Summit upgrades Carson schools' green strategy

Carson City School District educators listen Wednesday to Pioneer Academy student Maggie Uzzell’s suggestions for personal green initiatives she would like to implement at her school.

Carson City School District educators listen Wednesday to Pioneer Academy student Maggie Uzzell’s suggestions for personal green initiatives she would like to implement at her school.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

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The Carson City School District joined with the Green Schools National Network to build on its implementation of sustainable practices during its Sustainability Leadership Summit 2.0 on Wednesday at Western Nevada College.

The first summit was held in 2019 and established the district’s partnership with the GSNN. The nonprofit coaches school districts, staff members and organizations interested in adopting green strategies and curriculum practices in an equitable and feasible manner.

Mark Korinek, GSNN strategic coach and part-time contractor and former CCSD operations director, said the district successfully accomplished its initial goals established five years ago. The summit served as a culmination of its first strategic step toward encouraging all 10 district sites to becoming environmentally friendly and innovative according to its objectives in 2019.

Empire Elementary and Eagle Valley Middle School, which are feeder schools, were chosen to align with the plan’s objectives and to develop initiatives, such as single-stream recycling, energy efficiency and responsible food waste reduction practices, among other activities, that empower students to adapt healthy habits in school or at home.

“The goals that were accomplished were spreading whole school sustainability ideas to Empire and Eagle Valley and connecting those two as a growth block from elementary to middle,” Korinek said.

Adding the high school level is a planned addition this year, he said, with Pioneer Academy attending the summit.

All Carson City’s sites incorporate sustainable practices to some extent. But now the district wants to explore encouraging more efficient programming to all of its sites. Empire K-5 teacher Adrienne Wiggins and Principal Lee Conley and their teams spoke on practical tips, results and partnering organizations such as Envirolution to inspire their students with hands-on, interactive activities and resources.

Kimberly Tucker of Eagle Valley said it was important to find other teachers willing to invest in the training. She also highlighted the success Wiggins and others established to “have a building block from elementary schools to middle schools” for engineering or math concepts for students to be engaged.

Dave DenHartog, manager of academics, partnership and strategy with GSNN, said the summit was “an opportunity to celebrate some of the successes already happening.”

He referred to other districts in the nation that are developing models for Nevada districts interested in learning more. Modesto City Schools in Stanislaus County, Calif., recently was one of 14 districts statewide to be recognized as a 2024 California Green Ribbon Schools honoree for converting half of its bus fleet to electric buses and for supporting green initiatives at school sites, DenHartog said.

“(Districts) are focused on outdoor learning and connecting students to the natural world,” he said. “They’re front leaders and strategic thinkers. In Boise, they have recently designated teachers that there are now green team leaders in every school site. Here in Carson City, Lee Conley was talking about the need for that, and that would be valuable for CCSD to mimic and to have green team leads.”

The benefit for districts overall include financial savings, DenHartog said. It helps school sites and administrations to be prudent with their resources as they find ways to be cost-conscious. Lexington’s Fayette Public Schools has saved $21 million in the past 10 years implementing its sustainability practices, he said.

Sustainability plans also encourage school boards, educators and students to collaborate and improve in their environmental learning and appreciation.

“When we say learning, I mean both academic, math and science, literary and social,” he said. “And it’s understanding how to be a better person and collaborator and having better empathy. Having such plans provides better engagement. Kids are learning socially, and they’re working together.”

Korinek said all of the work being accomplished is purposeful and meant to inspire students, and he acknowledged GSNN’s role for its dedication to training educators to give them the leadership skills.

“It’s all about the kids,” he said. “By doing something with their hands, they’re not just reading a book and doing a workshop. They’re building musical instruments out of stuff we were going to throw away. So now you have them interested in engineering. There’s so many things you can do in cross-curriculum, environmental projects, integrated math and science.”

Data collected from Wednesday’s summit will be used to help CCSD build its next five-year plan, according to the district and the GSNN.


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