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“Green School” Movement Gets a Foothold in New Mexico

February 6, 2012

TAOS, N.M. - Taos High School enlisted in the Green Ribbon Schools program for the 2011-2012 school year. The U.S. Department of Education introduced the program with the idea of producing more engaged, better educated students.

Gillian Cardillo teaches the high school's environmental leadership class. She says she's seeing improved public speaking skills, and maybe a little math progress, as the students work out a real-life problem.

"There's a leak in our school. They had to go out and measure how much it's leaking, and then they had to figure how much it was for a day, and a week, and a month and a year."

Cardillo sees more of a team attitude among the members of the class now than at the start of the semester. This is the first year of the environmental leadership class at Taos High.

Cardillo's class works on recycling and composting for the school. She says something interesting is beginning to happen: The students are taking their work home and into their community. An anti-plastic-water-bottle campaign they developed has expanded into a critical look at the corporate climate, she says.

"There have been a lot of anti-corporate sentiments, and these are from kids who are incredibly materialistic. We're seeing a turnaround, especially with Occupy Wall Street, where they're like, 'Wow, corporations really are doing the wrong thing and we need to stand up to them.'"

Fifteen other New Mexico schools are involved in a different green program, Eco-Schools USA. It originated in Denmark and was launched two years ago in the U.S. by the National Wildlife Federation. The Federation's science education specialist, Jennifer Hammonds, says some "green schools" are discovering benefits beyond the education.

"Energy projects, consumption projects and waste projects students participate in can provide tremendous savings for school districts."

More information is available online. The green ribbon school programs is at www.greenribbonschools.org. The National Wildlife Federation school recognition program is at http://bit.ly/4S6aTT. The study on math scores is at http://bit.ly/wmb52E.

Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM