Lewis School recognized by state in Oregon Sustainable School Awards


ndungca@oregonian.com” >By Nicole Dungca | ndungca@oregonian.com
May 06, 2013


The Oregon Department of Education named Southeast Portland’s Lewis Elementary School a winner of its Healthy, Safe Students and Staff distinction in the Oregon Sustainable School Awards. The Oregon Department of Education named Southeast Portland’s Lewis Elementary School a winner of its Healthy, Safe Students and Staff distinction in the Oregon Sustainable School Awards.  This marks the second time the K-5 school, which shared its recognition with Lake Oswego’s Oak Creek Elementary, has been celebrated for its student health initiatives by the state this year. Lewis also joined Benson High School in capturing $2,500 through the Oregon School Wellness Awards.

The Lewis community encourages biking and walking to school, offers “Brain and Body Breaks” during class, tends to a school garden and has made strides toward eliminating waste by recycling and composting more materials during lunch.

The state partners with the Sustainable Oregon Schools Initiative for the awards to laud buildings in the areas of environmental impacts, healthy and safe students, sustainability education and social sustainability. Medford’s Jackson Elementary won the overall award, and three other schools won recognition in other areas.

Oregon Department of Education Spokeswoman Crystal Greene said the Oregon Sustainable School Awards help districts recognize buildings showcasing practices not only around sustainability education, but around sustainability practices.

“What are they doing to reduce their environmental impacts, whether that’s fuel efficiency or composting or school gardens or more efficient buildings?” she said. “And we’re looking at education components: what are they doing to foster the next generation of environmental sustainability stewards in our youth?”

Lewis Principal Tim Lauer says the recognition wouldn’t be possible without a staff and parent community dedicated to the cause of sustainability.

Parent volunteers, for example, help wash out milk cartons to recycle during lunch, which cuts down considerably on waste. And for about seven years, the staff has made a conscious effort to bike or take public transit to work. In the past, the school has raffled off bike helmets to get kids interested in cycling.

“It’s a reflection of the work of the staff and the parent community,” said Lauer. “I’m very happy for them to have that recognition in terms of there’s a lot of volunteer hours that go into these types of things.”

Lauer, who bikes about 3.5 miles to work three to four days a week, says the staff tries to lead by example.

“If they see you walking around with your bike helmet, you’re sending that message to them,” he said.

The list of winners, which were chosen by a panel of 17 judges, includes:

  • Oregon Sustainable School Award: Jackson Elementary (Medford School District)
  • Pillar 2 Award (Healthy, Safe Students and Staff): Meriwether Lewis Elementary and Oak Creek Elementary (Lake Oswego School District)
  • Pillar 3 Award (Education for Sustainability, Environmental and Social Literacy): Jesuit High School
  • Pillar 4 Award (Social Sustainability): Jackson Elementary (Medford School District) 


In early January Greece was rocked by the ” White Week ” (Nea/18-1-2014 , http://www.esos.gr/arthra/defterovathmia-ekpaidefsi/eidisis-defterovathmia-ekpaidefsi/syskech-ypoyrgvn-gia-th-leykh-ebdomada, www.avgi.gr/article/1710917/gia-ti-leuki-ebdomada-, etc).
The (justified) uproar publications and reactions that followed the proposal of hoteliers for a week of “pause» of the schools, so that students with their parents ” would go skiing”,  took away  a potentially substantial discussion of a similar and really hot topic . The problem of the limited contact of students with nature.
The author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods, was the first to create  the term Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD), in order to explain how social disconnection from nature affect today’s children . Louv says we have entered a new era of suburban sprawl that restricts outdoor play, in conjunction with a plugged-in culture that draws kids indoors. But, as Louv presents in his book, the agrarian, nature-oriented existence hard-wired into human brains isn’t quite ready for the overstimulating environment we’ve carved out for ourselves. Some children adapt. Those who don’t develop the symptoms of NDD, which include attention problems, obesity, anxiety, and depression.

Not to argue that nature is a panacea , parents should see the forests , streams, meadows and gorges that are relatively close to their homes , as a type of therapy that helps children to be clustered , have confidence , to be healthy and balanced. Studies also show links between nature and behavior: kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) thrive when put in routine contact with nature in documented test cases. Louv says this is especially relevant when taking into account the number of kids treated for ADHD with drugs such as Ritalin. “We have to begin to question how many pharmaceuticals we are putting into our kids,” Louv says. “We have to start looking at nature therapy.”

