Last week, Nueva was recognized by the United States Department of Education as a California Green Ribbon School. The award was based on the school’s outstanding achievements in resource efficiency, health and wellness, and environmental and sustainability education. The Nueva community received the exciting news on Earth Day, April 22. Only one private school per state is awarded a Green Ribbon each year.
Director of Environmental Citizenship Sarah Koning noted that Nueva students have been working hard on environmental issues all month.
“Earth Day is an amazing opportunity to introduce environmental knowledge and action items to students at Nueva, who are in the beginning stages of their environmental journeys,” she explained. “Furthermore, it is also an exciting time to highlight the work that is already happening at Nueva.”
According to Sarah, there are four main goals of the Environmental Citizenship Program: mindset of environmental citizenship, proclivity toward nature, systems thinking, and designing and evaluating solutions.
“During the coming year, I am excited to take these four goals and integrate them into the curriculum, student projects, and campus operations,” she added. “Two examples of what I am currently working on with students, faculty, and staff are increasing and creating more robust outdoor classroom spaces and rethinking waste management on campus. In addition, I hope to fully maximize the beautiful new space at the Science and Environmental Center. I see the new center as a place that will be used to create a holistic, interdisciplinary, hands-on space for students to creatively collaborate, explore, and experiment across grades.”
Lower school students gathered last Friday for an Earth Week community meeting that focused on conscious consumerism.
“We had theme days throughout the week with challenges, such as using no single-use plastics, planting something or caring for an existing plant, and picking up trash,” said Lower School Environmental Citizenship Ambassador Carrie Stouffer. “Our lower school students wrote poems about the Earth, made signs to put up around the school, and spent time caring for our community garden this week. They also made art from recycled materials, had conversations around the importance of being an environmental citizen, and learned about current EC change makers.”
Middle-school students enjoyed participating in Earth Month activities as well. The seventh-grade Social Justice Team organized a Community Service Learning-based volunteer competition. Seventh-grader Ella T. collaborated with Sarah and Science Specialist and Garden Coordinator Kasey Wooten to organize an opportunity for seventh-graders to volunteer in the garden.
“We recognize that we’re the next generation to take on this world,” said seventh-grader Kayla L. “It’s not fair, and frankly, quite terrifying, that we receive more burdens than benefits from this planet. But just like much else, we’ve taken it on with a sense of urgency, humility, determination, and grace. My classmates and team members constantly inspire me with the great work they put in to face this issue head on.”
Middle-schoolers also sent the following tips to their environmentally-minded peers:
- Before throwing something away, check to see if it can go in the recycling/compost bin instead.
- Use a reusable product instead: your own water bottle, shopping bag, library book, etc.
- Spend some time outside. Appreciating nature and being outdoors is the best way to cultivate a lifelong passion for taking care of the environment!
Upper-school students were asked to reflect on their personal relationships with the environment.
“We were given the prompt, ‘What does the environment mean to you?’” noted junior Caroline P., a student council representative for environmental action. “We also asked the student body to submit artwork in response, which will be displayed on the student council website. The Environmental Society will have a meeting to reflect on environmental news and build momentum on our waste reduction project for the Bay Meadows campus. We hope that this Earth Day can inspire our students to join environmental efforts and can build community engagement with Environmental Society’s projects.”
Sarah said she believes it is incredibly important that the enthusiasm gained from Earth Month continues into the next school year.
“Nueva students realize the urgency of the climate situation,” she added. “Therefore, I hope that through their classes, programs, and projects on campus, our students will have a sense of optimism and resilience to find tangible ways to make a difference in their local communities. I want students to understand how particular solutions that can be applied to their community fit into the larger solutions for fighting climate change. I realize I might sound like a broken record at this point, but ultimately I hope that the EC program can provide all Nueva students with the knowledge and understanding of climate change, the language to confidently explain it, and tools to successfully combat it.”