PVF Grantee and 3rd Grade Classroom Win Environmental Awards
By Savannah Lira, Program and Communications Associate
A Berkeley elementary school teacher is one of just 11 educators who’ve won a prestigious Environmental Protection Agency award this summer. Oxford Elementary School’s Jacqueline Omania — widely celebrated for her zero-waste classroom and eco club — snagged the EPA award, which honors “innovative educators who bring environmental education into their classrooms through hands-on, experiential approaches.”
The classroom also got a surprise visit from the director of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, Minda Berbeco, and Berkeley City Councilwoman Sophie Hahn, who is chair of the chapter’s Northern Alameda County Group. Jacquline’s third grade classroom and lunchtime club have garnered attention recently for virtually eliminating their use of disposable products and advocating for sustainability policies throughout the city and district. They have taken a “zero-waste” pledge and the students were able to reduce the waste they generated during the school year to one quart-sized jar. These efforts saved nearly two dumpsters’ worth of landfill waste and more than 4,000 disposable plastic utensils. Students also conducted waste audits to identify which activities in the classroom create the most waste and worked to find alternatives. They have virtually eliminated their use of disposable products, opting instead for metal cutlery, tubs of glue instead of plastic glue sticks, and cloth towels instead of napkins.
The local group nominated Jacqueline Omania’s Oxford class and her “Heirs to Our Oceans” environmental club for the Sierra Club’s Emerging Voices Youth Award, and the whole Bay Area chapter selected the kids as the winners. The class was involved in helping the City of Berkeley pass its Disposable-Free Dining Ordinance by collecting signatures and speaking at various venues about the problems of plastic pollution and their vision of a zero-waste city.
They will be honored at an awards dinner in San Francisco.
Jacquline Omania has been a recipient of both PVF’s Environmental Science and Excursion Grants Programs, funded by the Lampert Byrd Foundation and the Geballe Family, respectively.
Over the past several years, Jacquline has applied for funds to show students their environmental footprints first-hand. Last year, she took her classroom on a trip to the local waste transfer station to see what happens to waste after it is collected. The experience contributed to the young students becoming more aware of the effect of their material choices.
In addition, PVF is proud to have been able to support the recognition of Jacquline’s achievements. An additional grant was awarded to support the travel, lodging and workshop expenses for Jacqueline to attend EPA’s Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators ceremony in Washington, DC.
We look forward to seeing her classroom’s future projects!