Pacific Valley is the first school we've visited that is completely off the grid. As Pacific's superintendent Mr. Gordon tells us, they are a small necessary school, providing the only learning facility for over 60 miles either way. They have solar panels covering their roof and are backed up by a generator. In the near future they are replacing their solar panels with newer more efficient panels by at least 4 times.
Being quite secluded in the middle of Big Sur, there really was no camping near the school, so they offered us a place to lay our heads for the night in their rec room.
Our entrance to Pacific Valley was filled with a flurry of monarch butterflies dancing between the biodiverse gardens surrounding the school. They even made a cabana for the chrysalides to find shelter during their metamorphosis.
The effects of this close connection to plants and organisms was apparent in our superpower question to the students. One wished the superpower to make nature while another wished the power to bring any plant back to life.
The school has a very small number of students and so almost the entire school was involved in our workshop which started after hearing a Modest Mouse song blast over their school speaker system. This was Pacific Valley's version of a school bell and throughout the day we heard a few other tracks that project a feeling of inspiration, relaxation, and motivation to get up and move around. What a novel idea! I don't think I fully realized until that moment how discomforting and alarming school bells can be.
Because of their small scale, the school has been able to take advantage of transitioning to self-reliant systems. The superintendent Mr. Gordon tells us they removed themselves from the government issued food program and were buying from local organic growers as well as growing their own food for school lunches. Knowing that this is a much higher quality and exponentially more sustainable food system I imagined it would cost them more which could be quite difficult for a school of this size to operate.
It goes without saying the cost savings over time when one factors in the future health of each individual and environment that is involved with such systems, but to our surprise, as superintendent Gordon tells us, the upfront expense was actually less to buy local organic food than to receive canned cubes of nutrient-less orange biomass. Some might call them carrots.
Our visit ended with a gift! David Allen, the science and art teacher, is not only a master of education receiving a presidential innovation award for environmental education, but also an excellent and thoughtful artist. He gave us both jade surfboard necklaces which he had locally harvested from the beach and carved with a solar-powered grinding stone. How excellent! Thanks Pacific Valley for a great experience!