Auburn High School students discuss sustainability’s link to learning

Published on: 
10 Nov 2017
Phoebe Beierle

Feature image photo by Kierstan Meadors.

In August 2017, the new Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama, opened its doors to close to 2,000 students in grades 10–12. A 350,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, LEED-certified high school was a welcome change for the students and the community—one of the first projects to be completed in the district’s Facilities Plan 2024.

The Center for Green Schools at USGBC is excited to share two students’ perspectives on what the new green school means to those who attend every day, including what aspects of the building are driving sustainability and what features are facilitating better and deeper learning. The essay is written by Auburn High School students Alexis Jones and Jacqui Barnes:

In the mornings at Auburn High School, students are greeted by the sound of a coursing creek on their walk from their cars to class. Sitting in a classroom, the sun streams through windows and across the clean edges of desks. If we’re lucky enough to have a class on the outer edge of campus, we can soak in the sight of towering trees surrounding the school. On stormy days, the windblown raindrops scatter across the floor-to-ceiling windows and down into the greenery of the courtyard. With such a view, even the most challenging assignments are a little less stressful.

The abundance of natural light often renders artificial light unnecessary, a sharp contrast to the fluorescent light that filled classrooms at our old high school. This use of natural light often leaves students surprised when they realize the lights have been turned off the entire class period.

Interior glass walls. Photo by Noelle Sanders.

At lunch time, we flock to the open space of the courtyard to enjoy our lunches in the fresh air. Seating along, and in between, each building encourages students to take advantage of the changing of the seasons. A large range of outdoor seating options marks a pleasant transition from the typical loud and crowded high school cafeteria.

In addition to a greater awareness of nature, many of the new high school's green elements simplify our typically busy days. Students with fuel-efficient vehicles are treated with parking spots that allow for a shorter walk to first period. The water bottle refill stations not only advocate for the use of reusable water bottles, but are also simply convenient to quickly fill up in between classes. Each time we refill our water bottles, the number of equivalent disposable water bottles is displayed. This feature, as well as other labels throughout campus, remind us of the benefits of being environmentally conscious.

To us, the best new element of this high school is the proximity to an entire ecosystem, allowing us to study nature beyond the limits of our textbooks in our AP Environmental Science class. The decision to leave the surrounding areas undisturbed gives us the opportunity to observe concepts such as the effect of human disturbance on biodiversity, variables that affect soil and water quality, and overall, the importance of preserving our environment.

Tiger Den. Photo by Hannah Smith.

We appreciate the steps Auburn High School has taken towards becoming an environmentally friendly institution. We look forward to seeing more progress in this direction on campus, working toward decreasing our ecological footprint. The effort to incorporate green elements in the school has increased our and our classmates’ awareness and made for a relaxing and enjoyable learning environment.

Whether you are building a new school or operating an existing building, USGBC has a host of resources to help your school achieve green standards that save valuable resources, promote health and wellness of all occupants and foster an inspiring space for teaching and learning.

Learn more about LEED schools