Since its inception, Hilltop Montessori School has emphasized sustainability and global education as it directly relates to our mission. Housed in a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design)-certified building by the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) and located on approximately seven acres of wooded area in the Town of Mt Laurel, Hilltop strives to teach global responsibility throughout each child’s day, complementing Maria Montessori’s cosmic curriculum.
Some of our current sustainability initiatives and components of our campus include:
The Richard Grandey Teaching Kitchen:
Modeled after Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Teaching Kitchen, the Richard Grandey Teaching Kitchen is a multi-use space for our #FarmtoFork lunch program and edible school yard lessons. Serving all natural and locally grown food, the students have the option of a fresh, nutritious (but still kid-friendly) lunch prepared on site and 1-8th grade can use the kitchen for edible lessons. After hours, the community space accommodates events for our area, after school activities and extracurricular sports. The teaching kitchen also accommodates students in small groups with hands-on activities, integrating science and math to food preparation in keeping with the Montessori model.
Hilltop uses rain barrels among our outdoor classroom areas for rainwater collection, which is then used to nurture the plants in our gardens. Minimal concrete and pervious paving on the property allows for less impact on local sewer systems. Excessive rain run-off from the property is directed to a bio-swale, where it percolates and returns to the water table. Purposeful landscaping that includes an emphasis on native plants, and does not include sod, requires less water and directly highlights to the children the beautiful native plants of Alabama. Natural “butterfly bushes” and other native areas surrounding the school attract local wildlife and encourage an ecosystem on campus that allows the children interaction with nature throughout the day.
Donated by our Parent Teacher Organization, a greenhouse in our garden area helps to facilitate further growth of our vegetation, particularly in the winter months. Light boxes grace our classrooms, where even our smallest students watch plants grow to be large enough to move outdoors. The school also has two tower gardens, which grow edible plants using hydroponics.
We have an apiary on site that is tended by several of our staff members who are apprentice bee keepers. The honeybees have been a great addition to campus, and the students have enjoyed learning the benefits of having bees on site. Fresh honey is integrated as part of the children’s snacks as it is available, and learning more about the process of the hives, the life cycle of the bee and the precautions necessary to beekeeping has added excitement to the students’ environmental curriculum.
The school’s campus contains a butterfly peace garden, raised garden beds through Whole Kids Foundation grants, a native plant trail through a grant from Legacy and the entire campus is certified as a National Wildlife Habitat. Great care is taken on our Mt Laurel property to honor native plants and leave as much wildlife as possible. Bluebird boxes, squirrels, chipmunks and other wildlife live in harmony with the students. Each classroom also has an outdoor garden and working space.
Hilltop implements a comprehensive recycling program throughout the school, in every classroom and office space to keep all spaces beautiful inside and outside. From paper to aluminum to plastic, bins are placed around the school to encourage participation from all of the building’s occupants, from the 18-month-old students to the adults. Students also regularly participate in composting and other environmental pursuits, such as worm vermiculture.
Hilltop Montessori School is located in The Town of Mt Laurel, and we share the town’s green common areas. With the generous commitment to the school, Mt Laurel also permits our older children to hike in the area for studies on ecology, recreation or to simply enjoy the beautiful community surroundings as part of physical education and science studies. The lively and bustling town center boasts local restaurants and stores that our students and their families enjoy before and after school hours.
In keeping with our mission, the school also continues to host community outreach events, including our Spring Auction, which brings together the school’s stakeholders. Last year’s fundraiser raised over $100,000 for the students, thanks to the generous support of our community.