shelburne Farms, a national leader in sustainability education, to bring the sustainability magnet school to life. Shelburne Farms has worked with the BSD for the past eight years to pilot the Sustainable Schools Project in two elementary schools and has provided professional development to 90% of our elementary teachers.  

Shelburne Farms’ project in sustainability at the Academy has resulted in a palpable sense of community that emanates beyond the school walls. Reports from an independent evaluation team conclude that the sustainability work has improved student engagement (especially for students with special needs), increased community engagement in schools, and presented new opportunities for family involvement.

Shelburne Farms will help to expand upon and facilitate additional community partnerships with local and national organizations to ensure constant innovation and improvement in the fields of sustainability and education at Barnes.

Banner photos by Andy Duback and Suzanne Clark Weishaar

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The shared responsibility for improving the quality of life for all –
economically, socially, and environmentally,

now and for future generations.

Our Students

Arguably the most diverse elementary school in Vermont, the Sustainability Academy has children from more than ten countries who speak about fifteen different languages. 

The Sustainability Academy has approximately 200 students in grades K-5.  We offer the following classes: kindergarten, first grade, second grade, a multi-grade 2/3, third grade and 3 multi-grade 4/5. 

In addition, we have a pre-school with approximately 20 students who  come for either a morning and afternoon session.