Letter to the Editor
March 17, 2017
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A Lesson in Water from my Alma Mater
If you asked me if I cared about the environment at the beginning of 2015, I would have given you a half-hearted shrug. I liked getting together a group of friends for a beach clean-up every now and then and I loved occasionally hiking up the scenic path to Inspiration Point— but— that was the extent of my involvement in my community’s nature scene. To be honest, I felt very detached from the entire notion of saving the planet. It felt intangible. I mean, we lived in sunny Santa Barbara, where the beaches were great and the sunsets were even better. From where I was standing, it didn’t look like our planet needed to be saved.
During my time at Dos Pueblos High School, I became involved in what was initially a project that aimed to make the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy more aesthetically appealing to students and faculty using the facilities, as well as potential donors who were touring the building. We took the grounds that surrounded the academy, which was rampant with overgrown weeds and severely compacted soil, and transformed it into the largest student-led conservation effort of its kind in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Over the course one full school year, we aimed to cultivate an atmosphere that was conducive to learning— an “outdoor classroom,” if you will. During the first meetings in which we consolidated our proposal for the project, our team realized that we needed to be conscious of the drought California was suffering in. According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, California entered the fourth year of a record-breaking drought in January 2015, effectively declaring a drought State of Emergency. We made it our main goal to put an emphasis on maintaining drought-resistant flora and drought-friendly practices.
The drought had significantly impacted our plans for this project, and we put great consideration into every landscaping decision because of it. As a result, we planted upwards of 800 agapanthus flowers, 22 dwarf citrus trees of the orange/lemon/lime variety, dymondia silver carpet, and installed a drip-line irrigation system. The plants we chose were all water-wise and drought-tolerant. We also have put in a drip system to irrigate the gardens around the whole building, that would water our plants in the most water-efficient way.
My experience working with the DPEA Landscaping Project has made me a proponent for embedding more environmental education curriculum into our school system. I would like to see schools make an effort to offer more service learning opportunities with a focus on sustainability to their students. I can confidently say that I have become a more eco-conscious individual because of the countless hours of research put into bringing this project into fruition. Further, I have grown to appreciate nature and what goes into keeping our world green from all the days spent toiling over the grounds. We garnered the support and volunteerism from not only the DPEA, but Santa Barbara at large. Seeing so many members of our community come together for this cause truly moved me.
According to Project Learning Tree, a leading figure in environmental education advocacy, implementing conservation curriculum can do everything from saving the school money because students investigate and take action to improve the environmental performance of their school grounds to cultivating leadership and critical thinking skills in young adults.
High schools across the nation have benefited from partnering up with groups like Water.Org, the Sierra Club, and the Environmental Literacy Council. These associations provide the means and resources that allow proactive students to organize school-wide projects that engage and mobilize their communities. It is my firm belief that DPHS should take the necessary steps to make the campus more eco-and-drought-friendly. It has transformed me from a relatively apathetic student into an impassioned one. I believe that it can do the same for so many more.
If you ask me if I care about the environment today, I would give you a genuine smile and an enthusiastic nod. I now understand the gravity of sustainability efforts. They ensure that our beaches stay blue and our sunsets beautiful. I have the utmost respect for conservation advocates because their example had empowered and informed an impassioned team of students to tackle an environmental project that truly made a difference in the Dos Pueblos community.
Jenny Jang is a DPHS alum and the former leader of the Art Business Team for the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy. She is currently a political science student at University of California, Berkeley.