Next crop of environmentalists grow at Prieto Academy

March 11, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The Northwest Side school is in its first year, but organizers say the student body is the next generation of environmentalists. At Prieto, 2231 N. Central Avenue, every student has a job- to protect the planet. Even at lunchtime there's a drill- drink, drain, recycle. Milk cartons have no place in the trash. And leftover lunches go to good use, too. Sixth grader Jonathan Aguilar is on the composting team. He makes sure uneaten produce doesn't go to waste.

"Instead of throwing away fruits and vegetables, you can use it to make like fertilizer for the soil and we can use it for our school for the garden club," Aguilar said.

The focus on protecting the environment is integrated throughout the building and into the curriculum.

"We were very strategic and selective when we opened the school so each grade level is charged with a year-long inquiry project around the science curriculum," Principal Mariel Laureano said.

The third graders use teamwork to recycle paper throughout the building. The lessons come as they create bar graphs to measure progress.

"We make a graph that each telemark , or line, equals one cubic yard and so far our highest has been twelve," Andy Garcia, third-grader, said.

A permanent science exhibit teaches students about the power it takes to create electricity and the importance of conserving it.

"These bikes are a way to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. It's just a normal bike and as you pedal it spins the generator," Tony Torres, eighth-grader, said.

The bikes are connected to a special battery that can power a small appliance or be stored for later use. The school's principal says she hopes environmental lessons will inspire the next generation of scientists.

"We serve a high Latino population and just research and statistics show that they don't necessarily go on to higher education in the sciences and the math so really being able to create that base for them so that they decide to continue in the math and the sciences," Principal Laureano said.

The Prieto Math and Science Academy also has a green roof and solar panels.

Dr. Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy
2231 N. Central Avenue

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