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Lab equipment upgrades made possible by 2013 DRI Nevada Medalist donation

Students at Earl Wooster High School are starting the year off with new science lab equipment thanks to support from the Desert Research Institute’s GreenPower K-12 Outreach Program and a donation from the Institute’s 2013 DRI Nevada Medalist, Dr. Nina Federoff.

Fayth Ross of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute (DRI) was honored last week with a Golden Pinecone Environmental Award for her work in the institute’s GreenPower Program, a partnership between DRI and NV Energy to help Nevada’s K-12 students “grow up green.”

For 25 years environmental stewardship in the Truckee Meadows region has been celebrated by the Golden Pinecone Awards, presented by GreenUp! Every year awards are presented to outstanding organizations and individuals for their achievements toward improving and sustaining the environment.Golden Pine Cone Award

Ross, who was selected in the Educational Programming category, has been “instrumental in promoting environmental education throughout the state,” said Greg Bortolin, Director of Government Affairs and Communications for DRI.

“Fayth’s work has dramatically helped increased the GreenPower school enrollment from 17 schools in 2008 to 136 schools currently,” added Amelia Gulling, DRI’s GreenPower Program Administrator. “Her early discussions with K-12 educators made clear the need for more green information and curriculum beyond renewable energy.”

Formed in 2000, the GreenPower program’s initial focus was on hardware: specifically, installing solar panels and wind turbines at schools.  This approach proved exceptionally costly, and the educational message was often lost, noted Bortolin. In 2008, Ross was brought on board and she quickly shifted the program’s focus from hardware to educating the educator and added sustainability and conservation to the overall GreenPower messaging.

To date, GreenPower has trained over 800 teachers in 10 Nevada counties. Ross works directly with faculty, having recently conducted the 5th Annual GreenPower Teacher Training in March of this year.

Ross was also a founding member of the GREENevada Coalition (Growing Resources for Environmental Education in Nevada), which consists of nine non-profit, like-minded organizations. She co-authored a proposal for the 2010 Pepsi Refresh Challenge, winning a top prize of $50,000 to support the organization’s efforts.

Ross’s additional successes include revitalizing DRI’s “Science Boxes” program for providing ready-to-deliver science instruction. In 2010, Ross obtained a significant grant from the Keyser Foundation and paired new concepts with Science Box ideas, all with a strong focus on sustainability. Renamed “Green Boxes,” these educational tools promote environmental, sustainability, and climate education with curriculum, hands-on activities, and projects.