Gifft Hill School is the second school in the territory to be designated by the National Wildlife Federation as a Bronze Level Eco-School. The effort to complete NWF’s seven-step framework was led by GHS’s green team of educators including Jennifer Sampsell, a trained marine biologist; GHS STEAM instructor Dean Walczak; seniors Amelia Ray, Sierra Matthias, Shekinah Abraham; and junior Christian Foust.

“Getting the Eco-school Bronze Award was a result of the hard work and collaboration of students throughout the Gifft Hill School community,” said Sampsell.

“Many students had a hand in different parts of the process. Helping our students understand the issues they and their families and communities are facing now will create informed citizens and community advocates for the future. I am grateful to have been part of this program. I look forward to working through other pathways in the program to continue educating about the importance of sustainability and resiliency.”

Once Sampsell and her students completed the NWF Eco-Schools’ disaster risk reduction management program, they tackled the watersheds, oceans, and wetlands pathway, which involved creating a curriculum focused on increasing students’ environmental literacy on topics including climate change, watersheds, and resilience.

Students created a vulnerability assessment and audit and an Eco-Schools watershed audit reviewing the GHS campus and surrounding watershed. Students then worked with landscape architect Elaine Mills to create a resiliency design that identified one vulnerable area on the campus and determined a way to reduce its vulnerability.

The Bronze award is the first step toward becoming a Green Flag school through the Eco-Schools program. To help guide the school toward this goal, students created a schoolwide eco-code that embodies GHS’s commitment to the environment and sustainable living.

“I am very proud of our students and faculty for this remarkable achievement,” said GHS Head of School Ken Mills. “Given the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has not been easy to complete a long-term project. Students worked hard in the classroom to develop knowledge and skills. They then left the classroom to identify an environmental problem and developed a plan to address that problem; rigor, community, and hands-on learning all contributed to GHS achieving Eco-School status. The school’s mission will also guide our students as they begin work toward the next milestone—becoming a fully recognized NWF Green School.”