TWP PARK. – Dragonflies Discovery Preschool, one of three nature-focused preschools operated in the community by the Outdoor Discovery Centers Network, is preparing to welcome students and teachers to its new campus at 30 N. 152nd Ave. in Park Township.
In keeping with the ODC Network’s mission to promote outdoor education and conservation, caring for the classroom takes on a whole new meaning in a nature-based school environment.
As it has grown, ODC has remained committed to investing in high-performance buildings and operating them with best practices that minimize negative environmental impacts. Dragonflies Discovery Preschool is no exception, leading the network’s eco-friendly buildings portfolio with three key strategies:
1) Reduce energy consumption
One of the simplest ways to mitigate the negative impact of a building is to reduce unnecessary consumption, including energy. Dragonflies puts this thought into practice in a number of ways.
A geothermal system uses energy from the earth to provide efficient heating and cooling. Classrooms and staff workspaces are equipped with smart controls, presence sensors and efficient lighting systems. Structures on campus are strategically placed to take advantage of passive solar principles and minimize the impact of cold winter winds.
The preschool’s emphasis on outdoor learning in all seasons and all weather conditions reduces the need for additional air-conditioned rooms and buildings.
2) Clean the energy used
For energy that is still needed, ODC Network has focused heavily on clean and renewable technologies that will be viable in the long term.
The parking lot will include four EV car chargers as well as locally sourced solar street lights, similar to those found at the Outdoor Discovery Center. The building has also been equipped to accommodate a solar panel which will be installed in the near future, providing clean, renewable energy on site.
With its all-electric design, the campus will have the ability to source additional energy not provided by on-site solar power from clean, renewable sources on the grid. The ODC network has also invested in battery-powered grounds maintenance equipment that mitigates emissions associated with traditional maintenance activities.
3) Focus on environmentally friendly materials and landscapes
Dragonflies, in conjunction with ODC’s Little Hawks and Seedlings Discovery Preschools, is pursuing several waste reduction initiatives focused on reducing single-use items, improving recycling and composting.
The campus features yet another of ODC’s well-known natural playscapes, made from natural, local materials. Finally, the ODC Network Conservation Services team implemented an extensive habitat restoration plan across much of the 11-acre property, bringing back native trees and grassland species.
To provide quality outdoor education, ODC understands that it must be intentional to support a clean and healthy environment to serve as a classroom. Likewise, through this outdoor education, the network hopes to instill in learners an understanding of the natural world around them and a passion to protect it for generations to come.
— Joe Sikma is responsible for sustainable development at ODC Network.
About this series
MiSustainable Holland is a collection of community voices sharing updates on local sustainability initiatives.
Theme of this week’s sustainability framework: Environmental awareness/action: Environmental education and the integration of environmental practices into our planning will change the negative results of the past and improve our future.