New greenhouse, Adelard Arena solar project, help Mounties learn sustainability

New greenhouse, Adelard Arena solar project, help Mounties learn sustainability

Mount Saint Charles Academy’s new dome greenhouse, above, located by the school’s gym entrance, is nearly complete. Pictured below is a mockup showing how the new solar panels are expected to look atop Mount Saint Charles Academy’s Adelard Arena.

WOONSOCKET – Two new projects at Mount Saint Charles Academy will further the private school’s goal of “leading the way in educating sustainability,” according to school officials.

By the start of the fall school year, students will have access to a dome greenhouse, and will also see a solar roof installed on the school’s Logee Street hockey arena.

The greenhouse is part of an ongoing project to create and integrate an outdoor classroom and garden into the academy’s curriculum. It will accompany the outdoor garden near the campus gym entrance, in which the students have been growing herbs and vegetables for the past year.

Deslandes Construction Company began building the 22-foot growing dome solar greenhouse during the last week of April, and is expected to complete the job this week. The windowed structure includes windy weather protection and metal glazing strips to seal the seams, and drip edge flashing to protect the wood on the side from moisture and long-term degradation.

The project was made possible through a $5,000 grant from the John Clarke Trust and a $17,225 grant from the Champlin Foundations.

Science teacher and Earth Crew moderator Janice Ferry has coordinated the student-led outdoor gardening effort, and said her students start many of the plants from seeds in her classroom.

“While they have fairly good sun exposure in my room, it is not optimal and we are limited in how many trays of plants we are able to fit,” Ferry said.

In addition to providing more direct hours of sunlight, the new structure will give the plants a warmer environment with more moisture in the air than a cool, dry classroom.

“The greenhouse will provide more room and allow us to start our plants from seeds earlier in the year, so that by planting time, the plants will be well established and more mature,” Ferry said, adding that it will provide space to raise flowering plants that will attract pollinators to the garden.

Ferry said the dome-shaped structure was chosen because it’s considered a more strong and energy-efficient type of greenhouse that also limits snow accumulation in the winter.

“The company advertises it as a year-round growing space, which I would like to try next year with my students,” Ferry said. “It has heat activated vents that open automatically to allow for cross ventilation to prevent the temperature from becoming too high.”

The geodesic design, she added, creates a great tie-in to the school’s math curriculum.

Ferry said that in the next few years, she hopes to have the students design planting beds for the interior of the greenhouse. For the time being, they will make use of tables that will be set up inside the structure.

The environmental science teacher said that sustainability is a major theme in her classes throughout the year, with lessons that teach students things like how to grow food organically.

Then, she said, the students can “compare the impact of growing their own to the impact of purchasing food grown hundreds or thousands of miles away, usually not organically grown, transported all those many miles to their local supermarkets.”

“My students calculate their ecological footprint to learn the impact of their daily decisions and their lifestyles on the environment,” Ferry said. “By examining their decisions, the students can determine ways in which they can live a more sustainable lifestyle and contribute to a more sustainable society.”

“This is the next phase of the whole outdoor classroom concept,” explained MSC Marketing and Communications Manager Penny Federici.

And Federici said it’s not the only project at the school focused on teaching students how to be good stewards of the environment.

Just after graduation in June, solar services provider Nexamp will go to work installing a 206 kilowatt system on the roof of Adelard Arena. The solar array will generate approximately 232,000 kilowatt-hours annually of clean, renewable electricity, enough power to supply 34 Rhode Island homes.

The school has been preparing for the new green rooftop addition since summer of 2014, when the roof of the arena was replaced with the structure necessary to support the panels. Nexamp, the largest solar provider in New England, will build and operate the project, and the system will be integrated into the school’s science and physics curriculum.

Federici points to the recent Paris Climate Accord, a global agreement with the goal of reducing emissions adopted by 195 nations. The Mount community, she says, is doing its part to support the addition of new renewable energy resources to enable a cleaner world. 

“Combine the promotion of sustainable energy with the school’s highly successful garden, recycling, and composting programs, and Mount will establish a leadership position from which to educate its students on the social justice of a sustainable lifestyle,” a release on the project stated. “Not only are we looking toward a greener future, but we are becoming active contributors as we make that greener future happen now.”