To continue the focus on energy conservation throughout Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS), the PWCS Energy and Sustainability team hosts the Energy Challenge each year. Students and staff, whether working as individuals, classes, clubs, or teams, are encouraged to help grow the culture of sustainability in the Division by completing a certain number of energy-saving tasks. Registered participants also qualify and can earn a $1,800 rebate.

During the 2020-21 school year, 68 schools received this rebate based on their participation, and they were encouraged to use these funds to further their own sustainability efforts. The Green Team at Neabsco Elementary School, for example, used their funds from this past school year to build six raised garden beds, or "grade gardens," in their central courtyard.

"Prior to [the pandemic], we had the students do a biodiversity audit at the school grounds, and they found we had very little plant diversity," said Mary Wang, English for speakers of other languages teacher and sustainability coordinator at Neabsco Elementary. "There wasn't anything to attract birds or any type of pollinators, so that became our first goal."

With one garden designated per grade level, the hope is that students and staff will turn their maintenance of these gardens into learning opportunities. Students will learn about the components of the garden, such as the compost and perennials, while practicing different types of responsibility.

"Neabsco Elementary School is really big on integrative learning. I also believe that an experience today provides inspiration tomorrow," said Wang. "We're always looking for ways to teach kids life skills and life responsibility. Their work can remain constructive while doing so like pulling weeds or watering plants."

As the gardens continue to grow, the Green Team hopes that more learning opportunities will grow with it. There are plans for more projects within the courtyard, such as having the gardens also function as sensory beds for students with autism, and they do seem possible, thanks to the start from the Energy Challenge.

"We would love [our sustainability projects] to become a community thing," said Wang "There's not answers to everything yet, so we think this has been and is a great way to bring everyone together."

Specific details regarding the Energy Challenge for the 2021-22 school year are forthcoming. Updates will be posted to the Energy Challenge webpage.

Schools that received the Energy Challenge rebates for the 2020-21 school year:

Alvey Elementary School
Battlefield High School
Bel Air Elementary School
Belmont Elementary School
Benton Middle School
Brentsville High School
Bristow Run Elementary School
Buckland Mills Elementary School
Bull Run Middle School
Cedar Point Elementary School
Chris Yung Elementary School
Coles Elementary School
Charles J. Colgan High School
Covington-Harper Elementary School
Ellis Elementary School
Enterprise Elementary School
Featherstone Elementary School
Fitzgerald Elementary School
Forest Park High School
Fred M. Lynn Middle School
Freedom High School
Gainesville Middle School
Gar-Field High School
Glenkirk Elementary School
Graham Park Middle School
Gravely Elementary School
Hampton Middle School
Haymarket Elementary School
Henderson Elementary School
C.D. Hylton High School
Independence Nontraditional School
Jenkins Elementary School
Kerrydale Elementary School
Kilby Elementary School
Kyle R. Wilson Elementary School
Lake Ridge Middle School
Loch Lomond Elementary School
Marshall Elementary School
Marstellar Middle School
Marumsco Hills Elementary School
Mary Williams Elementary School
McAuliffe Elementary School
Minnieville Elementary School
Mountain View Elementary School
Mullen Elementary School
Neabsco Elementary School
Occoquan Elementary School
Parkside Middle School
Patriot High School
Pattie Elementary School
Pennington Traditional School
Piney Branch Elementary School
Potomac View Elementary School
River Oaks Elementary School
Rockledge Elementary School
Rosa Parks Elementary School
Sinclair Elementary School
Springwoods Elementary School
Sudley Elementary School
T. Clay Wood Elementary School
Triangle Elementary School
Tyler Elementary School
Unity Braxton Middle School
Unity Reed High School
Victory Elementary School
Woodbridge High School
Woodbridge Middle School
Yorkshire Elementary School