By ERIN ROLL
Montclair Kimberley Academy had the grand opening of its new green roof just in time for Earth Day.
The school held an opening reception on Tuesday for members of the media and the public on the roof of the upper school campus on Lloyd Road.
The event included a short talk from Thomas Nammack, MKA headmaster; Ben Rich, the sustainability director for the upper school campus; and Laura Zimmerman, the sustainability director for the middle school campus on Valley Road.
The roof is on top of the school’s new academic center, and the project itself has been three years in the making.
Rich said that some of the inspiration for the roof had come from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s facility in Morristown, which is outfitted with a green roof. Zimmerman said the school had also sent some of its faculty to visit to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s facility on Randall’s Island.
The roof features include 11 wooden planter boxes. Seven of the boxes are used for growing produce such as herbs, strawberries, spinach and romaine lettuce, and flowering plants to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The remaining four are being used for an experiment on soil nutrients.
The other features include rainwater-trapping patches of sedum, a drought-resistant plant; tube lights to allow sunlight into the rooms below; a WeatherBug weather station and a sundial.
The entire project is estimated to have cost about $7 million. Nammack said funding for the roof and academic center came from various grants, including from the Hyde and Watson Foundation and the Edward E. Ford Foundation.
MKA’s goal is for all the academic disciplines to be able to use the roof. The English classes had just presented a play using the runway over the sedum trays as a mini-stage, the science classes were carrying out experiments with the planter boxes, the astronomy classes use the sundial, and the physics classes had just done a series of experiments on trajectory. “They used it to throw water balloons at the teacher below,” Rich said.
Students from the middle and primary school campuses have started taking field trips to visit the roof with their teachers. Nammack said the weather station has been especially popular with primary school students.
“The kids are really excited to be up here,” Zimmerman said.
Nammack said that feedback from the school community had been very positive, and that the school hopes to use the roof stations to help develop more partnerships with the community and with other schools and groups in the region. “Obviously we’re in the early stages of taking it for a test drive,” he said. The school is hoping to add birdhouses, vertical gardens and hydroponics systems in the future.