Thankful for Green Schools & Turning Black Friday Green!

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

Director’s Corner:

Andrea Falken
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Director Andrea Suarez Falken speaks about getting more resources into all schools at the Florida Learn Green Conference on Nov. 16 in West Palm Beach by sharing a few examples of Florida honorees.

Across the Country, States and Districts Strengthen Green Schools Tracking Programs

As U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Director, this month I had the opportunity to participate in the Florida Learn Green Conference, where I witnessed the continued work of districts to scale up the sustainability efforts at schools, and of states to support it with robust certification programs.  I learned that just recently, Florida state education, health, and environment agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding, along with non-profit Sustainable Florida to make award implementation and green schools progress in the state even more, well, sustainable!  The Connecticut Green LEAF Schools, Wisconsin Green and Healthy Schools, and California Green Ribbon Schools are other examples of states where various public and private partners have realigned a preexisting statewide certification program or developed a new one to encourage more schools to make Green Strides toward our Pillars, and stand up even more examples of innovation and resources that all schools may use.

Give Thanks

Give Thanks for Green Schools Partners This Season….

Over the last five years, we’ve seen a swell in the “Green Schools Movement,” with national non-profit entities, federal agencies, state agencies, and state green schools programs coming together to improve facilities, health, and sustainability learning in schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions.  What’s clear is that green schools don’t happen in isolation, but instead are due to great collaboration.  We want to hear about your wonderful partners – at schools, districts, state agencies, and nationally.  Share your thanks by naming the partner, project, or resource you’re thankful for, tagging us on Twitter or Facebook, and including the hashtag #Thankful4GreenSchools and a photo, if you have one.  Here, at U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, we want to give thanks to our ceremony sponsors, our state education agency selection leaders, and Green Strides Webinar presenters, without whom this initiative would not be possible.  >>>>

Opt Out Logo

….And Remember to #OptOutside After That Turkey

With major outdoor gear retailer REI announcing it would close all stores and not process online orders until after Black Friday in order to encourage customers and employees to get outside, social media has been turning Black Friday…. Green!  How will your green school community #OptOutside on Nov. 27th?  Share photos and stories of your outdoors activity with us on Facebook and Twitter! >>>>


2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Application Deadlines Near

Most participating state education authorities have winter submission deadlines for 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), with nominations due to ED by Feb. 1.  For applications, interested colleges and universities should contact their state higher education authorities, while schools and districts should contact their state education agencies.  Schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions are only eligible if nominated by state authorities.  Hearing from interested applicants may be helpful to those states considering participation.  State education authorities can find updated criteria and other state implementation guidance on our website and may contact U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for more information.


Meet More of the 2015 Honorees

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees are demonstrating innovative practices for all to follow:


Wiesbaden Middle School, Wiesbaden, Hainerberg, Germany

The Wiesbaden Middle School (WMS) community is committed to reducing carbon footprint, developing healthy habits, and building leadership skills for a better tomorrow.  The school works closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Europe (USACE), the Defense Science and Technology Center-Europe (DSTC-E), and the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA).  Together, military and civilian partners support the middle school community by helping students understand practical sustainability applications of STEM, setting education and career goals, and promoting digital learning. USACE-Environmental Branch works with seventh grade teachers and the principal on a two-year project to expand environmental initiatives at the school, developing a horticulture garden, a pollinator garden, and a fruit and vegetable garden on school grounds.  An interdisciplinary team of teachers and technical experts -- including chemists, biologists, and engineers -- guide learning in the student-created gardens.  In this outdoor classroom, students engage with hands-on environmental and sustainability concepts, explore career opportunities, and document their experiences.  To reward students who recycle, the school began the I Got Caught Recycling program. Commissary personnel serve as educators during the school’s study trips, teaching students about nutrition and good shopping habits.  The Commissary supports the school’s Fueling the Future fun-run with the Commanding General each year.  WMS has funded a bike club, an outdoor recreation club, a cooking club and a cross-country club.  WMS is working toward Green Boot certification and has a sustainability office.  It became a LEED registered facility in 2011 and is building a new LEED school for July 2018 completion. >>>>

Wiesbaden Middle School,Germany
A sixth grader tests soil at the USACE-Europe District Office during his “Career Day” as an engineer, after winning an essay contest in 2014. Three Wiesbaden Middle School students had their essays selected out of more than 400 submitted on their dream-career in a STEM field.

Middleton—Cross Plains Area Schools, Wisc.

