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OUSD wins Golden Bell Award for Sustainability

DSC_1092-3DSC_1092-3Congratulations to OUSD for winning two Golden Bell awards from the California School Boards Association. One of the awards recognized OUSD's sustainability efforts.

OUSD's Green Gloves program provides students and teachers with opportunities to contribute directly to the stewardship of their physical environments, specifically their schools.

Under the leadership of the District's custodians, the program has developed procedures for implementing recycling and composting programs at District schools that include step-by-step manuals outlining tools and steps for program implementation; guidelines and suggestions for forming student green teams and engaging parent/community members; and curriculum materials and activities connecting the program to classroom learning objectives.

An important innovation of the program was the recognition that a one-size-fits-all approach was not going to work for adopting new sustainability practices. In response to this finding, the Green Gloves program team established a practice of identifying and evaluating the available resources at each school site so that customized solutions could be developed.

"We came to two crucial realizations at an early stage," explained OUSD Director of Custodial Services Roland Broach. "The first was that custodial leadership provided the foundation for a successful program, yet despite this, that position in a school's hierarchy is rarely perceived as a leadership role. We had to change that. Thesecond key realization was that student leadership also played a critical part in program success."

As the individuals making the daily decisions on what to throw away and where, students and teacher participants were identified as key ingredients to program success. Additional key resources for implementing the program included: administrators and or teachers to champion the initiative at each school site, parent and community volunteers to support custodial staff and teacher efforts, and local government and non-governmental partners to supplement district resources and provide technical expertise.

The Green Gloves program relies on the leadership of custodial staff for program design and implementation andencourages them to engage students and teachers with the program roll-out. In return, the District activelyrecognizes custodial contributions at the fall and spring "Green Gloves" symposia. In 2010-2011 custodiansinitiated and led improvements in recycling and composting programs at nine school sites in the District, bringingthe total to 28 schools district-wide.

The Green Gloves program is also noteworthy because it creates opportunities for student leadership and learning. The program builds student awareness of sustainability issues, and links those issues to science contentand opportunities to build critical thinking, problem solving and decision making skills. As students develop ideasfor solutions to those issues, they are provided with opportunities to take action and learn how to measure theimpact of their projects and communicate those findings to their fellow students, families and members of the larger community. Finally as student ownership of the project expands students are provided with opportunitiesto look for larger scales of stewardship in their schools, homes and communities.

The District has partnered with a local government agency, StopWaste.Org, to provide a direct link betweenstudent leadership roles in the Green Gloves program and student learning outcomes in the classroom that alignwith state content standards. The Green Gloves program utilizes project-based instruction Student Action Project curricula and Service-Learning Waste Reduction Project curricula to engage K-5 and secondary students respectively.

OUSD has saved substantial sums of money due the Green Gloves program's success. Improvements to recyclingand compost programs that were implemented by custodians and students currently save the district $50,000 per month. The District is presently diverting more than 41% of its solid waste and projecting additional savings of $20,000 per month once the 50 percent benchmark is reached.