Sustainability Program Teaches Students to Care For, and About, Their Environment

A typical “Project Day” at Besant Hill School of Happy Valley (BHS), a 9-12 boarding school in Ojai, CA, asks students, faculty, and staff members to take on activities that have been waiting for the right time, the right spirit, and the power of collaboration. Experiential opportunities might include tree planting, landscaping, sifting or building compost for the gardens, or getting tomato plants in for fall harvest. Everyone’s in it together, and their work helps cultivate an “ethic of care” — a sense of reciprocal relationship, stewardship, and responsibility for the environment they all share.

Project Days are one feature of the school’s Sustainability Program. Others include a student-driven food service initiative that incorporates a weekly meat-free day into the BHS dining service program. Students now appreciate the real connection between the food they eat, their personal health, and the health of our environment. Sustainable agriculture is fostered through on-campus garden spaces. The annual Green Cup Challenge, an adventure in competitive sustainability, has made everyone more mindful of the way electricity is used at the school. Students have also joined local and national sustainability efforts, attending the annual Bioneers Conference in Marin County, CA, and the Student Climate and Conservation Congress in West Virginia.

The result: nearly every BHS alumnus can point to an area of the school, or a tree bearing fruit and shade, and recall that he or she had a hand in its creation.

Does your school do something similar?

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