Season’s Greenings from U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

Director’s Corner:


New School Facilities and Sustainability Research, Trainings, and Articles 

This month, I had the opportunity to visit with the National Council on School Facilities, state agency top facilities officials who work together to advance policy, planning, and practice for K-12 school facilities.  Among other initiatives, they offer training videos on K–12 facilities planning for local school boards, district administrators, and communities.  Another school facilities partner, the Educational Facilities Clearinghouse, underscored the power of outdoor learning and facilities impact on teacher retention.  Also this month, in the Journal of Sustainability Education, a new article by Sterrett and Imig offers examples from a range of ED-GRS honorees as well as tips regarding school sustainability. >>>>

ED GRS Director's Award

The 2015 ED-Green Ribbon Schools Director’s Award: Nominations Due March 1st

The Director’s Award recognizes state education authorities’ exemplary efforts to administer U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS).  Annually, the Director’s Award goes to the state education official who does the most to advance sustainable education in their state, by such means as running a robust nomination process; connecting more schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions to sustainability resources; amplifying the stories of their applicants and honorees; helping schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions connect and learn from one another; partnering with a variety of state and non- and for-profit private sector entities; and exhibiting a dedication to exceptional school facilities, health, and environmental education through activities outside of the award. If you wish to nominate a state education official, please send your nomination and justification to by March 1st.  Any state education official who is involved in implementing the ED-GRS award and who has not already won the Director’s Award is eligible for nomination.  Read about the work of past Director’s Award recipients. >>>>


Last Chance to Enter U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools 2016

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.  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 for 2016-2017.  State education authorities can find criteria and other state implementation guidance on our website and may contact U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for more information.


In the News


The ESEA Reauthorizes with Support for Environmental Education

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the federal government’s most significant education legislation, providing some $40 billion a year to support K-12 education in the United States, includes language supporting student learning about the environment, conservation, and field studies as part of a well-rounded education. >>>>


Outdoor Industry Associations Launch Fundraising Platform for Outdoor School Projects

The Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Foundation have launched a fundraising mechanism to help schools implement their outdoors projects, including plans to take fourth grade classes to federal lands and waters as part of the Every Kid in the Park initiative. The campaign’s online platform will connect funders from the outdoor industry with specific park experience projects.  Schools and non-profits can complete a brief project registration including photographs, experience descriptions, locations, number of youth, and goal.  The first 100 schools that sign up will receive $100. >>>>


Centers for Disease Control Releases 2014 School Health Profiles

The CDC School Health Profiles is a system of surveys assessing school health policies and practices in states, large urban school districts, and territories. Surveys are conducted biennially by education and health agencies among middle and high school principals and lead health education teachers.  The report includes results from surveys conducted in: 48 states, 19 large urban school districts, and 2 territories.  It includes a fact sheet highlighting key 2014 results and a presentation that presents state results, by quartiles, on a U.S. map; information on how to obtain Profiles datasets; and technical documentation for data analysis. >>>>


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 others to follow:

Bluff Park Elementary School, Hoover, Ala.

Thanks to an outdoor classroom built in 2009, learning experiences start at Bluff Park with bug catchers, nature walks, tree identification, vegetable gardens, Backyard Bird Count, nestbox data, and weather monitoring, and extend beyond school grounds through field trips to Baker’s Farm, Birmingham-Southern’s Environmental Center, Aldridge Gardens, DeSoto Caverns, Vulcan Materials, and Dauphin Island.  Alabama Wildlife Resources and the Junior Master Gardener Literature in the Garden series provide concepts that can be adjusted to specific understandings and grade levels.  All grades use the outdoor classroom for planting vegetables and collecting data on birds, trees, plants, and insects of all types for individual research or online Citizen Science projects such as eBird, Project Noah, or iNaturalist.  Bluff Park hosts an Outdoor Classroom Social where students demonstrate fitness activities, offer tours, and local individuals and businesses educate families on beekeeping, raising chickens, gardening, hydroponics, cheese making, and other sustainable projects.  Students worked with Alabama Power and Hoover HVAC after completing a Cool Schools Challenge energy audit.  Bluff Park was the first school in Alabama to receive the USDA HeathierUS School Challenge Award and all students receive 30 minutes of daily physical education.  >>>>

Bluff Park
Bluff Park Elementary School’s Junior Master Gardeners work with seedlings for their vegetable and butterfly gardens.

