Topa Topa

“The New Dream Team is the Green Team”

Students across Ojai Unified School District (OUSD) campuses are becoming stewards of the environment by actively participating in various sustainable programs


Topa Topa 4th graders Jayden Seiler, Jesse Kirkland and Baeya Joran check one of the campus “Clear Streams” for cans and bottles.

“Going Green” is not just a catchphrase but a way of life for teachers and students across Ojai Unified School District (OUSD) campuses.  In fact, Topa Topa Elementary School’s “Green Team” is just one of many examples of how OUSD students are implementing the 3 Rs - “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse” - every day at school.

The “Green Team” at Topa Topa is the name for the group of 4th graders who are responsible for collecting recycled materials from classrooms and placing the items into “Clear Stream” recycling bins on campus.  The contents of those bins then go to nearby recycling centers, where the material is repurposed for new uses.  The importance of this work is not lost on Susan Dvortcsak’s 4th grade class.

“If we don’t recycle, our world will be full of trash,” said Talen Wingate.

“Each P.E., two groups of (students) take the recycling to recycling bins,” said Rylan Wynn.  Our class is dedicated to this.”

“I love to recycle,” said Daisy Martina. “I love putting items like cartons and plastic in the Clear Streams”.

The genesis of the “Green Team” recycling program came courtesy of Food for Thought Ojai (FFT), a nonprofit established to improve nutritional status and food awareness of children with Ojai Unified School District in 2002.  In 2007, FTT received a grant called "Up and Down the Waste Stream" to assist with greening efforts and policies at the district level and to fund teachers with recycling projects and waste audits at school sites.  As part of this initiative, Dvortcsak established a “Green Team” at Topa Topa, and also assisted with the development of curriculum and training other teachers in sustainable policies throughout the district.

“A teacher at each school site has worked with Lori Hamor and FFT for over ten years to manage recycling at every school,” said Dvortcsak.  “And our program has evolved to the point where we even use recyclable materials in the classroom.  For example, my students create their California Regions Map posters made up of recyclable materials from school and from home.”

OUSD’s partnership with FFT has lead to other Green and Healthy school projects over the past decade including assisting OUSD Nutrition Services to purchase compostable compartment trays rather than styrofoam.  FFT has also donated educational materials, Clearstream Recycling frames and incorporated worm bins into our school garden programs to promote composting.

And OUSD’s commitment to protecting the environment includes Meiners Oaks earning a “Green Ribbon School” award from the U.S. Department of Education, a recognition awarded to schools that reduce environmental impact and costs, improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.

These efforts have clearly made an impact on OUSD students and their outlook on how this generation can help protect the environment for generations to come.  “We need to recycle, reduce, and reuse to save the earth,” said Bailey Smith.