While Nature Deficit Disorder isn’t a clinical term, the concept has struck a chord with parents and educators. The child-nature reunion has emerged as a movement, and Louv says this is because the concept rings true for a generation of parents and grandparents who are reminded of their own joyous experiences in nature as children; whether it be summer camp, building a tree house, or, in Louv’s case, helping turtles across the road during migration season. “People are so much on the treadmill. They need to be reminded that once upon a time childhood was different. People have prized and cherished memories of their time in nature, and it’s disdainful for people to think that this has passed,” he says.

Especially children, as they grow from kindergarten to high school, reduce progressively more contact with nature. Parents, generally, are interested in the experiences of children in nature , but as children grow and with them the various school and extracurricular obligations , less and less spend some time close to nature . Things deteriorate dramatically in junior high school and especially in upper high school, where every minute away from books and tuition is ” inexcusable waste” that ” can cost a school or a city.” So the only “plants” that are kept at home , are the “interior school plants, the students.” The children disorder is obvious to the teachers, although its origin cannot be attributed unambiguously to the lack of contact with nature. It is mainly the horrible pressure for success in exams . Children are much more nervous, showing more and more frequently and in greater numbers psychosomatic symptoms and events that have been dropping their performance .
However, the American Institutes for Research conducted a study of the impact of a weeklong residential outdoor education program on at risk youth. Students involved in the program experienced a 27 percent increase in their mastery of science concepts, better problem solving skills, enhanced self esteem, and improved behavior in comparison with the control group stuck in the classroom.

Observations of parents , teachers and of course the scientific studies and surveys indicate that action should be taken in this area . John Sarbanes (Greek origin)  in Maryland passed a bill entitled “No Child Left Inside” which would provide funding for integrating environmental education into K-12 curriculum. This bill reminds us of another campaign «No child left behind», however, it shows that it has been understood how valuable is the contact with nature for children (and for adults) . This program will fund the integration of environmental education in the school curriculum.
In Greece the proposal of hoteliers ( White Week) certainly did not aim to treat children , but treat their own financial problems . it was  a legitimate desire but hit the wrong door at a time when the Greek society and the Greek family undergo a severe downgrading of their lives ( even without snow skiing ) . The ” White Week ” was rejected summarily . But we must not overlook the start of a dialogue for real , the real need of students to spend at least a few days in nature as part of their schooling. Louv says that these visits should not be a break, but part of school life and part of the curriculum.
Certainly, today, the average Greek family is not in a position to lift the financial burden of a week-long stay for children outside home. But the expansion of the institution of Environmental Education Centers (EEC) , with adequate funding from the Ministry of Education and the local municipalities, can cover a part of the huge demand for outdoor activities. Especially the regional EEC should be supported, in order to maintain their capacity of osting children from cities and adopt programs that will bring them closer to nature as an object of study and as entertainment.
On the other hand, the existing EEC cannot respond to all the demand, since around half the country’s students live in the two large conurbations and most of EEC are quite far away. So, we have to mobilize urban and suburban parks, groves, wetlands, rivers, etc for assembled and programmed outdoor education and partially financed travel costs. At least for the children of the big cities this must be the first priority in the Education for Sustainability. Parents, teachers and the Ministry of Education, should work closely together to give back to the children their lost life close to nature .

Editorial 2 English

Sustainable Schools: delay costs

From Environmental Education to Education for Sustainability(EfS)

With the introduction of Education for Sustainability (EfS ) , which is the successor of Environmental Education (International Conference “Environment  and Society : Education and Public Awareness for Sustainability” – Thessaloniki 8-12 December 1997) a new perception of  the need to connect this education with significant changes in school life has emerged. The change from “Environmental Education” to Education for Sustainability ( EfS ) was accompanied by the coining of the term “Sustainable School “. The basic idea behind  ‘ Sustainable School ‘, is the integration of the concept and values of sustainability in every aspect of school’s life , namely in the administration , in the learning  process , in the management of buildings , in the transportation to and from the school, in the relation with the parents and the overall school community .

The Sustainable School in Greece
In Greece  the Environmental Education Council (SPE) of the Association for the Environment and Culture, started the contest  “Sustainable School Award “, a competition between schools of  the same grade and the same type. The set of “Sustainable School Indicators” was used to assess participating school. The contest ‘ Sustainable School Award ” operated under the SPE and under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, from the 2010-11 school year and for three years . Five hundred and thirty (530) schools took part in the competition during the three years.
The contest was concluded in June 2013.

