Brookland Middle School has garnered national recognition for its sustainable energy features, and it received some international attention Thursday, when U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the Northeast school.
Accompanied by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Mr. Ban took a tour — led by Brookland Middle Principal Norah Lycknell — through the school’s glass-walled halls up to the rooftop, which is lined with solar panels.
“I never expected that middle schools could use so much sustainable energy,” the United Nations chief told a gathering of students in the school’s outdoor classroom. “It’s a great hope for the future.”
Mr. Ban was in Washington to attend the three-day Climate Action 2016 Summit at the Mayflower Hotel, and took a break to visit one of the newest and greenest schools in the city.
After three years of planning and constructing, the one-year-old school boasts several sustainable innovations. In addition to the solar power that provides 20 percent of the school’s electricity, Brookland Middle is fitted with a geothermal system that transforms energy from the ground into heating and cooling for the building.
The outdoor classroom where Mr. Ban met 11 of the school’s 320 students features a garden that grows on its own, fed by runoff water from the roof. Inside, all nondrinking water is supplied by collected ground moisture and rain.
“Very impressive,” Mr. Ban said at the close of his tour. “This is what we say ‘sustainable energy.’ “
The school models exactly what Mr. Ban is hoping to see come out of the summit, where environmental leaders from around the world are sharing ideas on how to implement last year’s international climate agreement in Paris.
The conference, which comes two weeks after the Paris Agreement signing ceremony on Earth Day, includes speakers such as former Vice President Al Gore and Ms. Bowser.
The District’s mayor joined Mr. Ban after her luncheon panel discussion on the role of elected leaders in climate implementation.
“It’s very, very special that the secretary-general came to see us,” Ms. Bowser said to the students. “Starting with you guys, [we’re] making the world safer.”
Ms. Lycknell said that students are making their own green initiatives at the school, which focuses on arts and languages. Some students have started monitoring the school’s energy usage and others have created action groups such as the Keep It Green Club, she said.
“Middle school kids are just beginning to think outside of themselves,” a somewhat frazzled Ms. Lycknell said, as Secret Service agents and reporters swarmed the atrium of the school building. “[We’re] raising consciousness of not only national issues but international issues.”
Mr. Ban explained in simple terms the complexities of the U.N. and climate change to his audience of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
“We are working for you,” he said. “After all, soon you will be leaders. We have the responsibility to make the world greener.”