Greening Our Schools with SMF
Truckee Elementary PTO Partners with the Shane McConkey Foundation to Fund a Green Transformation of the School
(Truckee/North Lake Tahoe, Calif.) – Truckee Elementary is going green. Designated as the flagship school to lead the greening of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (TTUSD), the students and staff of Truckee Elementary will be pioneering a path toward an environmentally sustainable future for the entire district.
Over the next few years, Truckee Elementary will undergo a green transformation: in the building, in the classrooms, and ultimately, in the minds and hearts of its students. School operations will employ sensible, sustainable practices to reduce carbon footprint and waste. The teaching staff will inject environmental science and responsibility into educational programs.
And in the end, today’s students will become tomorrow’s catalysts of change, equipped with the tools to both steward Tahoe/Truckee’s most valuable resources and enrich their own futures, wherever they may lead.
The Genesis of Truckee Elementary’s Green Journey
A product of serendipity and synergy between school and community, Truckee Elementary’s Green School journey emerged from the confluence of several currents already in flow. The Truckee Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) was anxious to raise environmental awareness and provide an avenue to enhance the current curriculum with some place-based learning, while tapping into the environmental consciousness of the community. The TTUSD, meanwhile, had long been looking for ways to pursue sustainable schools and foster environmental responsibility in its students, establishing clear directives in its mission statement geared precisely toward those ends.
In 2011, key pieces started falling into place. The PTO and TTUSD began tossing around ideas to improve the school’s sustainability and reduce consumption. The organizations shared a common goal, and thoughts on how to achieve it were already coalescing. What was missing was the means. Enter the Shane McConkey Foundation.
Supported by the biggest names in the ski industry, Shane’s wife Sherry created the foundation following Shane’s death in 2009. Sherry saw investment in local schools as an effective way to bring Shane’s legacy to the next generation, by instilling in students the sense of respect and appreciation for the environment that he had. In September of 2011, the McConkey Foundation granted $20,000 to the TTUSD for the purpose of putting its schools on a path toward sustainability and environmental responsibility.
Sherry explains, “Shane was not only an amazing athlete, he held a deep-rooted respect and appreciation for our natural surroundings and all living creatures within. He was determined to help preserve the environment he treasured, so that future generations — including our own daughter Ayla — could experience in their lives all the same beauty he had in his.”
Inspired by the McConkey Foundation’s mission and grant, the Truckee Elementary PTO stepped up, offering to match the Foundation’s grant to the school, dollar for dollar. Combining funds and forces, the organizations’ dual grants created the means to launch the greening of Truckee Elementary School.
What Going Green will mean for the school and the students
Greening a school invokes thoughts of capital improvements, like efficient lighting and alternative power sources. And while the physical infrastructure will most certainly benefit from this initiative, it’s the human infrastructure that stands to gain the most. The linchpin in bringing green practices and environmental education to the school’s students is SWEP (www.4swep.org <http://www.4swep.org> ), the Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships, a non-profit dedicated to promoting environmental stewardship in the region’s students.
SWEP established the school’s “Green Team <http://www.truckeegreenschool.org/green-team/> “, currently comprised of 27 eager Truckee Elementary fifth-graders, supported and mentored by motivated, environmentally-conscious Truckee High School Envirolution Club student volunteers. SWEP’s director and leader of the Green Team, Missy Mohler, explains the motivation behind the group. “Students participating as Green Team members will develop their knowledge and understanding of the environmental issues facing our world through service-oriented projects. As mentors to their schoolmates, these empowered leaders will develop and implement action plans that will have lasting effects in their school, at home, and in the community.”
With help from SWEP, the TTUSD and the PTO, Truckee Elementary teachers will be latching on to a wide range of pilot programs designed to integrate environmental awareness and build on the base curriculum. Students will take math and science principles learned in the classroom and apply them in the cafeteria, in the school’s gardens and in nearby forests and watersheds. They’ll be applying book and chalkboard learning to environmental reality when attending the school’s existing Sagehen Creek field-study program <http://sagehen.ucnrs.org/> (run in conjunction with UC Berkeley).
No better place to make a green investment than Truckee Elementary
Why Truckee? Why an elementary school? For Anna Klovstad, TTUSD manager, it’s an obvious choice. “Truckee Elementary’s Green School Initiative is all about acting local. Granted, one small school in a mountain town can’t have a big impact on worldwide consumption, but thousands of ‘Green Educated’ students can, especially as they move through their lives. And the more successful proofs-of-concept that can be created, the more other schools will follow the lead and pick up the torch. Truckee Elementary now not only has a unique opportunity to prove such a concept and create a green blueprint for other schools, as one global citizen among many, it has the responsibility to do so.”
Yet there’s a motivation far more practical at play here for Truckee, beyond simply thinking in a global context. “Our community’s rewards for greening schools will be far from symbolic or vicarious, simply because Truckee is no ordinary community,” PTO co-president Alex Herrera explains.”Where would our local economy be without Tahoe’s clear depths, blue skies and deep winter snowpack? Be they direct beneficiaries or separated by a degree or two, every local business and every local job is dependent on the health and beauty of the region’s natural environment. Conservation and environmental education isn’t just a nice thing to do. For Truckee/Tahoe, it’s an economic necessity.”
With a skilled and committed support network in place, Truckee Elementary has what it takes to get where it wants to go. The entire school community is committed to the endeavor, and it expects to be both accountable in its goals and transparent in its journey. The PTO has set up www.TruckeeGreenSchool.org <http://www.TruckeeGreenSchool.org> as a window into the school’s progress, both to communicate our mission and provide status on the school’s achievements in conservation and education.
Truckee Elementary’s principal Valerie Simpson sums up the motivation and the opportunity, “Whether our students end up spending their lives in the Tahoe Basin, or move on to employ their knowledge and passion in other corners of the world, they’ll be equipped with the skills and know-how to not only protect precious natural resources, but inspire others to do the same. What better place to start — and what better place to invest in — than Truckee Elementary?”