St. James Academy named U.S. Green Ribbon School

St. James Academy in Solana Beach was recently honored by the U.S. Department of Education as a Green Ribbon School.

The school takes a holistic, hands-on and spiritual approach to environmental and sustainability education and is the first Catholic school in Southern California to receive the distinction as well as the only private school in California to receive the honor this year.

In 2016, St. James received a gift of $20,000 from Feed the Future to rebuild and enhance its organic edible garden and with another $20,000 in donations they were able to fence off an area of the school in 2018 to create additional green schoolyard space and an outdoor classroom. The outdoor classroom features cement benches in a row in front of a monarch mural painted by a school grandparent—the mural incorporates a blackboard wall for teaching.

In the edible garden, students plant seasonal vegetables and herbs and care for two citrus trees. After the harvest students have made soups, salads, smoothies and lemonade .

With help from University of California Master Gardener and St. James parent Linda Haley, they now have a Kumeyaay Native American teaching garden, a pollinator garden and monarch garden that is in process to become a certified Monarch Waystation, providing plenty of milkweed, the only flower that Monarchs lay their eggs on.

Students played a role in building handicap-accessible pathways through the garden and seventh graders proudly built a biofiltration swale—the rain garden holds in moisture and rocks clean the water before it flows into the storm drain.

The pollinator garden blooms with the lavender flowers of Bee’s Bliss, a favorite of bees and hummingbirds, and purple butterfly bush. Kids enjoy finding the baby caterpillars in nature and putting them in the student-built butterfly house to give a safe spot to cocoon.

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