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With help of dedicated parent, butterfly garden blossoms in Huntington Beach

Daya Oyarzabal and her son, Salvador, work on plans to build a raised bed butterfly garden at Kinetic Academy.
Daya Oyarzabal and her son, Salvador, 7, a second-grader, measure out a width of 5 feet as they work on plans to build his school’s raised bed butterfly garden at Kinetic Academy in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Huntington Beach resident Daya Oyarzabal is all about saving energy, but that isn’t so obvious by watching her actions.

Oyarzabal expends plenty of energy on causes she believes in. She is passionate about ecology and has started a Green Team at Kinetic Academy in Huntington Beach, a public charter school attended by her second-grade son, Salvador.

Over the course of the summer, Oyarzabal has raised more than $1,000 to help launch the Green Team and build a raised bed butterfly garden at her son’s school. She also plans to install a compost bin and put recycling bins on campus.

“We do project-based learning here at this school,” she said. “When he was in kindergarten, the butterflies and their metamorphosis, that’s something that they studied. I thought it would be perfect for them to have hands-on research that they can see here being done.”

Oyarzabal raised the money through her involvement in OhmConnect, a referral program where customers earn money by saving energy. They reduce their energy use during predetermined energy-saving times called “OhmHours,” which gives the participant credits called Watts.

Oyarzabal has been saving her Watts and also has earned cash through referrals at her link, ohm.co/dayavitrano. She said several of her co-workers at the Huntington Harbour Trader Joe’s have signed up for the program.

Claire Anderson, left, with Waves of Kindness, points out a space that Daya Oyarzabal and her son Salvador can use.
Claire Anderson, left, with Waves of Kindness, points out a space that Daya Oyarzabal, and her son, Salvador, can use to build a raised bed butterfly garden at Kinetic Academy in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

She has also been inspired by the work of her daughter, Lily, an incoming senior at Huntington Beach High School who will be president of the Oilers’ own Green Team this year.

It certainly runs in the family.

“We will play card games like Uno, or use flashlights and candles during the OhmHour,” Oyarzabal said, though she added with a laugh that her husband, Salvador, is more likely to order a pizza and take their son to the park. “My son thinks it’s so much fun. He loves using the flashlight, he loves lighting the candles, blowing them out when we’re done.”

The money earned has been significant to starting the butterfly garden, and Oyarzabal said she has been in contact with an Orange County master gardener for tips.

Last week, she met at Kinetic Academy with Claire Anderson, the leader of the school’s community service program Waves of Kindness.

Anderson said each student is required to do at least 10 hours of community service per school year.

“The cool thing about the Green Team that Daya has started is that the kids can get their community service hours by helping build and plant the butterfly garden,” Anderson said. “They can also do some of the other Green Team things that we’re going to do, like recycling, beach cleanups and things like that.

“Honestly, it’s all been driven by her. I’m just here to open the gate. She’s done a ton of research and work, and it’s been really, really cool to watch her passion for it come together.”

Daya Oyarzabal and her son, Salvador, take measurements as they plan to build his school's garden.
Daya Oyarzabal and her son, Salvador, take measurements as they work on plans to build his school’s raised bed butterfly garden on Wednesday at Kinetic Academy in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Kinetic Academy executive director Breanne Lionetti said the school, which opened in 2016, formerly had a Green Team, but that changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit. The teacher who was leading the program also left.

“It completely went away with COVID, like all of our extracurricular activities,” Lionetti said. “When [Oyarzabal] reached out with this idea, we like to involve our parents in ways that they’re excited about and want to help. If this takes something off a teacher’s plate and a parent wants to take it on, then absolutely, great.”

Oyarzabal said in addition to the butterfly garden, compost bin and recycling bins, she is planning for the Green Team to have cleanup days once a month.

She said the butterfly garden should be in full bloom by next spring.

“I feel really good about the fact that I’m helping other people become aware of using energy, just kind of spreading that environmental awareness,” she said. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to simultaneously raise money and help the environment … We’ll have the kids hands on from the very beginning, and it will be something that I know they’re going to be really proud to have established.”

The new school year starts Sept. 7 at the Kinetic Academy. There is a “Meet The Teacher” night next week, which should help Oyarzabal get the word out about the new Green Team.

“I’d like to see what the kids would like to do,” she said. “I’m sure they’ll have a lot of good ideas.”

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