California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has nominated four schools and one school district to compete in the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Awards competition.
The nominees: Charles Evans Hughes Middle School, Long Beach; Journey School, Aliso Viejo; Redding School of the Arts, Redding; Prospect Sierra School, El Cerrito; and Oak Park Unified School District in Ventura County.
"These outstanding schools are proof that every school day can provide teachable moments about protecting and sustaining our environment," Torlakson says in a news release. "As a science teacher myself, I'm thrilled to see how these schools are taking what we know about good environmental practices and putting them to work right on campus."
The California Department of Education reviewed each application for the program based on schools' demonstrated progress toward reaching the goals of the U.S. Department of Education's Three Green Ribbon School Pillars: Pillar I: Reduce environmental impact and costs; Pillar II: Improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and Pillar III: Provide effective environmental and sustainability literacy, incorporating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education (STEM), civic skills, and green career pathways.
Some of the green accomplishments of the nominees:
- Oak Park Unified: It was one of one three districts to receive the California Department of Public Health's 2012 Achievements in Respiratory (AIR) Health Award for using strategies that have improved indoor air quality. Oak Park High School students received the 2011 President's Environmental Youth Award for their annual Week of Whales project, which educates all district students on whale protection issues. The district emphasizes sustainability by providing hydration stations on all campuses to promote reusable water bottles and by ensuring 80 percent of paper content in the district is sustainably sourced or manufactured.
- Hughes Middle: Hughes received an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy ENERGY STAR 2012 award with a perfect score of 100. Since 2007, students have built 12 themed gardens and planted more than 40 campus trees. New landscaping on the campus perimeter is composed of plants known to capture particulate matter in an effort to improve air quality. The Student Green Team publishes the "Green Gazette," a school-wide eco-newsletter that includes healthful recipes using produce from the school gardens. Hughes partners with a local bike store to host monthly bike repair and safety workshops on campus, encouraging ridership across the community.
- Journey School: Journey's eco-literacy curriculum is integrated into the master teaching schedule to ensure students are exposed to age-appropriate ecological principles and practices in every grade. Eighth graders complete eco-leadership projects that benefit the school campus and local community. Journey maintains five school gardens, harvests rainwater, and composts on-site. Students enjoy zero-emission field trips by walking or biking to their destinations.
- Redding School of the Arts: It is the first campus worldwide to be certified platinum under LEED for Schools 2009 standards. The design includes solar power generation, solar water heaters, and a wind turbine; 58 percent of the school's energy is obtained from on-site renewable sources. An underground water storage tank reroutes rainwater harvested from the roof structure to provide 100 percent of grounds irrigation.
- Prospect Sierra: Students at the private school are committed to improving their campus and community. Students designed and put into place a 180-gallon rainwater harvesting system to serve the school garden. Students also planted trees in a multi-year creek restoration project, and enjoy outdoor learning experiences at every grade level. Prospect Sierra is recognized by the National Association of Independent Schools as a model "School of the Future."
The Green Ribbon Schools program aims to encourage schools to improve their energy efficiency, create healthful environments for students and staff, and enhance their work to effectively prepare graduates for 21st century careers. This is the second year of the recognition program, and awardees are expected to be named on April 22.