Environmental classes at Diamond Bar work on major projects

This year, the four Advanced Placement Environmental Science classes at Diamond Bar High School will be xeriscaping, building solar carports, holding a T-shirt
recycling drive, and reducing paper usage, as part of projects APES classes
plan each year.

The project, which is part of each student’s grade, is planned and completed
by classes themselves. Every class elects a president who then assigns various
other positions and leaders.

Xeriscaping is the focus of David Hong’s third period class.
Nicknamed Xeri, the project promotes replacing non-native plants, such as grass
and turf, with indigenous species native to our area. The class will be
attempting to convert grassy areas on the DBHS campus to areas with succulents
and other more drought-resistant plants.

The inspiration for the project came from a brief mention of it in the APES
textbook. The Metropolitan Water District is also giving a rebate on removing
grass to promote water conservation, so it was the most financially realistic
idea for the class.

“[Other ideas] just seemed like they would be way too expensive or
impractical, and this definitely seemed like one of the most practical ones,
while also covering the issue of water conversation, which is so important,
especially because we’re in a drought,” said senior Ruben Reyes Jr., the project’s

The project team has spoken with Principal Catherine Real and is waiting to
hear back from the school district to see whether the project is approved. Xeri
also has a website, on which the class plans to release educational materials.
For example, the team might upload a storybook which can be brought to
elementary schools in an effort to educate the youth on water conservation.
Reyes hopes to have some of the project’s xeriscaping done on campus by May,
when he and other students of the class graduate.

Meanwhile, Greg Valor’s period four
APES class plans on implementing stations in DBHS’ parking lot to provide
shade, generate electricity, and “mitigate the effects of the urban heating
iron.” The problem the class found with the school was that there was little to
no shade in the parking lot and that most of the sun’s energy was being
absorbed into the concrete or into the cars, thus wasting heat and energy.

“The inspiration for the project came from just looking out into our school
parking lot and noticing a problem with a very viable solution. Our idea was
just to harness that energy and turn it into usable electricity,” Senior Campaign President Saakib Akbany said via Facebook.

While this project would involve a tremendous effort, it would require
an even bigger budget. As a result, Akbany puts fundraising as the class’ top
priority. Akbany contacted U.S. Representative Ed Royce, whom he met in a
congressional trip in Washington, D.C., and said that he would be more
than happy to help the project with grants.

Plastic conservation is Valor’s first period’s concentration. The class
plans to hold a T-shirt drive in which participants donate old shirts that
would be recycled into plastic grocery bags.

“We are still in the beginning stages of the project, but we are mapping out
everything that we need to do, and we will kick off as soon as we find an exact
date for our T-shirt drive,” Junior President April Song said via Facebook.

In the future, Song hopes to have a lasting impact on the environment,
possibly by holding annual T-shirt recycling events. In addition, the class
plans on donating the reusable bags to local supermarkets in the process.

Theresa Hebert’s second period class is also focusing on the idea of
recycling and conservation, but with paper instead of cloth. The project,
titled ‘Leaf the Paper Behind,’ looks to reduce paper usage on campus and raise
awareness of the amount of paper that is used on campus.

“We are working on many things, but the main focus is on our social media outlets,
scheduling meetings with school administrators to pitch our ideas, and think of
ideas about fundraising,” Senior President Daniel Shin said via Facebook.

The purpose of the project is to raise student awareness of environmental
issues, get students interested in environmental sciences, and implement a
solution for issues that will last. Valor, who teaches two of the four classes,
has even received emails from previous APES students in appreciation for the
project. Some past students have even changed their major to Environmental
Sciences because of their experience from these projects.

“My whole goal, is to get them environmentally aware,” said Valor. “It’s all run by the
students; they do everything. It’s neat to see them take charge and go for it.”

—-Bernard Chen