Going Green | Truckee Elementary PTO partners with Shane McConkey Foundation | SierraSun.com

Going Green | Truckee Elementary PTO partners with Shane McConkey Foundation

Special to the Sun
Submitted to aedgett@sierrasun.comCommunity partners go green at Truckee Elementary School. From left: Katie Flynn (PTO co-president), Missy Mohler (director of SWEP), Alex Herrera (PTO co-president), Anna Klovstad (TTUSD manager), Sherry McConkey and Jamie Simon (Canopy Strategies). Not pictured: Valerie Simpson, principal.
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TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Truckee Elementary is going green. Designated as the flagship school to lead the greening of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (TTUSD), students and staff of Truckee Elementary will pioneer a path toward an environmentally sustainable future.

Over the next few years, Truckee Elementary will undergo a green transformation: in the building, in the classrooms and in the minds and hearts of its students. School operations will employ sensible, sustainable practices to reduce carbon footprint and waste. The teaching staff will inject environmental science and responsibility into educational programs.

Today’s students will become tomorrow’s catalysts of change, equipped with tools to steward valuable resources.

Truckee Elementary’s green journey

The Truckee Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) was anxious to raise environmental awareness and provide an avenue to enhance the current curriculum with place-based learning while tapping into the community’s environmental consciousness. TTUSD had been looking for ways to pursue sustainable schools and foster environmental responsibility in its students.

In 2011, key pieces fell into place. The PTO and TTUSD tossed around ideas to improve the school’s sustainability and reduce consumption. What was missing was the means. Enter the Shane McConkey Foundation.

Supported by the biggest names in the ski industry, Shane’s wife Sherry created the foundation following Shane’s death in 2009. Sherry saw investment in schools as an effective way to bring Shane’s legacy to the next generation. In September of 2011, the McConkey Foundation granted $20,000 to the TTUSD for the purpose of putting its schools on a path toward environmental responsibility.

Sherry explains, and#8220;Shane was not only an amazing athlete, he held a deep-rooted respect and appreciation for our natural surroundings and all living creatures within. He was determined to help preserve the environment he treasured, so that future generations and#8212; including our own daughter Ayla and#8212; could experience in their lives all the same beauty he had in his.and#8221;

Inspired by the McConkey Foundation’s mission and grant, the Truckee Elementary PTO offered to match the Foundation’s grant. Combining funds and forces, the organizations’ dual grants created the means to launch the greening of Truckee Elementary School.

What going green will mean

The linchpin in bringing green practices and environmental education to the school’s students is SWEP (www.4swep.org), the Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting environmental stewardship to students.

SWEP established the school’s Green Team, currently comprised of 27 eager Truckee Elementary fifth-graders, supported and mentored by motivated, environmentally-conscious Truckee High School Envirolution Club student volunteers. SWEP’s director and leader of the Green Team Missy Mohler said, and#8220;Students participating as Green Team members will develop their knowledge and understanding of the environmental issues facing our world through service-oriented projects. As mentors to their schoolmates, these empowered leaders will develop and implement action plans that will have lasting effects in their school, at home, and in the community.and#8221;

With help from SWEP, the TTUSD and the PTO, Truckee Elementary teachers will latch on to a wide range of pilot programs designed to integrate environmental awareness and build on the base curriculum. Students will take math and science principles learned in the classroom and apply them in the cafeteria, in the school’s gardens and in nearby forests and watersheds. They’ll apply book and chalkboard learning to environmental reality at the Sagehen Creek field-study program, run in conjunction with UC Berkeley.

Why an elementary school?

For Anna Klovstad, TTUSD manager, it’s an obvious choice. and#8220;Truckee Elementary’s Green School Initiative is all about acting locally. Granted, one small school in a mountain town can’t have a big impact on worldwide consumption, but thousands of and#8216;green educated’ students can, especially as they move through their lives.and#8221;

There is a motivation far more practical at play, beyond thinking in a global context. and#8220;Our community’s rewards for greening schools will be far from symbolic or vicarious, simply because Truckee is no ordinary community,and#8221; PTO co-president Alex Herrera explains. and#8220;Where would our local economy be without Tahoe’s clear depths, blue skies and deep winter snowpack? Be they direct beneficiaries or separated by a degree or two, every local business and every local job is dependent on the health and beauty of the region’s natural environment.and#8221;

The entire school community is committed to the endeavor and it expects to be both accountable in its goals and transparent in its journey. The PTO has set up http://www.TruckeeGreenSchool.org as a window into the school’s progress.

Truckee Elementary Principal Valerie Simpson sums up the motivation and the opportunity, and#8220;Whether our students end up spending their lives in the Tahoe Basin, or move on to employ their knowledge and passion in other corners of the world, they’ll be equipped with the skills and know-how to not only protect precious natural resources, but inspire others to do the same.and#8221;