State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson believes that “Green Ribbon Schools are leading the way in resource conservation, health and wellness, and environmental literacy.” Torlakson says green schools set an important example for other institutions in the state. “California won’t reach our smart and ambitious climate goals without the public sector—and especially without public schools—leading the way,” he said.
Center Street School earned bronze status for demonstrating exemplary achievements in the three “pillars” of the California Green Ribbon Schools program.
Pillar I: Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs
Center Street School has many levels of practice in place that cover solid waste, use of electricity, reduction of greenhouse gases, and water conservation.
Conserving solid waste:
- Students are taught to reuse the both sides of paper as well as loose scraps. Recycling habits are built through class chores.
- Increased use of whiteboards, computers and smartboards among staff and students.
- Packing trash-free lunches and composting waste; encouraged by the Grades of Green Team.
- The installation of a filtered water bottle filling station purchased by the PTA.
- Sorting of recyclable waste out of landfill receptacles.
- Replaced styrofoam trays, plastic-bagged milk, and single serving packaging in the cafeteria with cardboard/pressed paper trays, milk cartons, and single serve food stations.
- Gathering of unused or gently used school supplies for reuse or donate
- Turning off electrical devices when not in use and unplugging them over weekends and breaks.
- Utilization of natural lighting to reduce need for electric lighting.
- Doors to classrooms and offices are kept closed to conserve cooled or heated air.
Reducing greenhouse gases:
- “Walk to School Wednesday” events throughout the school year: staff and students are encouraged to transport themselves to school by walking, riding, using public transportation or multi-family carpooling.
- The Idle-Free Zone concept, publicized by Grades of Green, encourages drivers to turn off their parked vehicles during drop-off and pick-up of their children.
- Addition of more trees on campus, funded by PTA.
- Use of timed irrigation systems, which utilize recycled water.
- Planting of native and drought-tolerant plants to replace more thirsty greenery. In October 2017, the entire central quad area was given a major eco-friendly planting overhaul, including rainwater irrigation systems.
- The new garden will contain rainwater collection barrels and drip irrigation for its crops when construction is completed.
Pillar II: Improve Health and Wellness
Center Street School aims to inspire good health and wellness values among its staff and students with a variety of practices.
- Implementation of a wellness policy which prohibits the inclusion of candy, soda and other highly-sugared items in lunches, classroom parties and birthday recognitions.
- A fresh salad and fruit bar is offered daily to every student purchasing a meal.
- Lessons on healthy eating are taught schoolwide through the Growing Great program.
- Encouraging the use of reusable water bottles at student desks.
- The Character Counts program uses the pillars of Respect, Responsibility and Caring to teach students about nutrition, exercise and hygiene practices.
- When in notably hot weather conditions, staff will send out reminders to parents about the use of sun protection and frequent hydration, and the school will also host “cool rooms” and extra shade canopies in outdoor spaces during recess.
- Encouraging, participation of students and staff in community athletic events including the Skechers Pier-to-Pier Walk in Manhattan Beach, the El Segundo Run for Education, the El Segundo PTA Jog-a-Thon, and the American Heart Association’s Hoops for Heart.
Center Street School believes that wellness practices also involve taking care of the students’ mental health, beyond just teaching and nurturing academic knowledge. Teachers are trained to guide students through a variety of mental wellness, mindfulness and neuroscience-based practices including eye/hand coordination, deep breathing, visualization, and positive thinking.
Through the Character Counts program, students are given “Cougars Care” recognition for exhibiting good character on campus. The teachings of the Character Counts program are the pillars of Citizenship, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Trustworthiness and Caring, which all include eco-minded lessons on being responsible global citizens of Earth.
Pillar III- Provide Effective Environmental Education
Center Street School works to provide a strong start for students who may become leaders in STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways.
- Teachers utilize academic programs that cover or involve:
- Learning the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources
- Studying plant adaptations
- Researching topics such as nutrition, exercise, and recycling for a writing assignment
- Reading group projects that focus on earth-friendly stories
- Projects that focus on sustainability, such as art projects using “found” or recycled materials, and science projects where students build solar powered ovens