Going green on campus
'Party kit boxes' among ideas students share at Green Schools Summit
Students from third grade through college found common ground as they gathered at Los Altos High School last week for a Green Schools Summit to discuss strategies for helping the environment.
"If there's one place that really needs to be thinking about being green, it's schools, because that's where the students are and the students are the ones who will bring about change," said Naomi Cohen, vice president of the Mountain View High School Environmental Club.
While the summit was organized to celebrate green initiatives taking place in Mountain View and Los Altos schools, it had the additional goal of inspiring students to increase their activities by providing ideas from other schools.
"It showed the community and our students that creating a sustainable environment is something we all need to be involved in and that everybody, no matter your role in this educational enterprise, can make a difference," said Barry Groves, superintendent of the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District.
At the summit, students representing seven elementary schools, two middle schools, three high schools and a community college gave presentations about a unique action their school is taking to promote sustainability.
The prevalence of elementary school students was encouraging for KellyAnne Tang, president of the Mountain View High School environmental club, who is accustomed to seeing her peers throw trash on the ground.
"When I saw the kids at the summit, they were super excited about going green. Which was great because kids my age don't even care, so I think it's exciting that kids are starting to appreciate the environment," she said.
Kenneth and Naomi, two students from Springer Elementary School in Los Altos, presented their classrooms' "party kit boxes" of reusable cups, plates and napkins to reduce waste. Cramer said that after the summit, three schools contacted her to express interest in developing this idea.
Almond Elementary School in Los Altos has a program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by encouraging students to bike or walk to class. When students arrive on foot or on a bike, they can swipe a personalized barcode that keeps track of their trips. Students get prizes each month for their effort.
Mountain View and Los Altos high schools have a similar incentive program for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Members of the Environmental Club award students who walk or bike to school with candy or hot chocolate. Environmental clubs in both high schools also use recycling as a green fundraiser by sending in cell phones and ink cartridges. This money can in turn fund other environmental initiatives.
"Even though we have a long way to go, we're sort of in the forefront of integrating environmental values into our curriculum, and that's definitely a value we want to instill in our kids," said Groves. For example, many Los Altos and Mountain View schools now use gardens to interactively teach science, math and social studies.
The final presentation of the summit focused on a possible school bond on the June ballot. The bond would pay for solar panels on the roofs of Mountain View and Los Altos high schools, as well as other energy-saving improvements. According to Groves, these changes would save at least $40,000 in energy costs that could then be spent on students and staff.
"Nothing would make me feel prouder," said Cramer about the potential solar panels. "We're going in the right direction to create a greener, and healthier, and happier environment for our students and our community."
E-mail Dana Sherne at email@example.com