Los Cerritos Elementary School, Long Beach, Calif.

Los Cerritos Elementary School’s Urban Farmyard is a place of environmental stewardship and learning for every student.  It has received numerous awards and grants totaling over $40,000, is a designated Wildlife Habitat and a Monarch Butterfly Waystation.  In addition to fruits and vegetables, it features a seasonal flower garden with a Peace Pole and solar-powered irrigation.  Along with a composting area, chicken coop, small fruit orchard, and red tool barn, the school brings lessons alive by incorporating outdoor classroom seating on its grounds.  The outdoor spaces are used for buddy reading, observation, lessons, games, movie nights, sleepovers, graduation, and potluck dinners.  Classes take walking field trips to the Dominguez Gap Wetlands and use California state environmental education standards.  The school offers Cool the Earth and Roots and Shoots program participation; a sustainability afterschool club; a comprehensive recycling program; and an active Green Team.  Reusable plates, silverware, and cups all are a part of the school’s cooking lessons, teacher potlucks, and student lunches, especially on Trashless Tuesdays.  The Green Team leads in recycling lunchtime food waste and Terracycle Brigades.  It also offers valet parking to promote safe drop-offs and reduce vehicle idling, the walking school bus, Walk-to-School Wednesdays and Bike-Friendly Fridays, and a page on the Los Cerritos website devoted to healthy lifestyle choices and tips.  >>>>

Los Cerritos Elem
Los Cerritos Elementary School’s 4th Grade students tend to their garden plot and track leaf growth.

Kirk Middle School, Newark, Del.

Kirk Middle School students have built a Monarch Butterfly Waystation, attended field trips enhancing environmental literacy, participated in a tri-state contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Zoo, and conducted energy, waste, and air quality audits at their school.  The school participates in an energy demand reduction program and renovated restrooms, installing waterless urinals, metered flush valves, metered faucets, and hand dryers.  Kirk conducted a survey about IAQ, with measuring parameters including temperature, humidity, air movement, ventilation, filtration, bioaerosols, and pressurization.  The agriscience program offers instruction on environmental, plant, and animal sciences.  Students monitor the box turtles in the courtyard, daily weather conditions, and the development of embryonic chickens, using date to track changes, make predictions and modify variables.  The school’s 8,000 square-foot courtyard is the perfect outdoor space for learning.  Teaching students about composting, raising and harvesting food plants, reducing erosion and pollution, and fostering habitat for wildlife are integral components of the program.  The space includes a pond area and duck enclosure, poultry enclosure, wildfowl enclosure, rain garden, compost areas, raised gardens, in-ground gardens, greenhouse, herb garden, bird and butterfly garden, and mini-orchard.  >>>>

Kirk Middle School
Students from Kirk Middle School visit Delaware Technical Community College to devise solar-powered cars.

Paul W. Crowley East Bay Met School, Newport, R.I.

The Paul W. Crowley East Bay Met School (Met) is a place-based learning environment for sustainability.  In January 2014, Met moved into a new Collaborative for High Performance Schools – Northeast v 2.0 certified building designed to reduce water usage by 20 percent, constructed with low-emitting VOC products, daylighting incorporated into lighting controls, and air-sealing barriers.  Extra-porous pavement, a water retention pond, and a rainwater harvesting system are used to reduce runoff and use grey water.  Fifty percent of students ride public transportation and all cleaning products are certified green.  The school offers a coordinated school health approach, covering nonviolence, stress management, meditation, substance abuse, student voice and leadership, individual and group counseling, the mind-body connection, social skills, and communicating emotion through arts.  Schoolwide outdoor education activities include hiking, sailing, aquatic landscaping, invasive species removal, bird watching, gardening, farming, and excursions to marshes, beaches, and mountains, all the while learning principles such as Leave No Trace and wilderness ethic.  Students intern with Sail Newport, the U.S. Navy’s Recreational Center, Narragansett Surf and Skate Shop, Core Fitness, Newport Equestrian, and Bike Newport, among other organizations.  Annual schoolwide activities include students versus staff athletic competitions and beach and mountain bike days.  Met has built raised beds for student and community gardening.  >>>>

MET School
Students at Paul W. Crowley East Bay Met School help grow fresh greenhouse vegetables for a local food bank.

