When you walk into Jennifer Cafferty's classroom at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School it looks more like a college classroom than a 7th grade class.
Students spend hours brainstorming and talking about the latest in green technology after school while they fiddle with a complex computer-aided drafting program.
Cafferty found out about the School of the Future student design competition two years ago from assistant principal Anthony Carrano. When he gave her some information about the contest, the former architecture student was immediately interested.
A group of students met for months after school on their own time designing a school that featured renewable energy and innovative design. They took their findings to Washington, D.C., where they came in first place.
Last spring, a new group of students designed another green school. Yet again, they were victorious, crushing the competition and bringing back $1,000 for the school.
"Our goal was to design a school of the future that could be used for any type of school, mainly middle school. It had to have all futuristic technology and it had to be green," Alex Kashtan, now an 8th grader, said.
The school included solar panels, wind turbines, newly planted trees, rooftop gardens and even charging stations for electric cars.
Technology education teacher Jennifer Cafferty was thrilled by the students' hard work.
"They will inspire, they will impress, they are just full of excitement. They get excited about things that are green," she said.
One of the judges on the panel in Washington, D.C. invited the students to present their findings at the Green Build conference in Boston this fall.
The students spoke in front of hundreds of professionals with either science, engineering, or architecture backgrounds.Hallie
"It was pretty nerve racking in some parts, but we got through it and it was fun," Hallman, a 9th grader, said.
Now a new group of students has taken the reigns and is working hard to develop a new school that uses the latest in green technology.
Cafferty said this is an experience she'll never forget.
"The sky's the limit for those four kids. They came together as a group who didn't really know each other too well, now they have become a team that will go very far," Cafferty said.