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Back to School
Fall Newsletter

Welcome to the autumn season and the start of a new school year! We hope your summer was rejuvenating and spent enjoying nature with your family and friends!

We are here to help you come back to school with "greener than ever" waste reduction practices in your classroom and on your campus. In this newsletter, you will find a rich variety of resources and opportunities for your students to embark on in this new school year. We have also highlighted extraordinary educators who share the peaks and valleys of teaching the 4R's (reduce, reuse, recycle, rot - compost) in their classroom. We hope you find their motivations for teaching these topics to students as inspiring as we do! 

We hope you enjoy this autumn newsletter! We’re looking forward to connecting with you about ways to increase environmental education literacy and sustainability practices in your classroom. Have a great start of the school year!

All our best,
the Office of Sustainability Schools Team

From left to right:
Gerald Schwartz, Collette Sanchez, Kamille Lang and Esme Cabrera
OOS Schools Program
FREE Resources for the Fall

For school administrators and custodial staff, we offer a variety of services and resources to improve campus-wide waste reduction programs, such as signage, waste assessments, and technical advice. 

For teachers and students, we offer zero waste and  4R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot-compost) lessons and activities that inspire young people to take action to conserve resources and protect our environment. 

Below is a list of our free educational offerings:

  • Assistance with developing a unit plan of study in resource conservation, the 4R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot-Compost), and zero waste
  • 5E's resource conservation and waste reduction lesson plans with step by step instructions and student activity sheets aligned to Next Generation Science Standards
  • Student-facing activities with accompanying video clips such as making a tote bag from old T-shirts  
  • Virtual K-12th grade interactive classroom presentations on the 4R's such as worm composting, waste reduction, and plastic pollution prevention  
  • Online interactive and take-home 4R's Unit Games 
  • Assistance with becoming a certified Green Star School classroom based on the actions that students can take at home. 
If you are interested in any of the above free resources and services, please contact us at, subject line: Schools Program or visit our website.
4R's Unite Games Available - 
Virtual, Asynchronous or In-Person


Over the past year and a half due to the pandemic, as educators, we all understand how quickly we need to adapt our teaching methods to various learning environments. Therefore, our Office of Sustainability Schools team is here to help. We are offering in-person programming in outdoor settings as well as virtual lessons that can be facilitated synchronously by our team or asynchronously by the teacher. 

To learn more, check out the variations of our 4R’s Unit Games. We are excited to offer them in multiple learning models. 

The 4R’s Games are built to make learning about the waste we create fun and engaging for students. There are currently three games to choose from that highlight different aspects of waste systems.

4R’s Board Game (All grade bands)
This game is based on your typical childhood board games with a waste reduction and resource conservation spin. 
Where Does It Come From and Go? (Third Grade and up) 
This graphic organizer board game is used to demonstrate what natural resource various items come from and to show us what happens to them after we place them in the correct bins.
The Pathway of Stuff (Fifth grade and up) 
This is an exploratory board game that demonstrates the lifecycle of stuff. 
If you would like to book an in person or virtual lesson with the Office of Sustainability Schools Program, please email; subject line: Schools Program to be connected to our resources.
Other OOS Resources for
Teachers and Youth
Youth Exploring Sea Level Rise Science (YESS) Program

The YESS program provides high school students with the opportunity to learn about the local impacts of climate change through a mixture of classroom presentations, interactive activities, and field trips. The YESS Program has shifted over the past year from field trips to offer remote learning offerings. YESS now includes a comprehensive remote learning option for teachers who are interested in continuing to bring this curriculum to their classroom in a virtual setting. 

Youth Climate Ambassadors Program

Applications for the 2022 Youth Climate Ambassador (YCA) cohort will open Friday, September 24th, the Global Day of Climate Action.

The YCA program is a year-long, youth leadership program that provides students with the opportunity to dive into social and environmental issues contributing to the global climate crisis. Through the program, students will build their knowledge of climate change, explore various climate solutions, and design, and implement, an impact project to create positive, environmental change within their school or local community. Example impact projects developed by students in the 2021 cohort include: building a native plant garden, installing rain barrels, hosting virtual Coastal Clean-Up Day events, advocating for renewable energy usage, setting up tri bin waste systems, and more!

Learn more about the program here and please share with your students so they are ready to apply on September 24!

Question? Please email Kamille Lang at
Free Stuff for Schools

The Office of Sustainability’s Surplus Property Program aims to find ways to beneficially reuse surplus equipment from County of San Mateo departments such as furniture, office supplies, and much more. Retired property is posted online for auction on GovDeals. Unlike the general public, school administrators and teachers can request items FREE OF CHARGE. This can be done before the auction of an item ends by following these easy steps:

Step One: Visit to see the listings of all available surplus property. Register for a bidder account if you have not done so already.
Step Two: Email with a link to the requested item. State the school or school district that you are from, and your GovDeals username.
Step Three: We will pull the item from auction, and provide pickup instructions. You are responsible for the removal, packing, loading, and transportation of the item.

Need an item but don’t see it on GovDeals, then email us at with your requested items and quantity. We will contact you if the requested items become available.

Bringing Zero Waste to Students "Teacher Quotes"
We asked San Mateo County educators who have worked with the Schools Program Team "What excites you the most about teaching the 4R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot-Compost)?" We hope you find their responses inspiring and motivating as you continue to educate local students on global environmental issues and local waste reduction solutions. 
What excites you the most about teaching the 4R's?
Joseph Centoni, Half Moon Bay High School: "Teaching about the 4R's is a great way to engage students with the direct connections they have with the environment around them.  Students develop an understanding of the ways in which our society can conserve resources and mitigate the negative impacts we have on the environment (such as plastic pollution and climate change).  Teaching the 4 R's is a tangible topic for students because it involves the waste we all produce on a daily basis.  It also has connections to complex social and ecological systems that we can explore in depth."

Sonia Myers, Cunha Intermediate School: "There are two things that excite me: composting and refusing plastics. Students learning about how to make healthy soil and diverting organic matter from our local landfill has an immense impact on greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere, and it is fun to get outside. Refusing plastics is another part that excites me because it gets more students curious about the ocean, and how they can be a part of keeping it healthy and clean."

Sally James, South Hillsborough Elementary School: "For the children I'm teaching now, I believe climate change will be the issue of their lifetime. It will affect so many aspects of their lives. The smallest, and easiest to tackle, is altering daily habits so that less waste is produced and the waste that is produced can be re-used. Taking some aspect makes all of us feel less powerless, and hopefully, these lessons will be the springboard for future action when these children are adults. If they are an employee, maybe they will ask their employer to re-think their waste policies. If they run a corporation, maybe they will institute new policies regarding waste or product creation that are friendlier to the environment. I am excited by the possibility--the faint hope--that this generation will be a better steward of the Earth because they were given knowledge at a younger age."

Thank you to our educators for sharing their thoughts on this question and the importance to continue our individual passion towards waste reduction education as a collaborative team in San Mateo County!
About the OOS Schools Program
The Office of Sustainability Schools Program provides a diverse array of Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core aligned curricula tailored to the teachers' , schools', and districts' goals, aimed at students taking action to reduce waste, conserve resources,
and protect the environment.
To read more about what we do, visit the OOS Schools Program web page

To learn more about the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability, visit the Office of Sustainability website
For questions and comments,
Please contact:
Subject line: Schools Program
Copyright © 2021 County of San Mateo Office of Sustainability, All rights reserved.

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