Grades of Green is changing the future by teaching local Santa Monica kids environmental ethics.

The nonprofit has worked with Santa Monica schools for the past five years and the partnership has continued this year at several locations including Santa Monica High School, Franklin Elementary, John Adams Middle School McKinley Elementary and Will Rogers.

Last week Grades of Green took a visit to John Adams, and spent a day teaching students how to reduce liter. They played educational and environmental games to help engage and educate the kids about waste reduction.

Grades of Green visits each participating school and conducts an eco consultation to get to know the school environment a little bit better. They talk to teachers, parents and students and see what environmental cause they want to focus on.

“After the consultation and learning about the school we recommend what would be a good fit for that particular school,” said Grades of Green Senior Program Manager, Emily Gee. “The school then picks what Grades of Green activity they want to take on that year. We do our best and work with them to help them achieve that particular activity.”

Grades of Green has multiple activities that range across the environmental spectrum. Covering issues regarding energy, water, toxins, waste, air, and earth.

“The two popular activities that get chosen are the Trash Free Lunches, and the No Idle Zone,” said Gee.

Trash Free Lunches encourage students to bring lunch in reusable containers and the No Idle Zone encourages parents to turn off their engines when waiting for their children. Allowing the school environment to be as clean as possible for the school and the students. Those are just two of the most common activities, and the hope is participate in these activities outside of school.

Currently students at McKinley are managing an onsite composting program in their drought tolerant garden. They are properly recycling e-waste and recycle in the classrooms. The school is reeducating their students about Trash Free Lunches and lunchtime waste sorting through campus wide assemblies.

Like McKinley, Will Rogers is reeducating their students about Trash Free Lunches, planning a compost/planting day and a bike and walk day to school during Earth Month.

Franklin Elementary works with the organization to provide school wide education about why it is important to reduce waste and protect the environment, and how to do it at lunchtime. Students are separating trash from organics to recycling and to landfill waste.

At John Adams, the ASB team along with Grades of Green team conducted a “Grades of Green Day” during lunch. Playing trivia games and orchestrated a waste race to teach kids how to sort recyclable items from landfill waste. They hosted a water refill station to encourage staff and students to use reusable water bottles in lieu of single use plastic bottles.

Right now Samohi has 120 Science students that are conducting sustainability projects with Grades of Green mentors. The students aim to make sustainable systems change on their campus and within the district.

Not only are local schools working with Grades of Green but five individual students are also part of the program. Four Franklin Elementary School students and a student at Lincoln Middle School have been selected to be part of Green of Grades Youth Corps Program.

“This is a student youth leadership program with about 60 students that have been selected throughout Southern California,” said Gee.

The students are assigned a one on one mentor to help them with their Green of Grades project. Franklin Elementary second grader, Angus Piper made a litter monster costume, gave a presentation at a school wide morning assembly to show kids where litter belongs.

“Johanna James, 7th grader at Lincoln Middle School is encouraging meatless meal, and prepares a meatless meal for her friends, educating her community about the benefits of earing meat free,” said Gee.

The organization explains there are so many great benefits that come with this program, like reducing the number of trash bags or the amount of water being used because kids and adults are now aware. Not only can the school environment change but so can the city’s environment if the kids continue these values.

“The program has become a huge success and is has not only inspired kids to make a difference but also motivated their parents to do the same,” said Gee.

marina@smdp.com

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