Environmental stewardship has been a core value of The Athenian School since it was founded in 1965. As one of the pillars of Round Square, environmental stewardship is practiced, modeled and encouraged in many ways throughout the curriculum and in campus initiatives.
Athenian is a member of the Green Schools Alliance, a consortium of public and private schools working together to conserve resources and reduce greenhouse emissions, and is also a full-credited member of the Contra Costa Green Business Program.
Environmental Stewardship In the Curriculum
|Middle School Curriculum|
In the Middle School, the environmental stewardship pillar is woven into the curriculum through science and elective classes, as well as many Focus Day activities, such as clean-up excursions to Tilden Park and Mt. Diablo. Community service projects include cleaning the Hayward shoreline and gardening.
|Upper School Curriculum|
In the Upper School, the environmental stewardship pillar is included in the curriculum of the applied science, physics, biology, visual design, art of architecture and environmental science classes. Earth Day symposiums feature speakers from environmental groups, 9th graders participate in campus-wide recycling, and many community service weekend trips focus on environmental clean-up. Seniors have also created their own independent environmental projects, such as permaculture landscaping. In addition, international Interim
and Round Square
trips include a service project component, many of which are environmental.
An Upper School student-run environmental club actively works to implement energy and waste savings measures on campus. Current initiatives include banning the use of styrofoam and single-use beverage containers on campus, monitoring thermostats, improving composting efforts and more.
Athenian's organic garden is a showcase for sustainability and features an Earth Tub composting system, drip-irrigation and a chicken coop. Students delivered 1,200 pounds of produce to Athenian's kitchen last year and produced 8,000 pounds of organic fertilizer. Composting efforts diverted some 10,000 pounds of potential trash from landfill.
The Athenian Permaculture Project, conceived, designed and being built by a group of Athenian students, actively regenerates energy in many forms, maintains itself, and provides the community a source of inspiration and education. This land-care project is consciously designed to have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems.
Unlike a typical energy-intensive garden, a landscape that makes use of permaculture principles and techniques creates a whole system of symbiotic relationships where each element of the landscape is in a harmonious relation with the other elements. For example, there are not only fruit trees, but fruiting vines growing up the tree, understory useful shrubs, perennial flowering herbs and vegetables that surround the tree, ground covers that act as a living mulch, trellis systems with berries and grapes, an herb spiral, and more. Learn more.
|Athenian Wilderness Experience|
In the Athenian Wilderness Experience
, students learn to appreciate nature and develop sound ecological practices. Instructors are rigorous about leave-no-trace ethics and the course incorporates ecological service projects to restore the natural landscape.
|Electric Car Project|
This project is an ambitious program that will help a conventional automobile kick the gas habit and provide a green campus shuttle vehicle. Students will take an existing gas-powered car, remove the engine and supporting infrastructure and install an electric motor and batteries that can be recharged by energy collected locally from our own solar PV array.
The project combines experiential, cross-curricular learning with environmental stewardship, drawing on students from Applied Science, Physics, Chemistry and Environmental Science. The vehicle will be capable of providing 60 mile round trips at highway speeds for up to 5 passengers without directly or indirectly consuming a drop of fossil fuel or emitting a molecule of green house gas.
Students in the environmental studies class designed and created the bioswale project to re-direct water runoff from the hills.
Using shovels and pick axes, students dug smaller "fish-scale" swales to populate the area below the berm. These areas are filled with native plants and flowers and help preserve the soil. The pathways are paved with permeable material to absorb water.
"This is what experiential education is all about," said Daizy Asaravala, who co-teaches the class with Ray Engeszer. "This is completely student led - they are the ones who have developed and designed the project."
From the bioswale sign:
"This Swale is an earthworks meant to alter the flow of water through this area. It was designed and constructed by students with the intent of reducing flooding on and around the East lawn, improving soil quality and biodiversity. The internal structure of the berm was designed to emulate a fallen log to help absorb and retain more moisture.
