What an inspiring day we had with 32 5th graders at Brookside Elementary. Every time I think I'm using the description "highly engaged" in the proper place, I am totally surprised by a group that redefines it for us. This day was one of those days that relights the fire when the fuel is starting to run out. You would think that kids might be a little upset about missing their normal break to go run around outside, but instead the response we were hearing mumbled was, "This is starting to get really cool"! At one point, one of the students wanted to shake Marika's hand and thank us for helping the planet. What we can only hope sticks with them is that we are all members of the same team and that what we are doing is entirely dependent on their participation. Go team!
The school hosts a small garden, a zero waste lunch program, a USagain drop off bin (a donation system for used clothes and fabric), a 'no vehicle idylling' policy within the campus, and of course anthropomorphized crickets like this one.
Brookside Elementary was the only school we were able to spend a day with in the Oak Park Unified School District, the first and only National Green Ribbon School District! Tony Knight, the districts superintendent, has been guiding every single school under his wing towards this distinguishment, knowing the full scope of the benefits sustainability has to offer to his schools. We were able to get an interview with Tony later that day to hear about the prolific amount of projects he's been working with his schools to push through. Just before the interview we were pulled into the principles office at Oak Park High School so we could have a look at the new solar power shade structure they will be installing next year which will provide 20% of the schools power usage. He then led us around to have a look at the new school buildings they recently "installed". Being modified shipping crates, they weren't built in the socially common sense of the word. Their new classrooms are extremely energy efficient, provide lots of natural light for a quality indoor learning environment, are made of almost entirely reappropriated or recycled materials (even down to the desks being made of fully recycled plastic), and are quite structurally sound with potential for stacking via their original intended shipping design on boats.
During the workshop at Brookside we shared an idea with the students from a previous school - the potential to generate power from trampolines. A Brookside student named Cambria exploded with positive agreement on the genius of this idea and began imagining all the ways in which this idea could really blossom. Just a few hours after the workshop as we were cycling further south, Cambria sent us an email expressing her experience and gratitude for our visit with her class. We were completely blown away by her appreciation and… writing abilities?! I've never seen such an eloquently written message from a 5th grader before. Check out our facebook if you would like to read the letter (or for most of you, read it again). Thanks Cambria - you inspire us!