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Green Ribbon Schools

Green Ribbon Schools

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Published by Jordan Fenster
US Education Department's Green Ribbon Schools Initiative Awardees
US Education Department's Green Ribbon Schools Initiative Awardees

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Published by: Jordan Fenster on Apr 23, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Where ocean education and plant-based nutrition take center stage

Health and fitness is a major focus in the Oak Park Unified (OPU) School District.
All of the district’s schools were recognized at the bronze level by the USDA
HealthierUS School Challenge, all schools participate in Farm to School, and the
district has a wellness council comprised of teachers, parents, children’s
nutritionists, and health professionals. OPU participates in fitness activities such as
jog-a-thons and Hoops for Heart. An elementary school garden and greenhouse
benefits a local free clinic. Students take the foods grown at school to the clinic and
explain to diabetes patients how to grow healthy foods.

The District collaborates with chefs at the California Health & Longevity Center to
create healthy recipes that appeal to students and offers a variety of fresh fruits and
vegetables daily. The District participates in the National Meatless Monday
campaign, has vegetarian and vegan options available daily and promotes a plant-
based diet. An innovative incentive program where students get points for choosing
plant-based entrees and receive prizes at the end of the month is helping change
eating habits to benefit the planet and students’ health. Food quality standards
require that food served contain no additives. The produce vendor used by the
District obtains the majority of its produce from regional farmers and the rest from
school gardens.

OPU has undertaken facilities and grounds improvements to schools including the
installation of bioswale systems in school parking lots that absorb stormwater run-off
into an infiltration system, installation of solar panels, the use of “cool roof” designs
that reflect sunlight and provide substantial insulation on school buildings, the
installation of energy efficient lighting and heating/air conditioning systems, as well
as solar powered electric vehicle charging stations at two OPU sites. Recycling
programs are in place at all schools and hydration stations are available on all
campuses, promoting reusable water bottles to reduce plastic water bottle
consumption. The paper used in the schools is 80-percent post-consumer material,
and 90 percent of the district’s cleaning products meet the Green Seal standard.
The district recycles lamps through the Edison Lam Tracker Recycling Program, and
a food waste composting program is in full effect.


U.S. Department of Education - 400 Maryland Ave, SW -
Washington, DC 20202
www.ed.gov/green-ribbon-schools - www.ed.gov/green-strides

The district sponsors a variety of school and community activities to reinforce
sustainability and health concepts, such as Walk to School Days and Big Sunday
National Day of Service. During Earth Week, OPU hosts screenings, discussions of
films such as The Electric Car, and electric car “Driveway Parties,” in which
community members had the opportunity to test drive electric cars. At the District’s
Sustainability Super Saturday, student booths, outdoor and environmental
organizations, and vendors provide information on environmental issues and
products, together with a huge community recycling event where residents can drop
off electronic waste, medications, clothing, and paper for shredding/recycling.

Schools in the district partner with a variety of business and non-profits that promote
environmental literacy. These include LIFE Animal Rescue, Boeing, AeroVironment,
NASA, and Coastal Marine Biolabs, where student interns from the high school
spend two weeks each summer learning about the marine environment and even
earn their SCUBA certifications. Other partners include Monterey Bay Aquarium,
California State Long Beach Shark Lab, the National Park Service, and the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Channel Islands National Marine
Sanctuary, where the OPU superintendent serves as a member of the Marine
Sanctuary education team and is able to engage students in projects through the

All 5th graders go to Santa Cruz Island to learn about natural selection, marine
ecosystems, biodiversity and conservation. All 6th graders attend Outdoor
Education at Pali Camp in the San Gabriel Mountains for four days and do an annual
beach clean-up with Heal the Bay. All 7th graders go to the Catalina Island Marine
institute for a week. All 8th

graders go to AstroCamp for three days. Elementary
students take field trips on a regular basis that include whale watching, a Chumash
Interpreter trip to learn about local Native American tribes, and local hikes and
excursions. All kindergarten students go to TreePeople in the Santa Monica
Mountains as part of their unit on trees. District policies state that students need to
have authentic learning experiences and should be outside to maintain overall

The district maintains a three years of science high school graduation requirement
and has developed a marine science matrix to integrate an ocean-oriented approach
to teaching science standards. In addition, the district supports the Edison
Challenge, the QuikScience Challenge, and the Idea to Impact program, all of which
provide environmental projects for student and teacher use. An OPU high school
has won national competitions for its work on a NASA project to send a weather
balloon to an altitude of over 100,000 feet. Another high school participates in the
Solar Boat program, in which a team of students builds a 15-foot, solar-powered
boat. The team of students that sponsored the district-wide Week of Whales won
the Presidential Environmental Youth Award for 2012. Not to play sea-life favorites,


U.S. Department of Education - 400 Maryland Ave, SW -
Washington, DC 20202
www.ed.gov/green-ribbon-schools - www.ed.gov/green-strides

the district maintains an active involvement in Shark Week, supporting shark
conservation through information booths and movies.

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