Taking “Eco-Thinking” to a Whole New Level

Eco-Think Club and the Green Flag Award: Jamie Repasky at Rieke Elementary –

Already a member of the school green team, Jamie was a perfect fit for the Agent of Change training. She used the tools she learned to analyze her circle, foresee obstacles, and make her cause appealing.

She combined this with her science education background and started the Eco-Think Club at Rieke Elementary. The Club met once per month to go on field trips and initiate green practices at school. Field trips included hikes in local natural areas, always with a fun educational element, such as a scavenger hunt that encouraged deep observation of nature. One school project was a recycling drive where the students collected 20 large bags of non-curbside plastics from the school community.

As she learned more about what worked well, Jamie started , “Green and Growing in Oregon,” a six-week afterschool science enrichment program and “Eco-Think Late-Start Lounge,” an hour-long nature hike on late-start days. She also realized her vision of creating an outdoor classroom and an arboretum. Each of the 15 classrooms got to plant a tree and now cares for it. Each student was involved in education about trees and given a vine maple seedling to take home, after having time to observe it and draw its parts.

The adult green team was busy as well. It arranged a cafeteria waste audit where students were astounded to find 48 pounds of food waste, including many whole apples. Subsequently it held two “Waste-Free Wednesdays.” Students were so motivated that they reduced food waste by 33 percent. The team worked with the district to reduce the school’s electricity use by 6.7 percent and followed up with a delamping project to further reduce electricity usage. All of these advances in environmental education and sustainable practices earned Rieke the coveted international Green Flag Award from the World Wildlife Fund, the first school in Oregon to receive such prestigious recognition. Congratulations Jamie and Rieke Elementary!

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