California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Environmental Ambassadors

Humboldt Environmental Ambassador Pilot Program:

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Grantee Information

Participants in the Humboldt Environmental Ambassador Pilot Program (HEAPP) were:

Located on California's northwest coast, Eureka City Schools took the lead on implementing this grant, which was originally awarded to the Pacific Union Elementary School District. The Humboldt County Office of Education (HCOE) supported the implementation of the Environmental Ambassador Pilot Program (EAPP) throughout the two-year program. Three of the Eureka City Schools - 12 schools (Zane Middle School, Winship Middle School, and Eureka High School) participated in the grant program. Other schools and districts in HCOE also participated in the program, including Freshwater School District (consisting of a combined elementary and charter middle school), Dow's Prairie Elementary School in McKinleyville Union School District, and Arcata High School (which participated only in the first year).

Working together, these schools and districts composed the Humboldt Environmental Ambassador Pilot Program team. Eureka City Schools was asked to lead the team because of its strong waste reduction and recycling efforts, as well as its strong commitment to service-learning. In addition to its recycling efforts, Eureka City Schools: transportation fleet has been operating on re-refined oil since 2004.

Humboldt County is unique in that it has no active landfill; all of its waste is shipped out of the county or out of the state. The lack of a local landfill provided a meaningful reason for students to take a personal interest in waste management issues.

HEAPP team teachers attended a summer training institute where they learned how to develop standards-based lessons that focused on their surrounding environment and waste management issues. In addition, Eureka City Schools implemented waste diversion programs at all district schools.

Teachers who attended the summer institute developed standards-based lessons connected to some of the resource conservation projects listed below under "Diversion Successes." Examples of such lessons include:

  • Use of recycling and vermicomposting as the focus of writing and art assignments in a kindergarten class.
  • Development of standards-based lessons in science, mathematics, and history-social science to complement the school garden activities of K-8 students.
  • Conducting energy audits both at home and at school by middle school students. These audits also measured the effects of varying tire pressure on gasoline usage.

As part of their involvement in service-learning projects, a kindergarten class created and distributed no-waste party boxes to other classrooms at their school. These party boxes, intended to replace disposable party ware, consisted of reusable plates, forks, and cloth napkins. Eighth-grade students oversaw the sorting, collection, and composting of lunch scraps from the school cafeteria.

Schools involved in the Humboldt Environmental Ambassador Program are committed to sustaining these activities into the future. HEAPP was honored with a Humboldt County Waste Reduction Award as the county's "Most Effective Public Education Program."

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Opportunities and Obstacles

  • The HEAPP team demonstrated the value of having a dedicated point person by using part of the grant dollars to hire a part-time grant coordinator. This individual strengthened the collaborative spirit and undertook critical tasks such as coordinating with the custodian's union regarding the installation of a new school garden and organizing extensive vermicomposting training for teachers. In addition to coordinating monthly team meetings for teachers at their respective schools, the coordinator published a monthly newsletter to document team progress, upcoming events, grant deadlines, and available resources. All of the team teachers were enthusiastic about his efforts and felt that he kept them on track.
  • HEAPP also drew on community resources by enlisting an Americorps volunteer to provide hands-on assistance to teachers. The Americorps staff gave classroom presentations on recycling and composting and assisted students working in the school gardens.
  • Some local administrative issues during the first year of the grant led to a change in both grant management and a majority of the participating teachers. Consequently, most of the HEAPP team was limited to less than 12 months to implement their projects and lessons. The team was able to focus and accomplish a great deal in this short implementation timeframe.

Diversion Successes

HEAPP's waste diversion-related achievements during the grant period included:

  • Setting up classroom worm bins at Freshwater Elementary and Middle School.
  • Establishing large, central worm bins at Freshwater School and Zane Middle School for composting lunch scraps.
  • Recycling fiberboard lunch trays at Eureka High School.
  • Developing infrastructure for centrally collecting food scraps at select schools in the Eureka City Schools district and transporting the material to a proposed regional composting facility.
  • Establishing a "zero waste" goal in the Special Projects Office at Eureka High School.
  • Converting Eureka City Schools' fleet vehicles to use by-pass oil filters, which extend the life of the oil, and purchasing re-refined oil versus virgin oil, saving $134 per barrel.
  • Implementing districtwide programs for double-sided copying, printer cartridge recycling, old textbook recycling, and electronics recycling for Eureka City Schools.

Lessons Created

Examples of instruction from the Freshwater School EAPP unit include:

  • Identifying the natural resources that are used to make common items;
  • Exploring the "path" of natural resources in their local waste management system;
  • Conducting a waste audit at the school and representing these data on bar graphs;
  • Observing "composting" in natural systems (through vermiculture and decomposition);
  • Establishing a classroom worm-bin; and
  • Investigating the use of vermiculture as a way of reducing their classroom waste.

Because of the varying subject-area standards that the teachers on the Zane Middle School team were responsible for addressing with their EAPP instruction, the team decided to produce two units, one that involved seventh-grade students and one that involved the eighth-grade physical science students. Examples of instruction from each of the Zane Middle School units include:

  • Seventh-grade students conducting waste audits at the school to determine the types and amount of waste generated by the school on a given day, and establishing a recycling system to help divert some of the waste;
  • Seventh-grade special education students applying their measurement skills to designing and planning the size and shape of a school garden;
  • Eighth-grade students applying their understandings of forces, work, and inertia to investigate the relationship between fuel efficiency and tire pressure on cars; and,
  • Eighth-grade students learning about energy and energy use, using math and science skills to calculate "phantom loads" at the school and in their homes.

The kindergarten teacher at Dow's Prairie School operated independently during both years of the grant. Her students:

  • Audited the waste generated in the classroom;
  • Investigated the natural resources used to make many of the items in the trash;
  • Prepared and delivered presentations to other classrooms to educate them about the importance of recycling;
  • Established a worm bin in their classroom to learn about nature's "waste managers";
  • Developed and applied their science process skills in studying the worms; and,
  • Used their English/language arts skills to communicate their learning about worms and natural resources.

The Arcata High School lessons focused on local resources, their use and their impact in the areas of water, energy, and solid waste. Students were given background information on the grant effort, and investigated the school campus and local community in regards to water and energy use, solid waste generation and management. Then students chose a topic and formed teams to conduct further investigations.


Program Contacts

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Last updated: September 24, 2013
Office of Education and the Environment
Contact: (916) 341-6769