“By taking care of the environment, the environment takes care of us.” “Sustainability is maintaining communities even during environmental and economic changes.” “Sustainability is what holds our small town together.”
These were just some of the sentiments expressed by Greenville Junior/Senior High School students during the final Sustainability Institute presentations last Thursday, May 18. Groups of students presented their understanding of sustainability to their peers and a panel of judges, wrapping up a series of school-wide learning activities focused on exploring the topic.
Back in January, students began a journey that took them on walking tours of downtown Greenville, to local ranches in Indian Valley, and to their own school site to build simple machines and find hidden energy in everyday materials, all to explore ways of maintaining a balance between communities, economies, and the environment in our corner of the world.
Students were posed with the question: “What does it take to make a community sustainable, and how does the individual contribute?”, which guided these activities and their final projects.
During a session where local business owners told students how and why they maintain their operations in Indian Valley, one of the first questions was: “How do you give back to the community?” Answers ranged from providing donations and sponsorships, to a local writer sharing Indian Valley stories with the world, to shops supporting others with the traffic they bring into town or through shared advertising. These ideas were echoed in students’ designs of making Indian Valley more sustainable, which were presented last Thursday.
Ideas varied widely across groups, but the common thread was using existing assets found in the Valley to help increase one or more aspects of our community, environment, and economy. Students restored a vacant building into a multi-use business for people to stay, eat, and purchase local goods and art. Others developed a spa using our local hot springs to entice people to stay around and enjoy our amazing landscapes, complete with a brochure advertising the new business. Still others promoted new ways of reducing waste by increasing recycling with our schools and local youth.
One group’s thoughts perhaps summed it up best. “People are the backbone of sustainability.” The staff who hosted this event agree, and hope that the students who participated will be the individual vertebrates that make the backbone of Indian Valley stronger for many years to come.
Greenville High School staff and Sierra Institute’s Travis Rubke and Courtney Gomola worked with a series of dedicated and passionate community members to develop and implement this programming. Communal meals for all students were made possible by Plumas Unified School District and Cherrywood Grill. Local organizations also pitched in to help financially support food and supplies for these activities, including: Bread for the Journey, Evergreen Market, the Rotary Club, GJSHS Booster’s Club, Indian Valley Thrift Store, and an anonymous donor. Plumas National Forest Fire Settlement Dollars also helped support development of this programming. Math and Garden teacher Dan Brown dedicated countless early morning hours to ensure all Institutes were implemented smoothly and thoughtfully.