The basic idea of Sustainable School Indicators is to assist the school community to act on the implied activities, in order to achieve improvement in all three areas of school operation , i.e. pedagogical/ educational , social / organizational  and environmental.
The Greek proposal, made
​​by the SPE team, was  preceded by a version of the United Kingdom ( 2006 ) adopting the “Eight Doorways of Education for Sustainability”.  In its website, which has been officially withdrawn by the Ministry of Education of the United Kingdom, one can read the following: “Planning a Sustainable School. “… The National Framework for Sustainable Schools interprets these priorities for schools and offers them a series of ‘doorways’ through which to establish their sustainability practices. The doorways are entry points – a collection of discrete yet integrated focus areas that schools can relate to and take action around. In an attempt to address local and national priorities, each of the doorways draws its inspiration from a range of government policies concerning sustainable development and quality of life. We would like all schools to be performing well across all of the doorways by 2020, and offer the following recommendations in this regard”(www.teachernet.gov).
After the Labour Party lost power, the main ‘ provider ‘ of a green culture in the UK is “Keep Britain Tidy” NGO, which is supported by sponsors (corporate funders). This organization manages Eco Schools in the United Kingdom. ‘Eco-Schools ‘ in Greece are coordinated by the Greek Society for the Coservation of Nature « (Nature Conservation) under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. As stated on the NGOs  website , the International Coordinator is FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education).

Greece lacks policy towards Sustainable School
 As is now clear, there are different approaches to Sustainable School, however the most important thing is that Greece has stayed away from the Sustainable School concept and has not recognized its contribution to education in general and not just to environmental education. Last October, Aeiforum delivered to the Greek Ministry of Education the results of a survey conducted among the schools that had participated in the competition “Sustainable School Award”. The schools operated following the set of Sustainable School Indicators and their answers made it ​​clear that sustainable school , as proposed by Aeiforum , could be adopted and recommended  as a form of organization and operation of the school, which improves drastically and in a short time, all aspects of school life. We cite here some answers  and views that teachers provided to the question: “Have you noticed a change in student behavior after your school participated in the Sustainable School Award?”

  • There is a huge change in the students’ behavior ( environmentally friendly )
  • Students are more friendly , more open , more receptive , more collaborative
  • Less discarded books
  • Better relationships , reduced garbage
  • Less violence between students , fewer penalties
  • Greater involvement of students in the learning process by using ICT
  • More environmentally- conscious behaviour (cleaner school)
  • Declined absenteeism rates
  • More group work
  • Some students highlighted positive changes of their personality
  • Their parents started recycling
  • They became more friendly and more active. Friendly climate.
  • Increase in the participation of students in school activities
  • They learned to respect their creations , as well as those of others
  • Improved teacher – student relationship
  • Great Change! Even the marginalized students participate actively
  • They enjoy more imagination, more participation, more teamwork
  • Better communication, increased volunteering
  • More cooperative, have built trusting relationships
  • Disobedient students improved after assuming roles
  • Those less motivated by traditional methods became more active
  • They got to turn the lights off and closing windows, they don’t waste water
  • They have a positive perspective of the school  and undertake initiatives
  • Huge change to all students .

These spontaneous statements by  teachers (essentially regarding the operation of the school based on the set of Sustainable School Indicators) leave no doubt about the fact that it actually can (of course under conditions) contribute to a great and positive change towards a sustainable school model (the way students have described it with the phrase ” better school “). Cited below there are the recommendations of teachers to the Government:

  • Publication of informative material for the Sustainable School.
  • Financial support of schools.
  • The program of “Sustainable School Indicators” has to be introduced in he school curriculum (13 iterations of the proposal) .
  • Textbooks have to be written in the spirit of sustainability.
  • More training seminars on Sustainable School Indicators.
  • The Flexible Zone has to be introduced in the curriculum .


All in all, we believe that the Ministry should adopt the perspective of Sustainable School through the set of Sustainable School Indicators, as the most efficient form of organization and operation of the school, which leads to sustainability and to the effectiveness of the school as an institution at the same time. We should abandon the use of the term “Environmental Education as the term is obsolete. Our proposal for adoption of the Sustainable School Indicators as a guiding framework for orienting schools towards sustainability has proved its worth and is completely successful, as evidenced by all those involved in the processes of Sustainable School. The adoption of one or more programs with titles that contain the “sustainable school” is not enough, in our opinion,  Sustainable school should become the target of Primary and Secondary Education policies of the Ministry.