Written by Natalie Perez, Garden Educator Manager at Monterey Road Elementary
Monterey Road Elementary School is the first in San Luis Obispo County to earn a Green Ribbon Award! The Gateway to Green Schools Team, along with One Cool Earth, and the Atascadero Unified School District hosted a "Green School Showcase" as a case study, a celebration, and a time for hands-on education to happen.The event started showing off Monterey Road's waste audit video. This video reveals how this school is engaging their students in the school waste system and giving them the opportunity to take action on what they care about by composting, recycling and reducing waste.
Next, there was a tour to view the the school’s new, green infrastructure. Monterey Road added solar panels to the roofs of their classrooms. Also, the roof is a material that reflects heat instead of absorbs it. If the roof absorbed all of the heat, it would make for a microclimate hotter than its surrounding area. The school has added sunroofs to the classrooms allowing for natural lighting, in turn lowering the energy used for lights. The classrooms are so well insulated, heating and cooling are rarely necessary--instead they use the advantages of living in a temperate climate to buffer temperature.
On the playground, the school features a bike course where students practice the rules of the road on their bikes. This encourages students to bike or scooter to school safely. The bike course is integrated into their PE classes when the bikes, that are rotated between schools, arrive at Monterey Road.
Ed Surman, One Cool Earth's Garden Manager, provided a history of Monterey Road’s endeavor the previous year to make a vacant hillside full of weeds into a food-producing forest. Ed and Natalie Perez, One Cool Earth’s Garden Educator Manager at Monterey Road Elementary, talked about how amazing this opportunity is for students to work together and co-create this environmentally-sound landscape that will soon sustain itself and where all parts that make up the whole are working together and feeding off of each other. It also makes a metaphor of the school community: the students, teachers, and all the faculty are working together to keep it all running. One Cool Earth’s creation of the food forest andstandards-based lessons for students at Monterey Road are important factors as to why Monterey Road was awarded a Green Ribbon.
Lastly, the showcase introduced the garden full of veggie beds and worm bins. Student members of Monterey Road’s Green Team talked us through the daily ritual of composting at the school, a task organized, led, and executed all by the students themselves. Monterey Road’s composting systems represents immense progress for schools and for it to be done by students is noteworthy, for they really are the most important part of the system.