Sustainability in Our Curriculum

Slideshow image


Little School | Lower School | Middle School | Upper School

Little School

Students regularly compost and recycle food, paper, plastic and metal waste. Paper and plastic products are often reused in a creative way. The Little School science curriculum incorporates many lessons that emphasize the value of natural recourses and their importance to us. Children consider the following topics:

  • How do trees help us?
  • What is in dirt/soil?
  • Air is all around us!
  • Water moves around earth in a cycle.
  • What is the Earth like?
  • What can you reuse? What can you recycle?

The science curriculum also incorporates many lessons that allow students to observe their world, such as:

  • The changing of the seasons
  • Backyard animals
  • Animal habitats
  • Weather patterns

In the course of their everyday activities, Little Schoolers learn about reusing and recycling, as they compost food waste recycle cans and bottles, and reuse plastic products in new and interesting ways.

Lower School

In the Lower School, students explore the environment and ways to take care of it in many facets of the curriculum. Below is an outline of some of the topics studied:

  • Kindergarten students learn about trees by following them through the seasons, and what plants need by growing and observing different flower bulbs
  • In the spring, kindergarten students take a field trip to a farm to learn about plant and animal life cycles
  • In first grade, students read books about recycling, talk about ways to reduce and reuse materials, and practice these in the classroom
  • In second grade, girls study insect and honeybees, including making a model of the honeybee hive
  • In third grade, students study erosion and ways to prevent it, as well as weather cycles
  • In fourth grade, students learn about where our drinking water comes from, as well as how to clean and conserve it. Students also make posters to post around the Lower School to inform students about water usage in the United States
  • In fifth grade students complete a 2 month long unit on the environment, learning about ecosystems, the Bryn Mawr campus, and the plants and animals that are a part of it

Additional Lower School activities

Some examples of additional sustainability activities in the Lower School include:

  • Participation in the Green Challenge, where students checked trash and recycling containers for a month to determine levels of contamination; during this time feedback was given on the documented levels of compliance
  • Read electrical meters in 3 different buildings to monitor electrical usage and report the results to the student body

Middle School

In the Middle School, students learn about environmental resources and sustainability through class work, field trips and research projects. Some of the highlights of the Middle School curriculum include:

  • In sixth grade, students study the structure of the atmosphere, determining the ground level ozone level as well as how air pollution relates to this. They also complete a unit on local drinking water resources, water use, and conservation. In the spring, girls study the Chesapeake Bay, considering such topics as water quality, ecology and conservation.
  • In seventh grade, students consider ecology topics such as populations, communitie and ecosystems. Course work includes a section on waste removal and pollution, and the effects of development, farming, and invasive species on local ecosystems. In Global Studies, students complete a unit on sustainable development, which includes desertification, deforestation, and Wangari Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement.
  • A highlight of the Middle School curriculum is the seventh grade Sustainable World Investigation (SWI) Project, which is a semester-long research project on global sustainability. About one-third of the student-generated research questions concern environmental sustainability. Recent topics include water use and quality, farming, air quality, deforestation, climate change, desertification, coral reefs, and the effects of mining.
  • In the eighth grade, students consider the question of air quality and atmospheric composition. Using chemistry techniques, they consider the question, “How can we improve air quality in our community?”

Field Trips

Middle School students participate in several environmentally-oriented field trips, including:

  • Grade 6:
    • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
    • Living Classrooms Foundation shipboard programs
    • Parks and People Foundation–small group service learning projects
    • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: Sant Ocean Hall–emphasis on the ocean as a natural resource; students develop individual research questions about the ocean
    • Great Kids Farm–service learning and environmental education experience
    • Real Food Farm / Parks and People Foundation / Cromwell Valley Park--service learning and environmental education experience
  • Grade 7
    • Great Kids Farm–service learning and environmental education experience
    • Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center--class retreat that includes an outdoor challenge course
  • Grade 8
    • Camp Letts–class retreat that includes canoeing, nature walks, ropes courses