The 10 Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) schools have received ENERGY STAR certification and have saved over $2,700,000.  The district contracted Johnson Controls for an energy audit and worked with Cenergistic on behavioral change.  MCPASD installed vending misers, efficient lighting, new windows, kitchen appliances, and occupancy sensors.  Several schools feature geothermal heating and cooling, solar thermal hot water, demonstration solar panels, prairie plots, rain gardens, forests, no-mow zones, and schoolyard habitats.  Old buses have been replaced with energy-efficient models, software for optimal routing, and no idling policies.  The district participates in Safe Routes to School and Walk and Bike to School Day.  The integrated physical education and health and wellness curriculum is designed to provide skills and resources for achieving and sustaining healthy living.  District elementary schools participate in field trips led by trained naturalists to the local Pheasant Branch Conservancy (PBC) to have lessons aligned with FOSS science units.  Biology students collect data and do service at the PBC.  Vegetables from school gardens are used in the annual fall organic dinner and in a Community Supported Agriculture program.  Civil engineering, AP Environmental Science, and architecture students study LEED principles.  U.S. government students write a law changing fossil fuel use to alternative energy.  In Investigating Environmental Health, students work to solve a local environmental health problem.  Field Biology students worked with local Department of Natural Resources on a buck mortality study.

Students and staff plant trees on Arbor Day at West Middleton Elementary School in Verona, WI .

Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY

Western Kentucky University (WKU) created an Office of Sustainability and hired a Sustainability Coordinator in 2008.  The office, housed in a 1930s residence, is a sustainable demonstration home and the first net-zero office on campus.  Since 2009 WKU has reduced energy use by 25 percent.  Operational efforts, combined with a successful energy savings performance contract with Johnson Controls, Inc., have yielded $9,700,000 in facility improvements.  Savings from these improvements eliminated utility budget increases for seven consecutive years, and are reinvested in new conservation efforts.  WKU has been an Arbor Foundation Tree Campus USA since 2010 and became a certified arboretum in 2014.  The university committed to build to LEED standards, and now has three Silver LEED-certified buildings, two more buildings pending certification, and at least seven LEED professionals on staff.  WKU has been included in the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges every year since 2009, and earned AASHE’s Silver STARS ranking in 2014.  The campus was named an American League of Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly University, a National Safety Council Safe Community, and a National Weather Service Certified Storm Ready Campus.  WKU offers over a dozen degrees focused on the environment or sustainability, from bachelor of science in geography and environmental studies, to a master’s degree that integrates social justice, community studies, and environmental sustainability. 

Western Kentucky Univ.
MBA students at Western Kentucky University take a field trip to study stream ecology and water quality in a Sustainability Metrics for Business Leaders class.

Resources and Opportunities

Scholastic logo

Resource Spotlight:  Scholastic Announces Materials to Accompany Every Kid in the Park

New Scholastic Every Kid in the Park materials are designed for both teachers and parents in mind.  They aim to help educate students on the benefits, purpose, and value of federal lands and waters with materials that connect with topic areas in English, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science.  >>>>

Green Strides Design

The Green Strides Webinar Series Continues This Winter

The Green Strides Webinar Series promotes sessions offered by federal agencies and nonprofit organizations that provide free tools to reduce schools' environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental education. Check out the webinar calendar and submit suggestions of free webinars related to school, district, and postsecondary sustainability to for promotion.

Dec. 2, 2015, 1:00-2:00 pm    Tips and Strategies for Yearlong Recess (HSC)

Dec. 2, 2015, 2:00-3:00 pm    Portfolio Manager 201 en español (EPA)

Dec. 3, 2015, 6:00-7:00 pm    Elementary STEM:  Exploring Snow and Ice (NASA)

Dec. 9, 2015, 1:00-2:30 pm    IAQ Guidelines for School Building Upgrades (EPA)

Dec. 10, 2015, 1:00-2:00 pm  Quantifying Your Waste Reduction Efforts (AASHE)

Dec. 10, 2015, 6:00-7:00 pm  Off the Earth for the Earth:  One Year Crew (NASA)

Dec. 15, 2015, 1:00-2:00 pm  Portfolio Manager 101 (EPA)

Dec. 15, 2015, 6:00-7:00 pm  The History of Winter:  Ice Core Samples (NASA)

Dec. 16, 2015, 1:00-2:00 pm  Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

Dec. 17, 2015, 1:00-2:00 pm  Portfolio Manager 301 (EPA)

Dec. 17, 2015, 4:00-5:00 pm  Scratch-Cooking Production Environment (The Lunch Box)

Dec. 17, 2015, 6:00-7:00 pm  Off the Earth for the Earth:  Mass vs. Weight (NASA)

Dec. 21, 2015, 4:00-5:00 pm  Rockets 2 Racecars Train Like an Astronaut (NASA)

media smart youth

NIH Offers Free Program Resources to Help Kids Make Healthy Choices

Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active! is a free program that helps young people better understand the complex media world and how it can influence their health. Developed by the National Institutes of Health, the Media-Smart Youth materials encourage kids to eat healthy, be active, and think critically about marketing messages.  >>>>

