California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Environmental Ambassadors

Oak Grove Union School District

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Grantee Information

Oak Grove Union School District is a two-school district located in Sonoma County. Both schools actively participated in the Environmental Ambassador Pilot Program. The district was selected as an Environmental Ambassador because of its long-term efforts in recycling, composting, gardening, and energy and water conservation, all areas in which the students are actively involved. The district also serves as a demonstration site for numerous schools regarding the mechanical aspects of recycling and diversion.

The district's superintendent, elementary school principal, and teachers expressed strong interest in more effectively integrating all aspects of the Environmental Ambassador Pilot Program into their classroom instructional practices. The middle school principal and teachers quickly added strength to the team with their commitment to serve as Ambassadors and have continued to excel in their efforts by establishing a partnership with both the sixth graders at Oak Grove Union School District and students in Japan pursuing the same types of studies. Community groups, parents, and some local agencies are currently providing support to the program.

Education programs implemented with grant funds included:

  • Creating standards-based unit plans for use in pilot schools.
  • Developing and implementing service-learning projects regarding storm water management and water conservation on school campuses.
  • Developing student-initiated service-learning projects that focus on waste diversion, energy conservation, restoration and protection of a local creek, and used oil management.
  • Participating in an information exchange/correspondence program with elementary students in Japan that center on storm water management, water conservation, and creek restoration.

School representatives have expressed a strong interest in mentoring others regarding the integrated education program once it is fully developed and functioning well in their schools. Both schools are part of a district with a commitment to resource conservation, evidenced by their solar panel-supported portable classrooms, xeriscaped entranceways, and involvement in zero water runoff projects.

Opportunities and Obstacles

  • Realizing the need to collect recycled-content product information for grant tracking purposes, Oak Grove's district secretary created an electronic purchase order form that features a column for the percentage of recycled-content in items being ordered. This purchase order form will continue to be used by the district in hopes of encouraging district staff to look for recycled-content product options.
  • Students from the fifth and sixth grades, accompanied by their teachers, presented information on stormwater management and creek restoration projects at the 2005 National Service Learning Conference in Long Beach. Afterward, the students and their teachers traveled to Japan to make a similar presentation at a conference there, facilitated through a partnership with their "sister school" in Hamamatsu, Yoshin Elementary.

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Diversion Successes

  • Increasing recycling of organic waste by chipping green waste, food waste, and biodegradable serviceware for on-site composting; mulching for landscape efforts at school sites; composting food waste at both schools with help from parent volunteers (compost program is part of opportunities for student learning); and creating vegetable gardens at schools for use in their lunch programs (also serves as a foundation for K-2 curriculum units).
  • Switching to single-stream recycling at both schools.
  • Developing a video of diversion-related activities and projects.

Lessons Created

  • Conducting litter pick-ups around campus (kindergarten).
  • Monitoring and assisting with the schools' waste-diversion systems, including recycling and composting, at Oak Grove Elementary (third grade).
  • Designing preventative measures to avert school stormwater runoff from negatively impacting the local community (fifth grade).
  • Participating in the Santa Rosa Creek restoration projects (sixth grade).


Program Contacts

Environmental Ambassadors Home

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