Monday, April 24, 2017
From my first day on the Crane Country Day School campus, I have been impressed with all the school does to integrate sustainability into its physical space and community culture. The most noticeable effort involves water management, the greatest environmental challenge Southern Californians face today. Crane’s permeable parking lot and adjacent bioswales allow storm water runoff to infiltrate into the soil below. The newly constructed Design and Engineering Center’s Oak Tree Quad rain gardens capture and hold rain from the rooftops, feeding plants and recharging the groundwater supply.
Waste management is important as well, and has become an exciting part of our school routine. Fifth graders, led by recycling guru and fifth-grade teacher Chris Caretto, are often seen around campus checking blue bins and helping reduce the trash we send away. Our sixth-grade compost heroes direct students and faculty to put lunch remains in recycling, trash, compost, or leftovers. They then fill compost bins and feed our chickens and worms with the leftovers. School maintenance supervisor Joel Jamison breaks down the biodegradable paper plates and leads semi-annual campus cleanups.
Both inside and outside the classroom, I have seen Crane students have opportunities to build an appreciation for the wonders of nature and the abundance our Earth provides. In science classes, kindergarteners turn over rocks and logs to observe insect communities in action, while third graders germinate seeds, plant them in the raised garden beds, and observe their growth over weeks. In the new E-Block program, Upper School students in the farm-to-table elective harvest fruits and vegetables from Crane’s gardens and make soups, breads and jams. At recess, first- and second-graders can be spotted engaging in free outdoor play, using natural materials to build forts and picking wildflowers on the woods’ edge.
Sustainability and environmental education are priorities for Crane, as well as at a growing number of independent schools nationwide. Data from the National Association of Independent Schools show more than a quarter now have a sustainability coordinator, charged with monitoring a school’s energy footprint, developing sustainable service learning projects, and promoting environmental literacy. Crane is aligned with many NAIS recommendations for sustainability, including adopting green-building practices, prioritizing local, healthy food, and integrating outdoor education into the curriculum. These efforts are important not only because they directly reduce our school’s environmental impacts, but because they encourage our students to be Earth stewards.
Ryan Long, Teaching Fellow