The eyes of the Earth-friendly will be on Redmond High School (RHS) now more than ever, after RHS environmental science teacher Mike Town received the NEA Foundation’s very first Green Prize in Public Education Monday morning in the RHS Performing Arts Center.
Town was unanimously chosen out of 38 nominees because of his successful Cool School Challenge program. Since 2007, this program has inspired and enabled students, teachers and school districts to reduce more than 1.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions at over 150 schools, here in Redmond and all across America.
Whether it’s powering down computers when not in use, taking time to sort recyclables in the school cafeteria or carpooling instead of driving alone, responsible habits — when practiced by students and teachers — create a powerful wave of change for the good of the environment.
“Big changes do start with small steps,” stated Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of The NEA Foundation, who presented the Green Prize award and a $25,000 check to Town.
In addition, Sanford pointed out, the RHS environmental science students who’ve been role models in the Cool School Challenge have tied in state standards of science, math and social studies learning, to make the program much more than just a campus clean-up crusade.
At the Green Prize award presentation, a guest speaker was Phillippe Cousteau, grandson of the famous underwater explorer and ecologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Phillippe is also a spokesperson for Discovery Education, correspondent for Animal Planet and Planet Green and CEO of EarthEcho International.
Phillippe said he grew up with awareness of conservation but never saw such commitment to protecting the environment on his own high school campus.
And although he has traveled to the Arctic, Africa, Tasmania and other exotic locations, “my favorite work is what I’m doing right now,” he told students in attendance at the presentation.
“Your generation is more engaged, more dynamic, more driven than any other,” Phillippe explained.
He added that Town “doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk,” when teaching students how to develop behaviors that have real impact on the environment.
For instance, Mike and his wife Meg Town, who teaches science at Redmond Junior High, live in a solar-powered home and grow much of their own food.
While accepting his award, Mike shared his accolades with many others, including Meg and his alma mater, Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment. He also thanked former Redmond mayor Rosemarie Ives, who made sure that the Cool School Challenge was highlighted at a nationwide mayors’ conference about sustainability.
Next year, both Mike and Meg will move to Washington, D.C. where Mike has received an Einstein Fellowship from the Department of Energy.
“I will be working for the National Science Foundation,” he noted. “Both Meg and I will return to the Lake Washington School District the following year.”
Asked what special plans he might have for the $25,000 from the NEA Foundation, he said he’ll upgrade his home’s solar system, give some money to charity and use the rest to offset costs in D.C.
To view the NEA Foundation’s video about Mike Town and the Cool School Challenge, visit https://www.neafoundation.org/pages/educators/awards/green-prize-in-public-education/