February 15, 2013
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Nominates Four Schools,
One School District as 2013 U.S. Green Ribbon Schools
LONG BEACH—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated Charles Evans Hughes Middle School of Long Beach, Journey School of Aliso Viejo, Redding School of the Arts, Prospect Sierra School of El Cerrito, and Ventura County's Oak Park Unified School District to compete in the second year of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Awards.
"These outstanding schools are proof that every school day can provide teachable moments about protecting and sustaining our environment," Torlakson said. "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."
Torlakson announced the nominees at a news conference on the campus of Hughes Middle School, where representatives for each of the other nominees were also invited to take part in the event.
California is one of 39 states, the District of Columbia, and the Bureau of Indian Education expected to nominate schools and/or a district for the federal recognition. Each participating state can nominate one district and up to four schools, one of which must be a private school. One must also be a school with at least 40 percent of its students eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch.
California's participation in the program is a key recommendation of Torlakson's Schools of the Future Task Force. The group brought together educational, environmental, business, and community leaders to encourage the use of renewable energy sources and other sound environmental practices at schools across California.
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.
The Green Ribbon Schools program aims to encourage schools to improve their energy efficiency, create healthy environments for students and staff, and enhance their work to effectively prepare graduates for 21st century careers. It honors schools that are exemplary in reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education, which incorporates STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways.
This is the second year of the recognition program, and awardees are expected to be named on April 22, which is Earth Day.
Details on each California nominee are below. For more information, please visit the California Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools Award Program Web page or Torlakson's initiative at Schools of the Future (PDF; 1MB).
California's District Nominee:
Oak Park Unified School District, Oak Park, Ventura County
Students are leaders in environmental stewardship
Oak Park was one of one three California school districts to receive the California Department of Public Health's 2012 Achievements in Respiratory (AIR) Health Award for implementing strategies that have improved indoor air quality, supporting student health, as well as academic outcomes. Oak Park High School students were recognized with the 2011 President's Environmental Youth Award for their annual Week of Whales project, which educates all district students on whale protection issues. Students developed lesson plans, conducted research, and organized school and community events that reached thousands. The district emphasizes sustainability on a day-to-day basis by providing hydration stations on all campuses to promote reusable water bottles and ensuring 80 percent of paper content district-wide is sustainably sourced or manufactured.
Public School Nominees:
Charles Evans Hughes Middle School, Long Beach, Los Angeles County
Extending sustainable practices to the community
Hughes earned a 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 over 40 campus trees. New landscaping on the campus perimeter is comprised of plants known to capture particulate matter in an effort to improve air quality for the school and its neighbors. Hughes' Student Green Team publishes the "Green Gazette," a school-wide eco-newsletter that includes healthy 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, Aliso Viejo, Orange County
A school founded with ecological goals in mind
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 each grade. Eighth graders complete eco-leadership projects where they implement environmental 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, walking or biking to their destinations.
Redding School of the Arts (RSA), Shasta County
Raising the bar for innovative and sustainable design
RSA is the first campus worldwide to be certified LEED for Schools 2009 Platinum. The school 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. RSA is a pilot school for CalEPA's Education and the Environment Initiative curriculum and received a 2012 Design Excellence Award from the American Institute of Architects for innovation in design blending indoor and outdoor learning spaces. An underground water storage tank reroutes rainwater harvested from the roof structure to provide 100 percent of grounds irrigation.
Private School Nominee:
Prospect Sierra School, El Cerrito, Contra Costa County
Students are active in reducing environmental impacts
Students at the private Prospect Sierra School in northern California are committed to improving their campus and community. Students designed and implemented a 180-gallon rainwater harvesting system to serve the school garden. Students also planted trees in a multi-year creek restoration project, and enjoy meaningful 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."