In a couple of years, when third graders at a Chicago school go to math or science class, they may head outside to the school's new urban farm.
The Academy for Global Citizenship, a public charter school that serves 90% minority students in a Southwest Chicago neighborhood, is building a new campus with a three-acre farm and renewable systems that produce more power than the school will use.
The school is already the first in the Chicago public system to serve 100% organic food, made from scratch by an on-site chef. When the new farm is completed, many of the ingredients will come directly from the gardens outside.
"We see all of the systems and the building itself and the surroundings as our teacher, as a teaching and learning tool," says Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, founder and executive chairman of the school.
Designed by architects from the Chicago-based Studio Gang, the school is aiming for certification from the Living Buildings Challenge, an ultra-strict measure of sustainability in architecture. A former brownfield site, polluted by industry, is being transformed for the new grounds. The materials are as local and low-carbon as possible. The building will collect and store water, and will be powered by solar, geothermal, and wind energy.
"We're working with Studio Gang to make these building technologies transparent as much as possible," she says. "So the building can be used as a STEM lab in and of itself."
The school is also designed for other educators to use as a model, including features such as net-positive energy production and the experiential curriculum. A new web tool, book, and institute will help share the details with anyone who wants to duplicate it.
"Our vision is to create this replicable model and to do this on a budget that is not only going to be accessible to our district but to districts across the country," says Ippel.
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Photos: courtesy the Academy for Global Citizenship. Renderings: Studio Gang