Community Partners Instill Eco Learning at McLain

Tulsa Master Recyclers Association

FAMILY AFFAIR: Martha Campbell shows off her grandchildren Camille and Brenden who received a tour of McLain’s new solar powered greenhouse system, thanks to partnerships with ION Solar, Tulsa Southside Rotary and Sustainable Tulsa.

BETH TURNER for GTR Newspapers

After hearing a few Tulsans, “talking trash,” about McLain Magnet Junior Senior High School, I looked in to some of the goings on at this struggling school. What I found was some incredible eco happenings, and the need to help turn this trash talk into treasured understanding of how many are working towards teaching kids life learning, sustainable living and career skill sets.

The Tulsa community continues to rally around McLain and its students, thanks in part to Career Tech teacher Martha Campbell and the many partnerships she fosters. She began in 2009-10 with OK Green Schools’ training, which shows a teacher or adult how to lead students through money-saving eco audits, such as energy usage, water waste or recycling needs.

Campbell combined that knowledge and seed money with a partnership with Tulsa humanitarian, the late Stephen Eberle. According to a 2011 Indian Health Care Resource Center newsletter, “A man with vision and a keen sense of justice, Steve married his Food for Life project at IHCRC with the McLain High School Initiative, bringing the school’s forgotten greenhouse out of mothballs and establishing a student Greenhouse Council.”

With the freshly updated greenhouse came new partnerships with Tulsa Southside Rotary, Sustainable Tulsa and Solar. These three partners helped install a solar array that powers lights, air conditioning and fans for the greenhouse area, with plans to continue developing this system and its curriculum.

Campbell then obtained $50,000 through the Carl Perkins grant, allowing her to purchase training kits in alternative energy such as solar and wind. “The hardest thing about learning this stuff is the language,” says Campbell. “These trainers take the fear out of it for the kids – they see they can plug in a solar powered system and read the results, understand electrical current and how alternative energy can work for them. Then, they can walk outside to the greenhouse and see firsthand one of the applications of the process they just learned. Mind you, I can’t make them into engineers right out of high school. But I can give them the knowledge they need to get a job that starts them on a career path that is growing and growing fast.”

Talk about taking trash to treasure. Hats off to the innovation, partnership and community caring that can be seen in one little sustainable corner of the McLain campus.

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Follow me and/or tell me what you think on Twitter @TrashTalkTulsa.

Updated 04-23-2012

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