Thacher High School

Thacher being a private boarding high school makes way for the largest high school campus I have ever seen. It includes dormitories, a dining hall, tennis courts, a music studio, a swimming pool, a horse ranch, a hog farm, biodiesl processing, an enormous gymnasium, fruit trees, a woodshop, a library, plenty of common space, newly renovated football and track field, and lots of riding trails that go back into the mountains cupping the campus to the northeast. This school certainly isn't scarce on money, giving them a unique opportunity to put strong support into new sustainable practices for their school. Some of these practices they've been doing for a while and some they are just starting to implement like many schools finding out that not only do systems based on sustainability lighten the load on our planet but also save them money and time in the scheme of things.


We were connected with Juan Sanchez, the Sustainability Coordinator, who also happens to be an excellent spanish teacher, relating to us how he likes to teach about sustainability through his spanish lessons. He was able to pull 13 students from the school's Environmental Action Committee (EAC) ranging from freshman to seniors. It was an unexpectedly fun day working with older students and being able to engage on different levels of the complexity of sustainability. We tried out some adjusted activities for the first time hoping they would be more age appropriate but we definitely still ran the web of life activity where we create a food web with a 70 foot length of slack line and then have one of the students lay on the web supported by their fellow classmates. I was really surprised by some of the thoughts during the debriefing with them. When I asked one of the students what it felt like to lay on the web she responded, "Love". At first I interpreted it as a clever comment on the trust in her friends to hold her up, but then I realized it might have a deeper truth to the real web of life that supports us. This thought rooted even further when we subsequently watched a film in town a couple days later titled Love thy Nature which plays on the Christian theme love thy neighbour. The film explores many of the benefits connected to our health and well being when we are interacting with the natural world around us. 

The EAC told us about a lot of really cool projects they have been running in their school working towards this new commandment of our times; although I would rather call it a new co-man-advent of our times (I would use woman in there too but it doesn't fit as well for the pun). Every year the EAC holds what they call the Green Cup Challenge which, if I remember correctly, is a competition between the freshman dorms to be the greenest on campus. The school has also just renovated their football field to irrigate from the bottom up effectively saving them 70% of their previous water use. Wow! And then they are producing their own biodiesel which some of the golf carts were running on as they cruised around campus filming about various other cool aspects of their school such as their research into composting the literal tons of horse manure being produced by their 130 horses. Oh, and did I mention the school has a camping supply storage giving any student access to borrow equipment for weekend adventures into the mountains.

A couple days after our workshop, I returned to Thacher to get a few more photos. On my walk around I ran into two of the students from the EAC who were busy at work painting some signs for the recycle bins they have on campus so that the other students would know what can and cannot go into the bins. It was great to happen upon them doing something connected to what we had just spent the day talking about. Seeing that they were already active and would continue to be active on issues of sustainability regardless of our visit was another glimmer of positive movement into the future.