La Center High School’s Environmental Action Team traveled to Washington, D.C. on July 26 after their school was named a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School.
The recognition federally recognizes institutions that demonstrate exceptional sustainability practices.
Bella Parke, an incoming senior who is one of the team’s officers, said the environmental action team at La Center High School has taken on projects that many other students don’t have the opportunity to partake in.
“The environmental studies class has worked with the environmental action team for a really long time,” Parke said. “They sort of communicate back and forth on different projects to do around the school like recycling, keeping up on the green wall, mentoring with the fourth graders, … the garden outside of our classroom, and then the future LC garden.”
Parke added the team also focuses on salmon restoration projects. They are currently in the process of getting approval for “a green shed,” which is a barn that will be used to grow plants using solar energy.
“This year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees have raised the bar for sustainability, healthy and safe school environments, and hands-on learning experiences that connect students of all ages to the world around them,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a news release.
The team also features two other officers, Sierra Gramm and Sabrina Joner, who are both incoming seniors at La Center.
“I remember our initial reaction when we found out we were going to D.C.,” Gramm said. “We had a group chat and we were all losing our minds. We were all in separate places and we were all like ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ But once we actually got there, it was really cool to get to meet other people from other schools.”
Gramm said there weren’t many students in attendance at the Washington, D.C.-based awards ceremony, but she noted her fellow students enjoyed presenting the work they had completed to others.
“Actually receiving the award was pretty quick, but it was very cool to get to do that,” Gramm said.
Environmental studies teacher and action team adviser Rebecca Morris said it was rewarding to receive the Green Ribbon School recognition.
“It was also nice because while we were there, we got to meet with people from the Department of Energy and the Green Building Council, (and) American University, and we made some contacts with them that will be able to do perhaps Zooms in future work with them, just to share our projects and get ideas from them,” Morris said.
To receive the award, Morris said the environmental action team went through an extensive application process, which included 35 pages of essays with embedded slideshows and pictures.
Morris noted the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction nominated La Center High School for the national Green Ribbon recognition.
The team stayed in Washington, D.C. for a total of nine days.
“Something I thought that was kind of interesting was the buildings were so different. … None of the buildings were really tall,” Parke said. “The tallest building I saw was like 60 floors, compared to here where you go into the city and its skyscrapers mostly. Being there and going to the Washington monument, you just see that everything is flat. It was an interesting experience.”
Parke said the students were able to see most of the memorials in the nation’s capitol, with the exception of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. They also visited the capitol building, the American History Museum, and the National Archives, among other places.
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