Green Shield award recognizes campus conservation efforts

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It may not be easy being green, but it pays. That’s the lesson learned by students and teachers at three elementary schools who won the district’s first-ever Green Shield award for adopting environmentally-friendly practices.

Staff and students at Lorenzo DeZavala Elementary won first place, trophies, medals and a $500 gift card in the competition. The school’s Green Team has grown from only a few students to involve the school’s entire fifth-grade. The 50 recycling champions manage daily pickups of the school’s recycled materials. DeZavala impressed the judges with the extensive program of recycling and green activities documented on its Green Team webpage. Teachers have incorporated environmental conservation activities into the school’s science curriculum, and students constantly encourage each other to place paper, aluminum, glass and other materials into the school’s recycling bins.

As part of its after-school programs, students learned to repurpose recycled materials to create pen and pencil caddies and other desk items. Green team sponsor and teacher assistant Maria Rivas said the program helps “develop and improve self-esteem, responsibility, morale, and motivation” among students.

Second-place Green Shield winner Arthur Kramer has been bullish on recycling since 2011. Kramer’s environmental projects are featured on the website Green Ribbon Schools along with dozens of other school-related conservation efforts, contests, and programs. Kramer’s green creds include a large school garden, compost project, and Monarch butterfly way station. Kramer won a trophy, medals, certificates and a $300 gift card.

Kramer teacher Cathy Southwick says the school has been named a Green Ribbon school for three consecutive years and that the program is based on four cornerstones: reducing campus energy usage, weekly recycling, and health, fitness and nutrition. Students also do the lion’s share of the work tending the school’s vegetable garden, which produces items for a school cooking class.

Accomplishments cited by third-place winner Nathan Adams Elementary ranged from cutting paper waste by using both sides of every sheet of paper before it’s tossed in the recycle bin to encouraging parents to view weekly school announcements online. Teachers also use Google classroom to send and receive homework assignments. Adams’ teacher Amanda Marietta said city environmental managers have also conducted staff development for teachers to help them promote water conservation and recycling in the classroom. Adams won a trophy, medals and a $100 gift card.

Food and Child Nutrition Services Executive Director Dora Rivas, one of five contest judges, said they were proud of the interest schools showed in protecting the environment. She added that she hoped these efforts will spread.

“It’s our hope that the students will inspire more of their peers to recycle, compost and reduce waste on their campuses,” she said.

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