In 2009, Irvington was recognized as "America's Greenest School" in a competition sponsored by IC Bus Company. Irvington has established a number of student led environmental clubs, created a "Green Commissioner" position in student government, and created grade-level wide environmental service-learning projects. Between 2007-2009, Irvington has diverted over 100,000 pounds of e-waste from landfills, installed solar panels, worked to increase energy efficiency, hosted a community green fair and more.
Students in Clint Johns’ Green Advisory class made an unusual stop on their tour of the campus’s green features last month- the parking lot. In addition to learning about the school’s solar panel, waterless urinals, food scrap diversion, recycling, and energy conservation, students learned about the features of a new section of parking lot on campus located adjacent to the tennis courts and softball field.
The new lot was installed as part of a district-wide project to repair and repave lots that had suffered from years of deferred maintenance. Unlike the asphalt surfaces installed in much of the district, the new lot features a pervious concrete structure.
Pervious concrete is made without sand to create a surface of gravel bound together by cement. This results in a surface with void spaces between the gravel which allow water to drain though to the ground below. The system has many environmental and economic benefits.
Johns explained that the pervious surface allows water to percolate through to the ground below to recharge groundwater supplies and reduce storm drain run off. Johns also discussed the lot’s diabatic properties- because the lot is lighter in color than traditional asphalt, it absorbs less heat, resulting in cooler ambient temperatures next to the lot.
In fact, the concern over heat islands at Irvington High School was one factor that led to the lot being installed on campus. Three years ago, two sophomores approached Mr. Johns to discuss the possibility of painting the school’s roof white to help reduce global warming. Although the project was not feasible due to the gravel structure of the roofing material, the students went on to investigate ways the school was already being green and what more could be done. The two students then authored Irvington’s application for the America’s Greenest School competition which helped the school win an electric-diesel hybrid bus. As Irvington’s reputation for green leadership has expanded over the last three years, the district identified it as an ideal site to test the features of this new parking surface.
As a follow up to their tour of green features on campus, the Green Advisory students plan to conduct further research in order to develop educational signage throughout campus explaining all of the school's green efforts.
At Irvington High School, pill clowning around is serious work. Teaching artists Jamie Coventry and Natasha Kaluza, salve from San Francisco’s Circus Center, visited Irvington High School’s Advanced Drama class on October 14th to lead a skills workshop designed to help students develop and perform waste reduction themed assemblies for younger students in Fremont. The visit builds on work started last year in a collaboration between StopWaste.Org, the Circus Center, and local schools.
The workshop included warm-ups and physical exercises to develop the young actors’ strength, balance, and flexibility. Advanced Drama teacher Linda Jackson-Whitmore reports that this work has expanded the physicality of her students and her program. In fact, many students are actively seeking more physical roles for an upcoming drama competition, “In the past, students really focused only on roles that required only voice and face. Now they are much more interested in finding roles that incorporate a wider range of physical motion,” reports Jackson-Whitmore.
Students learned proper techniques for lifting each other, building human pyramids, juggling and other skills associated with circus arts. “I hope to push the students to explore the limits of their abilities. They developed a strong script last year and I’d love to see them gain a full range of clown skills to incorporate into the act,” noted Natasha.
Although final performances that incorporate clown arts are full of pratfalls and other seemingly haphazard accidents, each skill and motion is carfully scripted and taught. As Jamie and Natasha teach the art to stacking humans one on top of the other, they shout out such instructions as, "Put your hands directly below your shoulder. Put your knees directly below your hips! This is the foundation to a strong pyramid," "Next one up, put your hand square on their shoulder, your knee directly on their hip- you want the weight to go directly to the ground in the sturdiest way possible." "You have to be safe- learning the proper technique makes this much easier!"
The Circus Center workshop was followed up by presentation from EarthTeam, an environmental non-profit organization. The presentation taught students core 4Rs concepts (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot) which will be followed up with a Waste Audit activity where students will investigate the garbage stream on campus to learn more about the challenges presented in the waste stream at schools.
The service-learning project aims to teach the Advanced Drama students new theatre skills as they investigate waste reduction themes in the production of an assembly performance designed to teach elementary school students how to practice the 4Rs. The workshops are also impacting Jackson-Whitmore. “It’s been fantastic to be reminded of how much clown and circus arts contribute to traditional theatre. It’s also raised my awareness about my own consumption. I’m trying my best to go green here at school and at home.”
As for Jackson-Whitmore’s review of Jamie and Natasha? “Having actual clowns come to work here is GREAT!”
Irvington High School in Fremont California was selected by Ladies’ Home Journal as one of "America’s Most Amazing Schools." The September, healing 2010 edition of the magazine features 10 schools from across America that, “exemplify what American education is doing right.” Irvington High School, a traditional public high school with over 2000 students was recognized for its “green” programs and initiatives- including efforts to expand recycling, save energy, and provide opportunities for all students to help solve environmental problems as part of the 9th grade curriculum.
Irvington’s campus was built in the 1960’s, but that has not limited the imagination of students and staff in their implementation of green policies and procedures. For example, Irvington piloted a food scrap diversion program in its kitchen that has now been adopted by other high schools in the district. Student leaders have been actively involved in grant writing- winning awards for on-campus composting, solar panels, and a $250,000 diesel-electric hybrid bus.