Montclair Kimberley Academy Celebrates Earth Day with Opening of New Green Roof

Tom Nammack, Headmaster of Montclair Kimberley Academy, officially opens the Green Roof that serves as a unique learning experience for the students and the entire MKA community. Credits: Bobbie Peer
Tom Nammack, Headmaster of Montclair Kimberley Academy, with teachers and Sustainability Coordinators Ben Rich and Laura Zimmerman. Credits: Bobbie Peer
The sedum plantings and recycled glass provide insulation to the Academic Center. The solar tubes allow sunlight beneath to reduce the use of artificial lighting. Credits: Bobbie Peer
The planters were constructed by students and some contain pollinator plants that attract bees, butterflies and humming birds. Credits: Bobbie Peer
The Sun Dial will be used by the Astronomy Class. Credits: Bobbie Peer
The Weather Station uses the WeatherBug APP, part of a network of weather stations that spans the globe. Credits: Bobbie Peer
The Academic Center, a project involving the renovation of the library along with 3,800 sq ft of new space including an Idea Lab and Offices. Credits: Bobbie Peer
Credits: Bobbie Peer

MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair Kimberley Academy (MKA) is a buzz with activities this spring involving their K through 12 students and their new Green Roof that boasts spectacular views of the New York City skyline. The Green Roof officially opened on Tuesday, April 18 in time to celebrate Earth Day at their Upper School campus on Lloyd Road.

"MKA is a great place to grow," said Ben Rich, Science teacher and Sustainability Coordinator for the Upper School at MKA, who explained how the new space of the Green Roof serves as a unique learning experience for the students and the entire MKA community, providing a plethora of curricular and resource savings benefits.

"We are committed to leading the way among private schools in terms of sustainability and efficient use of our resources," said Rich. "The Green Roof demonstrates this leadership and provides us with incredible space to intimately experience nature in a densely populated suburban environment."

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The Green Roof is perched on the roof of the new Academic Center, a project that involved the renovation of the existing library along with an additional 3,800 square feet of space.  The combined $7 million project was funded by a number of sources that included grants from the Hyde and Watson Foundation, as well as a $50,000 matching grant by E. E. Ford Foundation which was matched by alumni, parents and administration, said Tom Nammack, MKA Headmaster.  "This will be a real magnet for the school, K through 12," he said.

Nammack said the idea for the Green Roof was inspired by a visit to the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation in Morristown. The foundation houses a LEED Platinum facility with interesting design features. "We were captivated by their rooftop garden," he said. "The Board of Trustees felt that we should create an education space with the new roof on the Academic Center."

MKA recently received their LEED Silver Certification which is the most widely used green building rating system. The LEED components to the Green Roof include a weather station that utilizes the WeatherBug app, providing regular global reports from the roof; garden beds; classroom space; a vegetated roof of sedum plants and recycled glass that adds to the insulation in terms of heating and cooling; solar tubes that bring sunlight inside the Academic Center, reducing the need for artificial lights; and the white roof reflects the sun's light and heat from the building to conserve on air condition usage.

The Silver Certification not only saves the school money by using the building for energy conservation, the roof gardens and vegetation also help the surrounding community by reducing storm water runoff. "The rain falls on the roof, the soil and plants absorbs the water which reduces the storm water runoff," said Rich. "This allows us to interact not just with our own community but with the surrounding community."

Many Green Roofs are passive and are designed solely to insulate the building and the sedum to absorb the water and sunlight, said Rich. The MKA Green Roof not only involves LEED components, it also has many interactive features for students and visitors to use as a learning environment.  

Laura Zimmerman, MKA Middle School Science teacher and Sustainability Coordinator, said the weather station collects current weather data through the WeatherBug App that can be downloaded. Students use interactive modulars on their iPad to track weather data globally and across the area, while the youngest of students can check the app for the barometric pressure to determine what to wear. The weather station at MKA also has a camera that shows the weather at MKA and can be seen from any computer or smartphone.

Zimmerman explained how the students have been involved in the design of the garden boxes and built the planters made from FSC certified wood.

"The students planted pollinator species to help the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds," said Rich. "There has been a great bee die off recently. This demonstrates to students and parents how we connect to the local ecosystem and to the world around us."

Rich also explained that specific planters are being used to test genetically modified plants compared to organic. The students are also experimenting with nutrient variables to test how plants adapt to different levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and how it affects the growing process.

Each of the schools will participate in the design of murals and paintings to leave their mark and be involved with the space, said Zimmerman. 

MKA administrators, teachers and students are encouraged to use the roof for performance art, photography, astronomy, yoga, relaxation and for pure enjoyment.  

About Montclair Kimberley Academy (MKA): Montclair Kimberley Academy is a school of thought that turns inquiry into insight. They intentionally foster balance in students' lives so they can develop their infinite potential in and out of the classroom. Embracing a contagious go-for-it attitude; students confidently try anything on their distinct educational adventures, guided by faculty who love to learn and live to teach. As diverse as it is united, their community is strengthened by a commitment to good character, and together they celebrate each student's success, individually defined. MKA is located in Montclair, NJ. 

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