School is finalist in green contest

Solar panels and a wind turbine generate the electricity for the hydroponics lab at Sandy Miller Elementary Magnet School of International Studies, which grows broccoli, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables.

Plants and nutrient-rich water from the lab are recycled as mulch and irrigation for the school gardens and landscaping.

The school’s staffers hope to ride the conservation cycle to victory as one of 20 finalists in the “Earth Day Every Day Challenge.” The school could win $20,000 from the contest sponsor, Wal-Mart.

The contest will be decided by online voting at

The public can vote until Friday.

The school, located near Lake Mead and Nellis boulevards, is the only finalist from Nevada.

“We could use all 2 million votes (from Nevada),” said Chad Hyatt, Miller’s magnet school coordinator.

The prize money is intended for green projects.

The Miller staff would like to build a small greenhouse, because students are always asking for tropical plants and trees that are not practical to grow in the desert. The school uses only native plants for its outside gardens.

“I did a survey,” second-grade teacher Anna Kamin said. “(Students) wanted tropical star fruit and banana trees. It was amazing to see all the ideas.”

One girl suggested planting a mulberry tree so the school’s silkworms could eat its leaves.

If the school wins the prize, it would be an example of a green project leading to more green projects.

In 2005, Miller was the first school in the state to get a Green Power Station from the Desert Research Institute, the environmental research arm of Nevada’s public universities.

The Green Power Station cost between $40,000 and $50,000 to install but was funded with grants from Nevada Power and other donors, according to the Desert Research Institute.

The institute has since installed 31 Green Power Stations in schools across the state. Institute officials last week could not say how much power they generate, but said they were “more for educational purposes” than utility purposes.

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug or 702-374-7917.

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