School of Environmental Studies

Special Thanks to our Sponsors!

◦Sebseta Inc. ◦Trane Inc. ◦US Green Building Council- MN/MN Green Schools Coalition ◦Greengrade ◦ Shannon Pinc, Sustainability Consultant ◦ Wold Architects and Engineering ◦ Noble Conservation Solutions ◦

School of Environmental Studies Students Take the LEED To v4 Certification!

High school students at the School of Environmental Studies (SES) in Minnesota are taking the lead on sustainability. A dedicated group of juniors and seniors are showing their concern for the environment by working toward LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Certification of their facility with the U S Green Building Council, Minnesota Chapter (USGBC-MN).  Their goal is to obtain certification of the building under the LEED EB: O+M for Schools v4 rating system, which would also make it the first student-led LEED certified under LEED v4. The certification process at the school is projected to take two years – achieving certification as this year’s juniors reach graduation. The project is also serving as a national LEED Lab Pilot which will help drive appropriate curriculum for K-12 students relating to LEED Certification, environmental education, and experiential learning.


The School of Environmental Studies (SES) is an optional public high school located in Apple Valley, Minn., on the grounds of the Minnesota Zoo. It is a part of Independent School District 196 and the school also accepts open enrollment from the greater Twin Cities area, for students in their final two years of high school. The magnet school embraces a project-based learning model where students participate in defining their leaning objectives. The mission of the school is to be a community of leaders learning to enhance the relationship between humans and their environment. The students are living out the schools’ mission by embarking on this opportunity.

The SES students needed professional assistance to move forward with their ambitious goal, so they contacted Sheri Brezinka, Executive Director of USGBC-MN.  USGBC-MN has worked to engage community partners and support, now totaling over $100,000 in in-kind hours, expertise and product as well as public support from City of Apple Valley and national attention through Center for Green Schools and USGBC.

P1000796The high school students are leading the process throughout the two-year effort. They encouraged participation from peers and faculty, resulting in a dedicated course for this pursuit. The current students are proactively planning for how they will hand off the project to younger students, since certification will be a multi-year effort. Students will participate in fundraising efforts for any additional costs associated with the project, submitting final documentation for LEED certification, and presenting their work before others, including educational conferences, their school board, and the USGBC-MN.

A kick-off team meeting was held in October. “What an honor to work with bright, engaged youth who are ready to change their world,” says Corinne Wichser, the volunteer project manager and a sustainability specialist with Sebesta.

Companies and individuals wishing to participate can contact Steph Leonard,

P1000735About SES

Opened in 1994 as a unique partnership between Independent School District 196, the City of Apple Valley, and the State of Minnesota (Minnesota Zoo) SES is a response to the well-documented need to create smaller, more effective learning communities providing authentic learning experiences. To this end SES immerses its students in the study of environmental topics and issues working with and often alongside professionals in the field. Students graduate from SES knowing how to learn as well as what to learn and are well prepared for a lifetime of participation and education.

Breaking Down the Certification:

What is LEED EB: O+M for Schools v4?

LEED = Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design

EB = Existing Building

O+M = Building Operations & Maintenance

v4 = Version 4 of the LEED certification (3 previous versions existed, each an upgrade to the past version)


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