Sat04192014

Schools

Living Classroom Program earns environmental education award

Photo Town Crier File Photo

The award-winning Living Classroom Program provides garden-based lessons in Los Altos School District classrooms.

The Living Classroom Program, the Los Altos School District’s garden-based science education program, received Acterra’s 2011 Business Environmental Award in the category of Small Environmental Project.

The Living Classroom offers hands-on, inquiry-based science, math and social studies lessons to elementary and middle-school students. The 38 lessons emphasize observational skills, problem-solving and experiential learning. Two dozen trained volunteer docents are teaching 450 sessions in eight schools this school year.

The garden lessons are designed to provide a link to the local environment and encourage students to improve their nutrition through exposure to fresh foods grown in the school gardens. The program serves as a model for other school districts in how to sustain a garden-based education program on a limited budget.

Funding for the Living Classroom comes from private sources, including the David and Lucile Packard, Morgan Family, Los Altos Educational and Los Altos Community foundations; school PTAs; local businesses and individuals; and in-kind donations from area nurseries and garden supply companies.

“The Living Classroom Program of the Los Altos School District has developed 30 gardens at elementary and junior high schools in the district – far more than any similar program we’re aware of – and uses them to bring students into daily contact with the natural environment while teaching them hands-on, inquiry-based lessons in science, math and social studies,” said Walt Hays of Acterra’s Business Environmental Awards Judging Committee. “The program thrives by recruiting volunteer docents, seeking a variety of grants, and procuring major in-kind contributions, from garden materials to Web services. These efforts and achievements have produced a model for environmental education and determination to succeed.”

Acterra, a non-profit organization with a 41-year history of environmental programming in and around Silicon Valley, involves and educates individuals, businesses and communities to take action against global warming, restore natural habitats and cultivate environmental leaders.

Initiated in 1990, Acterra’s Business Environmental Awards is one of the Bay Area’s oldest environmental recognition programs.

“Our awardees must demonstrate their environmental commitment and achievements through a careful vetting process,” said Board President Laura Teksler. “In addition to a thorough written application, the top contenders must demonstrate their programs’ merits firsthand to the judges during a visit to the applicants’ facilities. By the time they are selected to receive our award, they have truly proven that their programs are setting the bar in environmental leadership.”

The Living Classroom Program is scheduled to be honored at the 2011 Business Environmental Awards Reception June 2 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Palo Alto.

For more information on Acterra, visit www.acterra.org.

For more information on the Living Classroom Program, visit www.lasdk8.org/garden/Living_Classroom_Website/index.html.

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