Reaching for a greener tomorrow

Students at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and Crestview Preparatory School have been taking field trips to Catalina Island for the Catalina Environmental Leadership Program for years, but this week the program’s counselors turned the tables by visiting them during the Sustainable Living Bike Tour.

A 650-mile ride that started north of San Francisco and will culminate in Long Beach tomorrow, the 7th annual Sustainable Living Bike Tour is a chance for 14 Catalina Environmental Leadership educators to see their students in their home environments, said tour member Lissa Eidelman.

“As an organization, we feel it’s not enough to have our students visit us on Catalina for a week, we need to go into the schools and help to reach them where they live,” Eidelman said. “See where they live, see what we can build in their communities.”

Eidelman says the tour demonstrates to the students the power of cycling to help the environment.

“We’re hoping to inspire students to embrace cycling as a primary form of transportation,” she said. “We have fully embraced it ourselves, we think it is one of the most powerful ways of fighting pollution, obesity and community isolation all at the same time. We endeavor to practice what we preach when we work with the students, and cycling is just one of the ways that we do that.”

The program has several teaching areas, Eidelman said. One is growing organic food in an urban setting through aquaponics, a technology that merges hydroponics and aquaculture, using a tilapia fish tank as a growing bed for lettuce and other vegetables. The program also helps build compost bins, revitalize school gardens, teaches students how to make home goods themselves and contains a bike maintenance class.

On Tuesday, Flintridge Sacred Heart hosted the tour. Nancy Power, science teacher at the school, said her biology classes enjoy learning about permaculture and sustainable lawns and working in the school’s garden, weeding and squirrel-proofing the beds.

“We think it’s important it’s part of our mission for the school for the girls to be good stewards of the earth,” she said.

Ryan Bache, a sixth-grade teacher at Crestview Preparatory, said the school jumped at a chance to participate in a clean-up and restoration project at Hahamongna Watershed Park on Wednesday.

“We have a strong emphasis on philanthropy, and serving the community and the environment has a two-pronged effect,” said Bache.

Eidelman, now in her fourth year participating in the tour, said she is gratified to see students and schools beginning to be more environmentally aware.

“[Students’] knowledge of ecological sustainability has grown more sophisticated,” said Eidelman. “Plus, the facilities that we visit have embraced sustainable systems more wholeheartedly than they have in the past.”

Ultimately, Eidelman said, the students embrace a chance to learn about the environment outside of the classroom.

“They love to be outside and to work with their hands and to build something that leaves a legacy from their schools,” she said.

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