OGDEN -- When ideas about building a new Ogden elementary school were being tossed about, the thought of having an environmentally friendly facility caught everyone's attention.
Not only would the new school be built with the environment in mind, but students would also spend much of their time learning about it.
Shadow Valley Elementary opened in 2009 as one of the first schools in the nation designed and built following the performance standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for the School Green Building Rating System, said Principal Leanne Rich.
The intent of LEED schools is to build a high-performance facility that is durable, affordable and environmentally sound, as well as a healthful environment.
LEED buildings use materials with high recycled content, Rich said. Some of those recycled materials at Shadow Valley Elementary include metals, metal studs, concrete, carpet and insulation.
The school uses renewable energy systems, including wind and solar power generation, and its lighting is designed to be controlled by the individual user.
The design also enables the school to have maximum water efficiency throughout the building. Because of this, the school uses 45 percent less water than other buildings of similar size.
Shadow Valley Elementary is considered to be a magnet school for environmental studies where students get to learn about biological processes and habitats at wetlands and ponds adjacent to the school.
The curriculum focuses on water quality, plant cycles, worlds within worlds and living and nonliving systems. The intent of these lessons is to help students learn to use Earth's resources to be able to sustain themselves to some degree.
Rich said the school is also lucky enough to have a partnership with the Ogden Nature Center, which provides many learning experiences for students throughout the school year.
The school starts involving students in environmental and science studies right off the bat, Rich said.
Kindergartners start by using the five senses to observe the environment around them. First-graders focus on living and nonliving things. Second-graders analyze and make conclusions about their observations, as well as explore adaptation in the environment.
Third-graders explore how they interact with the environment. They spend time digging in the soil and get an up-close and personal look at live animals. Fourth-graders learn about weather, rocks, fossils, natural cycles, plants and wildlife and go on field trips to the Ogden Nature Center and Beus Pond.
Fifth-graders relate causes for changes they see in the environment. They study Earth's surface changes and hike in the local mountains and canyons. Sixth-graders develop hypotheses, design their own experiments, draw conclusions and talk about their findings. They do all kinds of exploring that includes the galaxy. They build spacecraft and spend the entire year working on an environmentally focused research project.
"Before Shadow Valley Elementary School was built, the kids attended Grandview Elementary," said Donna Corby, community relations coordinator for the Ogden School District.
"For a while, there were 380 students and 18 teachers, but the board of education changed the boundary with Wasatch."
Corby said the boundary change increased the number of students to 430, with 80 percent of those students taking the bus.
"Grandview is not a particularly safe school in which to bring buses. It has a very steep driveway, and there's no way to turn around," she said. "It was great when it was a smaller school."
During the same time, Corby said, people were moving into the Shadow Valley area and a large share of the children living there were in Grandview's boundaries.
A new school needed to be built to support the growing numbers in the Shadow Valley area, she said.
The school is expecting 612 students for the 2011-12 school year.
The school is very involved with the community, Rich said.
For instance, Ogden city recreation teams use its gym during basketball season. Girl Scout troops and Weber State University's string programs use the community learning center for meetings and instruction, and the YMCA teaches Spanish classes in the center before school.
"We also have several major activities on a yearly basis," Rich said. They include a spring 5K/1-mile walk in partnership with the Ogden Clinic, as well as the fall and spring equinox family nights.
"I have three children who attend Shadow Valley," said Kelly Howard. "I love the school. I love the parents. The community around the school is excellent, people are involved, and the teachers are absolutely fantastic."
Howard said her children love the environmental side of the school as well.
"It gives them a chance to get outside and do extra projects dealing with science," she said.
"They've done all kinds of things, from weather reports to geology plays. There's also a science club at the school. I just can't say enough good about it."
Shadow Valley Elementary
• LOCATION: 4911 S. 1500 East, Ogden
• COST: $14,521,173
• HISTORY: Opened 2009
• SIZE: 80,320 square feet
• STUDENT BODY: Estimated at 612
• STAFF: 28 certified teachers, seven lunch workers, two custodians, two playground monitors, one computer lab assistant and 17 instructional staff assistants
• TIDBIT: School’s team nickname is the Eagles; colors are black and gold