Oceano Elementary School students launched a year of health and energy efficiency initiatives Friday in celebration of an international movement to promote healthy eating, exercise and conservation in schools.
Students walked and biked to school; participated in a bicycle rodeo highlighting after-school biking activities; and sorted milk cartons, paper boats and produce in what educators called a zero-waste initiative.
“We’ve been doing this for years,” said Jim DeCecco, a sixth-grade teacher at Oceano.
Students heightened conservation and health efforts Friday in an early commemoration of a Green Apple Day of Service, an international effort observed Saturday.
The Center for Green Schools, the education arm of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) nonprofit, began the school health and conservation movement in September 2012.
Mallory Shelter, a spokeswoman, said the USGBC began the service push to inform educators that with little effort they could improve energy efficiency, recycling practices and conservation.
“A lot of times, people only think about the “who” and the “what” of education — teachers and curriculum,” she said.
Green Apple Day is about promoting the “where.”
Shelter said more than 160,000 volunteers participated in more than 1,200 service projects last year.
“It’s grown exponentially,” she said.
Students filed into two separate lines during lunch hours at Oceano on Friday.
In one section, volunteers recorded student votes in a tasting experiment that pitted the red bell pepper against the green.
In another, DeCecco supervised waste sorting.
“We’re doing something a little different today,” he announced to students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades.
DeCecco, who earned the California Resource Recovery Association’s zero-waste educator of the year award in August, said he has been leading class recycling initiatives for 30 years and overseeing schoolwide efforts for about 10 years.
Patti Toews, program director of the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority, said she monitors waste and conservation efforts at schools throughout the county, and Oceano Elementary School is a clear leader.
“They lead the way in everything,” Toews said.
School conservation and health initiatives include a grant-sponsored project to install a solar stick that in part helps reduce electricity costs, an after-school biking club and a pilot energy auditing program Oceano students launched Friday.
“At a time when school budgets were tightening, every single penny saves makes a huge difference,” Toews said.
Principal Ron Walton said sixth-graders checked the school’s use of lighting, printing, cooling and other energy usage forms to test how to best conserve energy.
The program could be implemented in schools throughout the Lucia Mar Unified School District.
“Our goal is to see if it will work here first,” Walton said.