Livermore's Altamont Creek Elementary School was recently bestowed with the honor of being named a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, becoming one of four schools in California to receive the nationwide award.
Altamont Creek science and STEM teacher Fenna Gatty spoke to Livermore Vine after the award was announced on Earth Day, saying the school's journey toward environmental sustainability has just begun.
"The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools provides a 'roadmap' containing resources, examples, and advice to help us reach our goals in health, reducing environmental impact, and in environmental education incorporating STEM that will prepare students for their future," Gatty said.
Across the country, 27 schools, five districts and four postsecondary institutions received the honor for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education, according to officials.
California's other 2022 Green Ribbon Schools were Katella High School in Anaheim, Suisun Valley K-8 School in Fairfield and St. Martin of Tours Academy in La Mesa. Additionally, Merced Union High School District in Atwater was honored with the District Sustainability Award.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the honorees this year all raised the bar for sustainability, healthy and safe school environments, and their hands-on learning experiences connect students to the world around them.
"As we recover from a pandemic that highlighted the need to modernize school infrastructure, improve ventilation, and create versatile indoor and outdoor learning spaces, we have an opportunity to invest in sustainable practices that enhance student learning, health, and well-being," Cardona said, adding:
"At the Department of Education, I'm proud that we're proposing to establish a new Office of Infrastructure and Sustainability to support state and local leaders on these efforts, and that we have named a special advisor to this vital work."
Gatty said Altamont Creek has been working on sustainable practices for over a decade now but it has potential to evolve further with additional help.
"There's so many schools doing a great job out there and if we can team together and share ideas and work with our community partners educating others, then I think that we can make a difference," Gatty said.
According to Gatty, the credit for the honor goes to all connected to the cause like the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District and partnerships with their state, county and community agencies who have provided training and assistance in implementing best practices in the Next Generation Science Standards and in meeting legislated mandates, such as Assembly Bill 827 and Senate Bill 1383.
"Principal Andrea Tapia and all of us at Altamont are thankful for the recognition and appreciate the community support," Gatty said. "Thank goodness for our government agencies, nonprofits, and the district's vision for providing the best learning environment and preparation for our students to do what is best for their mission."
Talking about student involvement in the program, Gatty said coming back from two years of lockdown, the students were eager to start recycling from week one of school.
"They jumped in on the recycling, to get the green team going and everything on our first week back, so they are really the catalyst and it's become a culture in our school," she said.
Environmental consciousness, according to Gatty, can be seen in kids as young as second grade because that's when they learn about property matters and decomposing in class.
"They are looking around, they visually see things that either do or don't belong in recycling, whether litter, whether it's things that could be harmful for wildlife," Gatty said. "I believe they're becoming more observant and are realizing that they don't have to wait to be an adult to make a difference."