Special Report: Living Green Part I

A greener El Paso starting in the classroom

El Paso - It's no longer just a trend, but rather a way of life.

“I want to help the environment by reducing and recycling other things to help around the world,” said 4th grader at Chester E Jordan, Gizelle Kurtz.

Students at Chester E Jordan Elementary, don't attend class at an ordinary school, they go to an eco-friendly campus.

“This was one of the first original concepts schools, which means it was the first attempt to build an actual green building,” said Curriculum Coach Mary Salas.

Kurtz is part of a group of students who give tours around campus showcasing the many unique aspects of the building that make it good for the environment.

“You know how most schools have tiles,” said Kurtz point to the floor. “Well we don't, because of the fumes inside of it, so when it was built they put just cement.”

It doesn't stop there. The use of lights is limited, because at Chester E Jordan, they rely on the sun to illuminate the school. Also, their ceiling is unique, they have pipes in the main corridor for one special reason.   

“It helps with allergies, whenever you are sick or you're allergic to something you come out here and it circulates [the air] around,” said Kurtz

Aside from the structure of the building, the students are hands on when it comes to creating a green learning environment.

“We recycle paper, plastic, bottles…” said Kurtz who is part of what is known as the green team.

“The green team is comprised of students from our school who come together and take a leadership role,” said Salas.

Salas said it's the team's job to teach not only other students—but the community as well.

“They are living a green life, and we as adults are having to learn how to live this green life,” she said.

On top of everything that Chester E Jordan already does, to keep green, they also have their own garden.

From making their own compost, to growing their own veggies, this concept has spread to other campuses across El Paso. 

Across town, Harmony School of Innovation is another school taking measures toward a greener environment.

 “We are teaching the students that we can recycle things from the community and then make art out of them,” said Dawn Brooks, teacher at HSI.

With the help of stores including Walmart, Sams, and Home Depot, students were given the opportunity to build a green house.

“We have recycled tires, that we potted, everything we do we try to recycle and continue to grow from it, the herbs the tomatoes the cucumbers,” said Brooks.

But the idea came from one student in particular, an aspiring architect.

“It was a good opportunity to learn how to be an architect,” said sophomore student Santiago Lara.

The green house has a deeper meaning for Lara, he sees it as an opportunity to grow a green mentality for future generations.

It helps them kind of get an idea so that in the future they will do a little plant thing to show their kids,” he said.

It’s not just about growing a green environment, it's about leading a green life.

“As we know energy resource a big issue right now around the world,” said HSI Assistant Principal Kathia West. “And one of the things we want to do is start preparing our students for that.

Harmony is the first school in El Paso to build a solar powered car, a project completed by the robotics team.

“We also have our solar car competition that is nationwide, and our students compete in that every year,” said West.

But for harmony it's more than just green cars and curriculum.

“We want our students to understand that this is a way of life for our future roots and it's better for the world" she said.

That is why they start at a young age, check out Zoe Brooks, a fourth grader at HIS, the engineer behind a balloon powered car.

“It's made out of recyclables," said the fourth grader.

Whether it's building a school from eco-friendly materials, or reusing everyday objects to create something new, the goal is the same.

“To make the world become a better place,” said Kurtz. 

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