The Swale accomplishes it goal in several ways: it reduces flooding by stopping water as it runs down from the hills, slowing it down and spreading it out, so that it can sink into the soil and rock. This provides water for plant on the berm even when it is not raining. If the Swale’s capacity is exceeded, excess water is directed into the creek rather than onto the East lawn.
Around the Swale, most of the space is barren or sparsely covered clay that is packed hard in the summer and muddy in the winter. Years of misuse as a pathway has left the soil dense and lacking in nutrients. It is hoped that by retaining water and caring for the soil, we can transform the area from a wasteland to a healthy, productive and beautiful area."
Perched on the hillside above the baseball fields is a solar array in the shape of an "A" that provides more than 70% of Athenian's electricity needs. In addition, solar panels that heat the pool are installed on the roof of the gym, and solar panels on the roof of the Dase Center and the Center for the Arts provide electricity for those buildings. Track the Solar A’s daily production
. (ID = athenian; password = owls.) Track the Dase Center's daily energy use
Waste Diversion: Recycling and Compost
Nearly 60% of Athenian's hauled waste is recycled content. About 10% of previously hauled waste is composted. Students participate in campus-wide recycling efforts and recycling bins are paired with landfill bins all across the campus.
Nearly 2 million gallons of water was saved annually with the installation of the Estakhri Family Sports Field, an all-weather field with recycled infill. In addition, water-saving plumbing fixtures, micro water heaters and landscaping policies add to the School's commitment to reduce water usage.
|View a video of Athenian students in action.|
|Track the performance of the Center's solar array.|
|Learn how permaculture works.|
|Learn more about Athenian's solar "A."|
|From the Fall 2009 issue of The Athenian Magazine.|
Athenian Environmental Awards
|Acterra Environmental Award for Sustainability|
Athenian earned Acterra's 2013 Business Environmental Award for Sustainability. Read the press release
|Green Ribbon School|
Athenian was named a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in April, 2012. Read the press release
|Diablo Magazine Eco-Award|
The Athenian School won the the Best in Show: Contra Costa Eco-Award from Diablo Magazine in March, 2012. The award is given to schools that lead the way in the green revolution.
From the magazine:
"One of the ideological pillars Athenian was founded upon in 1965 was environmental stewardship, and nearly all of the Danville school’s 463 students get involved with an eco-friendly project of one kind or another—whether that’s converting a teacher’s old beat-up Honda into an electric car; creating biodiesel in the science labs, with the goal of converting the school’s buses to Willie Nelson’s favorite fuel; making the campus more water-efficient by putting in perennial plants that require less water and improving catchment; or working with the school’s organic garden and its two-ton capacity composter.
If the curricular and student-led efforts weren’t enough, Athenian also partnered with Tioga Energy and RCA Solar to install an array of solar panels (in the shape of an A) on campus. The panels now provide more than 60 percent of Athenian’s power. And almost 60% of the school’s hauled waste gets recycled. The school has been certified by the Contra Costa Green Business Program—no surprise, given the way green seems to flow through Athenian’s veins.
“We work hard at it,” says John Harvey, a Spanish teacher who manages the composting and the garden. “I guess, above all, we do it because we think it’s the right thing to do. That’s the ultimate answer.”
|EPA Green Power Partner|
Athenian has been named a Green Power Partner by the Environmental Protection Agency in recognition of our efforts to reduce the risk of climate change through green power purchasing.
In 2009 and 2010, Athenian won the Waste Reduction Award from the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) for improving the environment by reducing landfill waste.
|School of the Year Award|
Athenian won the School of the Year awarded by Sustainable Contra Costa on September 29, 2010.
In 2009, Athenian was the recipient of a grant from the Alliance for Climate Education to implement various green programs, such as converting a car from gas to electric.
|Sloat Garden Grant|
In June 2010, The Athenian School received an Adopt A Garden Grant from Sloat Garden Center in Danville for use in the permaculture garden.
|Students participated in a Green School Forum in Santa Clara.|
|A profile of Athenian's efforts by Cool California.|
|Ebmud.com WaterSmart Success Stories series|