By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Catching and rewarding students being green and saving energy is a favorite activity of these two teams led by CTA members Maureen Tracy (standing, left) and Shahrzad Biddle (standing, right).
Little things can make a big difference, environmentally speaking, according to Angela Jensvold. “One of my classes convinced our school to change from paper towels to air driers. It made a big difference in paper and in trash,” she says. “Another of my classes convinced our school district to put aerators in the school faucets, which reduced water consumption. It was not expensive, and we are saving lots of money in our water bill.”
Jensvold teaches advanced placement environmental science and physics at Diamond Bar High School in Walnut Valley. Chair of CTA’s Green Caucus, the Walnut Valley Education Association member says caucus members’ influence prompted CTA to take a greener approach, too. Some conferences are now “paperless” with materials available online. Instead of bottled water, attendees are sometimes handed refillable CTA containers, which they are encouraged to bring to future CTA events.Schools can and should do much more than they are doing to protect the environment, says Jensvold, noting that many schools don’t even recycle. “You don’t have to be a radical environmentalist to make a difference. My students do homework on the back of used paper. It can be as easy as that.”
By taking a broader approach, more can be accomplished, says Maureen Tracy, a teacher at Vallecito Elementary School in San Rafael. A “green team” liaison, Tracy works closely with fellow Dixie Teachers Association members Shahrzad Biddle and Rachel Stone to lead students in working on energy and waste reduction for their school site.
“Green teams educate the student body through skits and videos about ways to recycle, to compost, and to make positive choices that reduce our carbon footprint,” she says. “Lunchtime monitors — student volunteers — make sure students are disposing of their trash and food scraps correctly. They catch other students being green and reward them with a coupon to win prizes at assemblies.”
The team recruits parent volunteers to bring bottles and cans to a recycling center. Last year they raised more than $6,000, which was used by the PTA for field trips and scholarships.
Other ways to go green and increase awareness suggested by CTA members:
- Start a worm composting bin in your classroom for lunch scraps.
- Make all copies double-sided.
- Organize students to collect classroom recycling if it is not already picked up.
- Appoint someone to be the “watchdog” to obtain funding from green grants. Make plans in advance and know who you will partner with before looking at grants.
- Visit the website Cool the Earth, www.cooltheearth.org, which offers a program that educates K-8 students about climate change and encourages them to conserve.
- Assign service learning projects, where students improve the environment through actions such as creek restoration and recycling.