Fryberger Elementary in Westminster earns top environmental honor

After installing energy-efficient HVAC systems, school-wide LED lighting and a solar array that produces 90 percent of its energy needs, Fryberger Elementary School in Westminster created a STEM program to teach students how these upgrades can help combat climate change.

In recognition of its sweeping efforts to couple sustainability with environmental literacy, Fryberger was announced last week as one of five schools in California to receive U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition after being designated a “Green Achievers” by State Superintendent Tony Thurmond.

Students holding sign that reads, "Help the new generation"The other winners are May Ranch and Theodore Roosevelt elementary schools in Riverside County, Los Altos High School in Santa Clara County and The Nueva School in San Mateo County.

Fryberger’s mission is to create environmentally responsible students across the curriculum. Through thematic, project-based learning that’s tied to the state’s Next Generation Science Standards, students engage in real-world ecological activities, from organic farming in the school’s garden to combatting microplastics in the ocean, according to a state news release.

The school maintains an 80 percent waste-diversion rate, with students cleaning and sorting biodegradable food containers and maintaining a school compost bin with red worms to break down food waste.

Fryberger also practices weekly mindfulness activities that teach students about the components of their brain, how to express their emotions, and how to set goals and be persistent.

“I congratulate the selected schools, districts and postsecondary institutions, which are, through their sustainability practices, offering healthy, safe, efficient school environments and protecting our planet,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said about the newly minted ED-GRS schools.

“Not surprisingly, many of our honorees support students in underserved communities, proving once again that green schools’ practices, encompassing best practices school operations, health and environmental learning, are critical tools to advance equity,” Cardona said.

Fryberger and the four other ED-GRS campuses were also among 21 schools — and a pair of school districts — to earn 2021 California Green Ribbon Schools awards.

Katella High School in the Anaheim Union High School District was the only other school in Orange County to be singled out this year through the state’s Green Ribbon School program, which annually recognizes schools and districts that effectively merge environmental sustainability with academics, particularly STEM.

Here’s the full list of this year’s award winners:

Public Schools

  • Fryberger Elementary School, Westminster, Orange County (Green Achiever)
  • Los Altos High School, Mountain View-Los Altos Union High, Santa Clara County (Green Achiever)
  • May Ranch Elementary School, Val Verde Unified, Riverside County (Green Achiever)
  • Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School, Desert Sands Unified, Riverside County (Green Achiever)
  • Georgia Morris Elementary, Rialto Unified, San Bernardino County (Gold)
  • Milor Continuation High, Rialto Unified, San Bernardino County (Gold)
  • Rialto Middle, Rialto Unified, San Bernardino County (Gold)
  • William G. Jehue Middle, Rialto Unified, San Bernardino County (Gold)
  • Captain Leland Norton Elementary, San Bernardino City Unified, San Bernardino County (Silver)
  • Jefferson Elementary, Carlsbad Unified, San Diego County (Silver)
  • Katella High, Anaheim Union High, Orange County (Silver)
  • Kelley Elementary, Rialto Unified, San Bernardino County (Silver)
  • Nancy R. Kordyak Elementary, Rialto Unified, San Bernardino County (Silver)
  • South Hillsborough, Hillsborough City Elementary, San Mateo County (Silver)
  • Trapp Elementary, Rialto Unified, San Bernardino County (Silver)
  • Bella Mente Montessori Academy, Vista Unified, San Diego County (Bronze)
  • Eisenhower Senior High, Rialto Unified, San Bernardino County (Bronze)
  • Harbor High, Santa Cruz City High, Santa Cruz County (Bronze)

School Districts

  • San Rafael City High, Marin County (Silver)
  • Ravenswood City Elementary, San Mateo County (Bronze)

Private Schools

  • The Nueva School, San Mateo County (Green Achiever)
  • Bellarmine College Preparatory, Santa Clara County (Gold)
  • Cate School, Santa Barbara County (Gold)

And here’s a little more about Fryberger Elementary, which focuses on environmental science through project-based learning.