Altamont Creek Elementary has been recognized by the California Department of Education as a Green Ribbon Gold Award School for environmental excellence.

The Livermore elementary was one of 25 schools honored last week by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Last year, Altamont Creek also became the first in the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District to receive a Green Ribbon School Silver Award in the state’s Green Ribbon Schools awards program.

Science teacher Fenna Gatty said the school had its sights set on achieving the Gold Award this entire year. She said Altamont Creek stepped up efforts to stop waste “by coordinating donations that allowed for surplus food to be given to those in need in our community,” as well as continuing efforts “to divert tons of materials from the landfill.”

Since 2012, the state has recognized schools and school districts for reducing their environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of their schools, students and staff; and for providing effective environmental education through the incorporation of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), civic skills, and green career pathways – considered the three pillars of a Green Ribbon School.

At Altamont Creek, Getty said, students, parents, and staff have a desire to keep the school environment clean, efficient, healthy, and safe by minimizing waste at all levels and leaving a smaller footprint on the planet.

Starting in transitional kindergarten, teachers use songs, games, and puppets to teach their youngest learners how to sort trash and be “Eco Warriors,” Getty said. Older students learn about recycling and conservation, impacts on weather and environmental change, renewable energy, plant and animal ecosystems, and decomposition.

“Our students serve as inspiration and learn firsthand what being an environmental steward truly means,” Gatty said.

Outside the classroom, students can be part of Altamont Creek’s Green Team which monitors recycling systems and educates others on what items should be recycled, composted, or sent to a landfill. Third, fourth and fifth-graders can also be on the Green Council Leadership Team, a student think tank for exploring solutions to environmental issues affecting the community.