ED educ logo

Apply by Dec. 14 to Become A Teacher or Principal Ambassador Fellow at ED

Want to bring your green schools experience to bear on national education policy?  The U.S. Department of Education's 2016 Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellowship are paid and available on a full and part-time basis. Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows are outstanding educators, with a record of leadership in their professional communities, strong communication skills, and insights on education policy based in their school and classroom expertise.  >>>>


Next Generation of Conservationists Youth Employment Grant Due December 15

The Developing the Next Generation of Conservationists program brings together public and private partners to support those organizations that are developing innovative conservation job opportunities for youth on public lands. These job opportunities, in turn, expose young people, particularly urban, tribal and minority youth, to the natural world and career opportunities available in conservation.  >>>>

NEEF logo

Every Day Event Grants Due by Dec. 15

Our nation’s public lands are places where we picnic, play ball, fish, fly kites, pull weeds, and plant seeds. With generous support from Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., NEEF offers Every Day Event Grants to public land organizations, or Friends Groups, to engage their community on a public land site.  NEEF awards up to $2,000 each to hold a minimum of three events that are educational, recreational and/or volunteer-based. >>>>

Nature's Voices Project

Nature’s Voices Wants to Tell Students’ Green Schools Story: Submit by Dec. 20

Natures Voices is seeking personal and inspiring stories about students’ green schools experiences. Share your journey to becoming a green schools youth leader and win a trip to the Green Schools National Conference March 31-April 2nd in Pittsburgh, PA with paid travel and hotel.  >>>>

Captain Planet logo

Captain Planet Foundation Small Grants Applications Due by Jan. 31

The Captain Planet Foundation is accepting the next round of applications for small grants totaling $500-$2500. Grant activities must be project-based, performed by youth, and have real environmental outcomes. >>>>


Five Star and Urban Waters Project Proposals Due by Feb. 3

Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration projects seek to address water quality issues, focusing on the stewardship and restoration of coastal, wetland and riparian ecosystems across the country. Funding priorities for this program include meaningful education and training activities, such as outreach or integration of K-12 education; partnerships; and efforts that advance the work of any of 19 designated Urban Waters Federal Partnership sites. >>>>

BioEngery logo

Register for Department of Energy’s BioenergizeME Challenge by Feb. 4

In the 2016 BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge, high school-aged teams use technology to research, interpret, apply, and design an infographic that responds to one of four cross-curricular bioenergy topics.  Register by February 4 to test your knowledge and creativity along with student teams across the country.  Submissions are due March 4, 2016. Selected infographics will be featured on the challenge website, and one team will be selected to present at the Bioenergy Technologies Office's conference in Washington, D.C.  >>>>

World of 7 Billion

Enter the World of 7 Billion Student Video Contest by Feb. 25

Create a short video about human population growth that highlights one of the following global challenges: Deforestation, Public Health, or Water Scarcity.  All videos must include how population growth impacts the issue and at least one idea for a sustainable solution. >>>>


Submit to the Young Reporters for the Environment Competition by March 16

This environmental journalism competition invites youth between the ages of 13-21 to report on topics related to the environment.  Participants submit an article, photo, or video to the competition for a chance to win prizes, plus national and international recognition.  >>>>



Green Schools Conf & Expo

The 6th Annual Green Schools Conference & Expo is March 31-April 1 in Pittsburgh

The Green Schools Conference & Expo brings together educators, school administrators, business and community leaders, nonprofit partners, green building professionals, students, parents, and many others. Make note of the sixth annual conference and expo scheduled for March 31-April 1.  Early registration ends Jan. 29th. >>>>

Children & Nature

The Children and Nature Conference is May 25-27 in Saint Paul, Minn.

The Children and Nature Network 2016 Summit and Conference will take place May 25-27 in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  The conference provides opportunities to engage with leaders from a wide-range of sectors and peers to learn about cutting edge initiatives, share lessons learned, activate collaboration, spark new connections, and chart a path for expanding and growing the movement.  Early registration ends Nov. 30.  >>>>

National Farm to Cafeteria

The National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is June 2-4 in Madison, Wisc.

Save the date for the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, a biennial event hosted by the National Farm to School Network that convenes more than 1,500 diverse stakeholders who are working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America.  The farm to cafeteria movement is at the forefront of the fight to end obesity and strengthen local food systems. The 2016 conference theme “Moving Forward Together” lifts up new and innovative partnerships to continue to build momentum and ensure long-term sustainability in the movement. Registration will open Feb. 15. >>>>


Connect with Green Strides

Green Strides: Resources for School Facilities, Health, and Environment
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools
Facebook: @EDGreenRibbonSchools
Twitter: @EDGreenRibbon
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