Comprehensive Program of Study for Sustainability
Tempe Union High School district employees brainstrom during a group project presented to them during a workshop develpoing a Comprehensive Program of Study for Sustainability at Rio Salado College Wednesday. June, 15, 2011 Darryl Webb/AFN Darryl Webb/AFN

Employees at the Tempe Union High School District are pursuing a more environmentally-friendly approach to education.

Administration officials want district buildings to operate cleaner and more efficiently and, in addition, they are trying to integrate environmental conservatism and sustainability into classroom instruction.

To aid them in their cause, TUHSD hosted a sustainability workshop at Rio Salado College this week. The workshop was made possible by a $25,000 grant from Intel.

Starting June 13, members of corporations with local ties, including Chevron, Cox Communications and Xerox made presentations and spoke with TUHSD employees about ideas for successfully integrating sustainability into the district.

"It has really sparked my interest and environmental sustainability is an idea that would keep me involved, which would keep the kids successful," said Tony Ramseyer, a math teacher at Mountain Pointe High School in Ahwatukee.

It was a collaborative effort that also involved Rio Salado, which was named America's Greenest Campus, and Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability program.

"The younger we are able to engage kids in sustainability, the better," said Shannon Corona, faculty chair of physical science at Rio Salado.

The goal is not just to integrate aspects of sustainability into math and science, but also social studies, culinary arts, government and more, said Derek Hoffland, director of curriculum instruction and assessment for TUHSD.

"When we developed the sustainability project last fall, a big part of that was how do we get students and teachers involved," he said. "That involvement will be in a natural way by using data related to sustainability in relevant subjects."

Financially, Hoffland said that by saving money using more efficient things like light bulbs, it will put money back into the classroom.

The corporations agreed that a collaborative effort like this is beneficial to all parties involved.

"This isn't a competition, this is about doing what is right for the environment," said Jonathon Schwartz, manager of asset optimization for Cox Communications. "This effort gives us the chance to truly educate each other on the opportunities that are out there."

Students from ASU have worked with Tempe High School for the past year. Under the Global Institute of Sustainability program, graduate students visit local schools and assist teachers and staff members with projects and developing resources.

"We send our graduate students into the community to introduce new ideas to teachers regarding sustainability that can be worked into classroom instruction," Lynette Pollari, program coordinator, said.

For TUHSD, the workshop was a continuation of its goal for a greener district. In 2010, the district developed a sustainability project that involved a partnership with Chevron. They had an energy audit conducted on district buildings and are expecting the results to come in by next week.

Forty-seven district teachers participated in the workshop. Under the direction and guidance of corporation spokespeople, the group of teachers developed projects that could possibly be used in the classroom next year.

It isn't a change that will happen overnight but TUHSD employees are definitely headed in the right direction.

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