Resources and Opportunities

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.

Jan. 06, 2016, 6:00-7:00 pm  The Wacky Water Cycle (NASA)

Jan. 07, 2016, 6:00-7:00 pm  The History of Winter:  Ice Core Samples (NASA)

Jan. 07, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  Melting Ice and the Affects on the Coastline (NASA)

Jan. 11, 2016, 4:00-5:00 pm  Satellites and Sea Level Rise Pt. 1 (NASA)

Jan. 12, 2016, 4:00-5:00 pm  Satellites and Sea Level Rise Pt.2 (NASA)

Jan. 12, 2016, 4:00-5:00 pm  Staff Health and Wellness (Healthy Schools Campaign)

Jan. 12, 2016, 6:00-7:00 pm  Weather VS Climate (NASA)

Jan. 12, 2016, 6:00-7:00 pm  Weather VS Climate (NASA)

Jan. 13, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm  How to Apply for the ENERGY STAR (EPA)

Jan. 13, 2016, 6:00-7:00 pm  Hurricanes in Your Classroom (NASA)

Jan. 14, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  Changing Weather in our Climate (NASA)

Jan. 20, 2016, 6:00-7:00 pm  Flooding and Droughts (NASA)

Jan. 26, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm  Portfolio Manager 101 (EPA)

Jan. 26, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  Atmosphere (NASA)

Jan. 27, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm  Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

Jan. 27, 2016, 6:00-7:00 pm  How High Is It?  (NASA)


EarthEcho International Invites Applicants for Youth Leadership Council by Dec. 31

EarthEcho International invites environmental leaders ages 15-22 to apply for the EarthEcho International Youth Leadership Council.  This program will give up to 15 young people the opportunity to provide insight and expertise into the development of EarthEcho International’s programs, lead initiatives to engage young people in conservation work in their communities, and develop programs to help support EarthEcho’s mission of inspiring young people worldwide to act for a sustainable future.  >>>>


Environmental Workforce Development and Training Grant Proposals Due Jan. 14

EPA is soliciting proposals from nonprofit organizations to deliver environmental workforce development and job training programs that recruit, train, and place local, unemployed, and under-employed residents with the skills needed to secure full-time employment in the environmental field, with a focus on solid and hazardous waste remediation, environmental health and safety, integrated pest management, and wastewater-related training. >>>>

The Kresge Foundation logo

Food-Oriented Kresge Grant Proposals Due Jan. 15

The Kresge Foundation will award planning grants for food-oriented initiatives that contribute to economic revitalization, cultural expression, and health in low-income communities. >>>>

CDC logo

Health and Academic Success of Children Proposals Due Jan. 19

This opportunity funds national nongovernment organizations to support states, school districts, and schools for nationwide implementation of cross-cutting approaches to promote health and prevent and control chronic diseases. The five priority areas are: (1) Physical Activity, (2) School Nutrition, (3) Out of School Time Wellness, (4) School Health Services for Chronic Conditions, (5) School Health Services for Sexual Health. The strategies must have broad reach, sustained health impact, and be a good investment for public health. >>>>

NFWF logo

Five Star and Urban Waters Project Proposals Due 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 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. >>>>

Bio Energy

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

In the 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.  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.  >>>>


NOAA Environmental Literacy Grant Proposals Due Feb. 8

The NOAA Office of Education is offering competitive funding opportunity for education projects designed to strengthen the public’s and/or K-12 students’ environmental literacy to enable informed decision-making necessary for community resilience to extreme weather events and environmental hazards.  Eligible applicants are postsecondary institutions; other nonprofits, including informal education institutions such as museums, zoos, and aquariums; K-12 public and independent schools and school systems; and state, local and Indian tribal governments.  Proposed projects should be between two and five years in duration and have total budget requests of $250,000 to $500,000 for all years of the project. >>>>


Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Proposals Due Feb. 12

EPA is seeking local community-based organization applicants to address environmental and/or public health concerns in their communities through collaboration with other stakeholders, such as state and local governments, industry, academia and non-governmental organizations. >>>>




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. 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 the movement.  >>>>


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.  Registration will open Feb. 15. >>>>

Happy Holidays

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