Education Students Win National Competition For Sustainability Design
Author: Erin Malecha Arias, Office of University Communications, 503-725-3773
Posted: July 11, 2006
Two students in the Graduate School of Education were recently selected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of six groups in the nation to continue with their sustainability work in education. The $75,000 award was announced at the national “P3 Competition” held in Washington, D.C., May 9-10, 2006.

PSU graduate students, Kristen Lans and Michelle Guthrie and their faculty adviser, professor of Education Pramod Parajuli, developed and designed a “Whole Systems Integrated Sustainable Design for Education” (WISE OWL) interactive Web site for use by fourth through eighth grade educators and students in Portland Public Schools (visit

Guided by a “WISE” owl, students learn whole systems principles in 32 aspects of a school’s ecosystem in six dimensions of sustainable design: energy sources, garden and food systems, built elements, restoring native habitat, resource-saving technology and animals. In each aspect, students investigate and identify natural resources at their schools, return to the Web site to create site-specific maps such as downspout locations, or use a chart to analyze the appropriate technologies for their resources such as native plant bioswales.  

“We wanted to create a project that addressed the broad range of sustainable ‘technologies’ that we often get to witness first-hand here in Portland, while providing a user-friendly educational tool,” said Kristen Lans, a Leadership in Ecology, Culture and Learning (LECL) program Master’s student. “Ultimately, the WISE website, an owl-centric, hands-on, sustainable design oriented Web site for fourth through eighth graders, was born.”

“What is fascinating about this children- and youth-friendly, flexible, fun, yet thought-provoking and challenging Web-based tool is the perfect timing and its universal applicability. The Web site has emerged when schools in Portland and elsewhere are widening their imagination in how to make themselves sustainable, both in physical facility as well as in curricular content,” says Pramod Parajuli, co-founder and executive director of the LECL program.

“While there are many Web sites that focus on sustainability education and students, there is no interactive site that employs Web-based technology with actual sustainable school site design like the WISE site,” says Michelle Guthrie who has a background in landscape design.

As one of the six groups selected, the PSU team received a $75,000 award to pursue phase two of the project, which includes giving mini grants to a dozen schools in Oregon to implement this Web site, further enhance the Web site and disseminate its use locally, regionally and globally through partnerships in Nepal and Ecuador).

In addition to PSU’s WISE OWL project, the five other schools receiving awards are Appalachian State University, University of Michigan, Lafayette College, University of Massachusetts - Lowell, and Stanford University. These six schools received awards out of 41 competitors representing more than 350 university students and advisers. The WISEOWL project also received the only award from the Youth Council on Sustainable Science and Technology (YCOSST) of the Institute of Sustainability. This award comes with $1,000 and recognizes the positive impact of the WISE Web site on children and youth.

About the P3 Award
A partnership between the public and private sectors, the P3 Award was launched by the EPA in 2004 to inspire university students to innovate designs that will help achieve the mutual goals of economic prosperity while providing a higher quality of life and protecting the planet.  The P3 Competition consists of two phases. In Phase I, student teams compete for P3 grants and the winning recipients are awarded $10,000 to research and develop their projects during the academic year. Phase II happens in the following spring when all P3 grantees are invited to Washington, D.C. to compete for the P3 Awards.

LECL Master’s Degree Program at PSU
The PSU Graduate School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy, Foundations, and Administrative Studies offers Master of Education degrees with a specialization in Educational Leadership. Within this area of specialization, a student can choose the Leadership in Ecology, Culture, and Learning (LECL) program. A unique experiment in interdisciplinary graduate program at PSU, the LECL program is designed to prepare future generation of educators and leaders who are engaged in making this world livable, ecologically sustainable, socially just, and bio-culturally diverse. Within a short period of four years, the program has attracted about 85 students with creativity and caliber as shown by Kristen Lans and Michelle Guthrie (visit

# # #

Pramod Parajuli (503-725-9406),
PSU Graduate School of Education

For Immediate Release (#06-092)