School earns highest honor in program

by: REVIEW PHOTO: DREW DAKESSIAN - An Oak Creek student and parent volunteer explain the school's Adopt a Worm Bin program and show what a worm bin is.Oak Creek Elementary students, parents and Principal Karen Lachman were presented a Premiere Green Schools award at a school board meeting Oct. 8.

Oregon Green Schools is a nonprofit organization formed in 1997 that helps Oregon schools set up and maintain waste reduction and resource efficiency programs that improve school environments and recognizes schools for their waste reduction efforts.

Oak Creek joins neighbor school Hallinan and 17 other schools in the state that have earned a Premier school designation, the highest honor in the Green Schools program. Lake Oswego Junior High received a certificate of merit, the second highest.

According to the Clackamas County website, “In general, an Oregon Green School is a school that has educated and involved its staff and students in a successful waste reduction and resource conservation program.”

Premier schools provide other schools assistance with sustainability efforts, maintain waste reduction activities and efforts and complete a community project.

Like many schools, Oak Creek implemented worm bins, which use red wiggler worms to process food waste into fertilizer.

Oak Creek’s community project, known as “Adopt a worm bin,” took it a step further. The school gave the worm bins temporary homes with various families to keep the worms alive during summer vacation and viable for the school year.

“When a school does have an active composting program using worms, what to do with the bins during the summer becomes an issue,” said Laurel Bates, Oregon Green Schools regional coordinator for Clackamas County.

“We go into the lower grades and introduce new projects and do recycling every week,” said Rose Freeman, whose fifth-grade class gave a presentation — complete with worm bin — to the school board at its Oct. 8.

“They have really dedicated students in recycling. ... They’ve been able to accomplish some very terrific things,” Bates said. “Not only do they do a lot within their school, they help other schools too — River Grove and Forest Hills. They go out into the community with their adopt-a-worm bin program and teach families about composting.”

“What really makes them exemplary is having such a dedicated team, from the administration to the teachers to the parents,” Bates added. “Hallinan also has an extremely strong team of, again, parents, teachers and principals.”

“We are committed to conserving energy and recycling, and are very proud to receive this award,” Freeman said.

“This award culminates four years of projects focusing on reducing energy costs and encouraging sustainable practices at Oak Creek,” said Lachman. “We are looking forward to working with Clackamas County and Metro this fall as we begin to implement our next big project: food composting.”

The Clackamas County Recycling Partnership, a cooperative of local franchised garbage and recycling companies, the Clackamas County Office of Sustainability and the cities of Barlow, Canby, Estacada, Gladstone, Happy Valley, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Molalla, Oregon City, Sandy, West Linn and Wilsonville administer the Oregon Green Schools program in Clackamas County.

All schools in the Lake Oswego School District have been certified Green Schools, which Bates said was a huge accomplishment in and of itself. Clackamas County now leads the state with 50 schools that are certified as Oregon Green Schools.

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