A ‘green’ school year in the works

Bella Racco of New Roads Middle School in Malibu celebrates the painting of a wall at the school on "Beautification Day." Photo by Marquita Takei

Many local schools are focusing curriculum on the environment and community service.

By Nora Fleming / Special to The Malibu Times

Malibu students have found new facilities and technology, as well as an emphasis on environmental stewardship upon returning to school this fall.

A new library, offices, middle school building and enhanced sports fields have been added to the Malibu Middle and High School campus, and a jazz band partnership program with Santa Monica College and an earth science class have also been added.

And though it’s only been a few weeks, one member of the high school senior class is already prepping for graduation.

“I’m hoping to get in and get ready for college,” said Malibu High senior Jessica Phillips of her plans for the year.

Phillips, whose first choice is Brown University, is planning on applying to a number of East Coast colleges. “I’ve lived in California my whole life,” she said. “College is the time to try something new. It gives you the chance for four years to live somewhere different.”

At local elementary schools, administrators have improved programming and are working toward helping students become more environmentally conscious at an early age.

Last year, Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School, which has 256 children enrolled this year, reduced waste 15 percent at the school by eliminating Friday mailings and sending informative e-mails home instead. This year, the school hopes to reach a 25 percent reduction rate said Principal Chi Kim, by encouraging classroom recycling and waste-free lunches.

The school is recognized as a Roots & Shoots school, involving students in community service that impacts people, the environment and animals. One such activity is the Heal the Bay beach cleanup planned for Sept. 20 at Westward Beach, involving students, families and volunteers.

The school’s Pennies for Peace program, for which students collected jars full of pennies, was successful last year in raising $15,000, which is going directly to help build a school in Afghanistan. Students will continue the project this year, Kim said, with the hope of building another school.

Phil Cott, principal at Webster Elementary School, said one of the major goals of the school this year is to implement more environmental stewardship programs with students. The school faced damage from last fall’s fires, particularly to much of the campus’ landscaping and green space, which had played an active role in curriculum.

The replacement of much of the school’s greenery will help spearhead making the school “greener” through recycling programs, an effort to reduce carbon emissions and community service by students, Cott said.

Like Webster and Point Dume, Juan Cabrillo Elementary is also striving for a greener campus.

“We have significantly reduced our volume of trash during lunch and across the campus overall, and we are introducing a ‘Green Day,’ once a week, in hopes of improving safety and reducing traffic congestion,” Principal Barry Yates said. “The plan is for families to carpool at least once a week and, if possible, walk instead of drive to school.”

Juan Cabrillo has also put a focus on improving its special education program this year, Yates said.

A Special Day-Intensive Services Classroom has been added to provide special education services for kindergarten through second grade and an occupational therapy clinic also opened this year. A new program to mainstream special education students into regular classes as much as possible has also been added. A “Smartboard” enhanced math program and other new enrichment programs to help improve below average students in language arts and math, as well as LEAP, an after school enrichment program, are also new.

David Bryan, head of the Crossroads schools in Santa Monica and Malibu, said innovative and environmentally friendly programming is something their schools have been involved with for the past few years.

Just last weekend, New Roads Malibu Middle School students and their parents participated in a school grounds camp out and beautification project. Parents worked to build a campus greenhouse, where students will grow vegetables they will then use in an elective cooking class.

Students regularly participate in hands-on community service in the area and have an ongoing school recycling program, Bryan said. There’s even a class on “Surf Science,” where students learn about the ocean through surfing.

For those younger than elementary school age, a new class of preschool students will start in late September at new facilities at Malibu Presbyterian Church. A prayer service took place on the Sept. 13, dedicating the new site. Last year’s preschool class moved to the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue to finish out the year, after the fall fires destroyed the church’s facilities.