Special and Extracurricular Projects:

  • Sustainability Fair– a culminating, celebratory event to showcase the seventh grade SWI projects. The fair also includes tables by school environmental organizations and local environmental organizations.
  • Participation in the Green Challenge–Students and faculty were challenged to reduce energy consumption and trash production and to increase recycling compliance.
  • Go Go Green Girls Club--activities include Stony Run clean up and stream walk with Jones Falls Watershed Association
  • Earth Day Symposium–students attend a variety of symposium sessions
  • Fundraiser for Blue Water Baltimore–Students made recycled paper jewelry and sold it at the Sustainability Fair as a fundraiser for Blue Water Baltimore

Upper School

Upper School students learn about the environment and sustainability in a variety of ways, including class work, optional summer courses, independent studies and extracurricular activities.


  • In ninth grade physics, students complete a project on differences between gasoline, hybrid and electric engines, to understand how each functions, and what their capabilities are.
  • In chemistry classes, students consider a wealth of environmental topics, including air and water pollution, climate change, recycling processes, invasive species, endangered species, and biodiversity.
  • In biology classes, students complete an extensive unit on biodiversity and conservation.
  • Advanced Placement Environmental Science is one of the most popular senior science electives year after year.  Each student is responsible for developing her own project to impact conditions on our campus, within the community or somewhere else on the planet. Projects have ranged from organizing a farmer's market on campus to encouraging local eating and grass-raised beef burgers through an on-campus cookout.
  • Another popular senior elective is Recreating Nature, a class oriented towards celebrating the nature in our midst rather than observing the spectacles of national parks or exotic "Planet Earth"-like adventures. As teacher Bill Waters explains, “By training ourselves to be better witnesses of nature as an everyday context--even in the most urban of settings--we invariably become better stewards of our habitat.”
  • In pre-calculus, students use carbon dioxide data collected in Hawaii to create predictions for future levels of CO2, and learn why such predictions vary greatly.
  • All Upper School students at Bryn Mawr take a dance class. Students are encouraged to regularly use re-purposed materials for costumes.
  • Thanks to the 1:1 laptop program in the Upper School, all classes use as little paper as possible, if any at all.

Summer and Independent Study Opportunities:

  • A new summer course has been developed that is entitled “Nature’s Laboratory: Mapping the Local Ecosystem.” The primary goal of this course is to teach students the natural history of the area surrounding The Bryn Mawr School using skills employed by biologists and environmental scientists. The culmination of the course is the development of an online field guide for the greater Roland Park area.
  • The Edith Hamilton Scholars Program affords Bryn Mawr seniors an opportunity to pursue a unique course of study of particular interest to them, while working with a mentor who has expertise relevant to the subject matter. Participation in the program is open to all rising seniors who desire to undertake a rigorous project, for which they will receive neither credit nor grade. Recent participants have selected environmentally-related projects including “Determining the Carbon Footprint of the Bryn Mawr School” and “Creating a Business Plan for a Locally and/or Sustainably Grown Food Market.”

Extracurricular Activities:

  • Growing Green Club: This club focuses on cultivating an on-campus garden to produce organic vegetables for student and faculty consumption. Students learn about the factors that affect plant growth, and how to sustainably harvest food.
  • Students for Environmental Action Club: SEA aims to promote an awareness of environmental issues on the Bryn Mawr campus and in the surrounding community. SEA sponsors and participates in clean-ups, and is actively involved in on-campus recycling and ecological restoration of the wooded areas that surround the campus.
  • Water World (Charity Water): The goals of Water World are to raise awareness of the plight of the 1.1 billion people of the world who do not have access to safe and clean drinking water and to fundraise for this cause.


Fall Visiting Days

What is a Fall Visiting Day?
Bryn Mawr’s Fall Visiting Days are a great opportunity for you to see Bryn Mawr during a real school day and to meet and speak with the director of the academic division to which your daughter will apply. Register Now!