In November of 2015, Mater Dei Catholic High School in Chula Vista completed a REV Sustainability Circle. Dedicated to sustainability and environmental stewardship, the faculty, staff and students continually find opportunities to make a difference. In this REV guest blog, Laura Bookser, Community Outreach/Marketing head at Mater Dei, shares the creative ways that students are inspiring others and making an impact.


Ten years ago, when Mater Dei Catholic High School’s Chula Vista campus was being built, the original design did not include solar PV. While, thankfully, this is going to be changed in the very near future, the current model gave our Academy of Science students an opportunity to study the real cost our school incurs in using traditional power to operate such a large campus.

Academy of Science students at Mater Dei are 10th through 12th graders who have earned a spot in the science program by excelling in their classes, specifically math and science courses. These students are expected to go above and beyond in their scientific research and in the presentation of their findings. The goal is to have students focus on science that can make a real, and sometimes immediate impact on their environment. There is a particular emphasis on sustainability practices.

Ci8dbT3UYAEccFD.jpg_largeOur MDCHS SAVE team (Student Association Valuing Energy) did not disappoint in any of these areas when they decided to do an energy audit of the school. They, with guidance from science teacher Juan Pablo Gonzalez, analyzed the school’s HVAC diagrams to estimate the cost of running AC in the classrooms, and they did a device-by-device audit to determine the energy use and cost of every classroom at Mater Dei. Students used a Power Monitor (a monitor that shows real-time data on energy usage) to ensure accurate results.

The SAVE students also created a campaign strategy to reduce the school’s energy usage, which involved the student body and the faculty. Their “Save Campaign, Student Pledge” was a project where they challenged other students to pledge to reduce school outlet usage for personal devices, to save energy during peak hours. They presented their findings to the school staff and faculty, with a call for action.

What’s more, in May 2016, our SAVE students competed against more than 20 regional schools and won Best Overall Campaign in the San Diego School Energy Conservation Competition.

Earth Bench before This project went hand-in-hand with another endeavor from Science Academy students. The “Earth Bench” is a student-made seating area, made entirely of recycled or earth-friendly materials. The inside construction was built with plastic Gatorade bottles filled with unrecyclable trash, known as bottle bricks. You can see the bottles through a “Truth Window” in the back of the bench that allows people to see the materials used to create the bench.   This type of sustainable engineering of using bottle bricks is now done in many countries throughout the world. In fact, it makes the bench structure more earthquake proof than a simple bench made of concrete.

Earth Benches

The students also had good guidance on the project with the help of mentor, James Harper, an engineer who works with the organization Engineers without Borders. Mr. Harper made sure sustainable engineering practices were used during the entire undertaking. The bench will ultimately power student laptops through solar power.

Projects like these show that our students have the desire to reduce waste and live more sustainably, which is an objective of Mater Dei’s Science Academy teaching. Through them we can see that if young people are given the tools, they step up to make change!