The Kohler Environmental Center
The Kohler Environmental Center (KEC), located at 211 East Main Street, is a state-of-the art teaching, research, and residential environmental center. The LEED Platinum facility, designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, is home to the honors and interdisciplinary Environmental Immersion Program (EIP), a year-long residential academic experience.
The center is situated on 266 acres of mixed forest, wetlands, meadows, and agricultural fields. These diverse habitats are used for short- and long-term scientific research and provide inspiration for the interdisciplinary study of environmental science, literature, the social sciences, and the arts. Based in the southernmost field of the Center, our gardens and orchards employ methods used in organic agriculture and permaculture. The food produced in our gardens and orchards is used in the KEC kitchen. In addition to growing food, students in the EIP examine complex issues surrounding our current food system.
The facility includes an academic wing with two classrooms, a research greenhouse, and three laboratory spaces. A community wing which includes an open kitchen and a seminar room, and a residential wing which consists of dormitory rooms for students, two faculty apartments, and a studio apartment for guest educators-in-residence.
to create a scholarly community dedicated to promoting environmental understanding, stewardship of the land, and social responsibility
The Environmental Immersion Program is a year-long honors interdisciplinary program open to fifth and sixth form students who have a passion for understanding and preserving our natural environment. The program includes courses in Ecology, Literature and the Landscape, Environmental Ethics, Environmental Economics, Environmental Policy, Biology, Nature Photography, Interdisciplinary Research Methods and an Independent Research Project.
The KEC is a place where students live what they learn. Says Headmaster Alex Curtis, “Emphasizing the best of collaborative learning, the Kohler Environmental Center is the ultimate working, living laboratory and offers endless possibilities for learning, growth and change.”
Some of the environmentally advanced design features of the Center include:
- A one acre, 296-kilowatt ground-mounted photovoltaic (solar) array that provides 100% of the KEC’s energy demand.
- A rooftop solar evacuated tube system that provides hot water for residents.
- A research greenhouse that provides a computer-controlled environment in which students, faculty, and visiting scholars can conduct experiments.
- Supplemental heat is supplied by burning biodiesel made from waste vegetable oil.
The KEC supports several community outreach programs for elementary school-aged children. Participants explore the forests, fields, and streams on guided nature walks, grow plants in the greenhouse and in a children’s garden. The KEC also holds events for the broader Choate and Wallingford communities. The Kohler Environmental Center is a gift from Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., Class of 1957. The KEC Program Director is Joseph M.V. Scanio.
In the News
- “Unique Environmental Immersion Program Offers Students Sustainable Living and Learning Experience,” Inspiration Lab, NAIS microsite, September 12, 2013
- “World Architecture Festival 2013: The Shortlist Has Arrived” Kohler Environmental Center, Robert A.M. Stern Architects LLP, Huffington Post.com, July 4, 2013
- KEC featured in Cool Schools segment, WFSB Channel 3 Hartford, November 30, 2012
- Choate Rosemary Hall's Kohler Environmental Center a unique space,” New Haven Register, Friday, October 12, 2012
- “Prep Schools Lead The Way On Sustainable Living,” Fast Company, October 19, 2011
- “Place Where You Live,” Katherine Overstrum ’16, Orion Magazine, September 14, 2015
Environmental Immersion Program – Meet the Experts
The Kohler Environmental Center hosts visiting experts in residence for students in the Environmental Immersion Program and the greater community at large. Recent speakers include:
- Multimedia artist Douglas Gayeton presented on food sustainability and his recent project, Lexicon of Sustainability and new book, Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America.
- Michael Singer, Professor of Biology at Wesleyan University, presented on the ecological and evolutionary processes of tri-trophic interactions and trophic cascades.
- Josh Galperin, Associate Director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and Sara Kuebbing, Postdoc at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, presented results of their research on the legal and biological feasibility of controlling invasive species by developing federal and state invasivore policies. Past EIP students John Vaughn '15 and Jane Zhang '15 assisted them in this research, and current EIP student Chrissy Casazza '16 is working with them this year.
- David Kohler ’84, President and Chief Operating Officer of Kohler Company, and Davor Grgic, Chief Information Officer and VP of Sustainability at Kohler Company, presented on the topic if Sustainability Strategic Plan and Developing a Corporate Sustainability Culture
- David Yeung, Founder of Hong Kong-based Green Monday, presented on social entrepreneurship and green start-up companies The Kohler Environmental Center is partnering with Green Monday to create voluntary pledges that inspire individuals to make environmentally friendly decisions in a variety of areas.