Large School Districts Come Together to Prioritize Sustainability

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

Director’s Corner



The 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Award, and Postsecondary Sustainability Award nominations are rolling in.  Stay tuned for an announcement of honorees from Secretary King on Earth Day, April 22nd.  This month, we share some exciting district news from the Green Schools Alliance (GSA) and a new report from the National Wildlife Federation on green career preparation.  Also note the fast-approaching deadline for an EPA asthma prevention award and an exciting new fundraising mechanism for outdoor school projects. 

District Collab logo

Twenty-one Large School Districts Come Together to Prioritize Sustainability

Twenty-one large districts have come together to collaborate on more sustainable school options. These districts have formed the GSA District Collaborative to accelerate hands-on environmental action in school communities across the nation.  The Collaborative is comprised of 21 U.S. school districts - eight of which are among the 12 largest districts in the country.  These districts concur that every child has a right to learn, engage, and play in a healthy and sustainable environment where every person is aware of and accountable for their impact.  Read more in a blog by Green Schools Alliance Executive Director Dr. Sharon Jaye.  >>>>


NWF Releases Plan to Prepare Community College Students for Green Careers

Community colleges are the gateways to jobs that protect wildlife and natural resources; generate, distribute and store clean energy; and promote healthy, high-performance buildings.  This report includes examples and policy recommendations for giving community colleges the capacity needed to skill the 21st century U.S. workforce.  >>>>


Apply to the EPA Leadership Award in Asthma Management by Jan. 31

Candidates for EPA’s Asthma Leadership Award should: address environmental triggers as part of a comprehensive program; foster high-performing partnerships; support healthy schools; and take into account the environmental components of asthma care. >>>>

Outdoor Foundation

Outdoor Associations Offer Fundraising Platform for School Projects

The Outdoor Foundation and Outdoor Industry Association are offering 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  Every Kid in the Park. The campaign’s online platform connects 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 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 his or her state. 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. >>>>


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:

Red Hawk Elementary School, Erie, Colo.

Red Hawk Elementary School is LEED Gold and students educate visitors about sustainable features that reduce the school’s carbon footprint, including that 100 percent of heat is derived from geothermal energy.  Red Hawk opened in 2011 with 436 students enrolled.  Today that number is closer to 700 students, yet Red Hawk has decreased its energy use by 21 percent and water by 56 percent.  Red Hawk’s STEM focus ties into daily sustainability learning alongside the study of the thoughtful design of the building.  This takes students outdoors to engage in science education, all the while developing critical thinking skills.  Red Hawk participates in Boulder County’s Eco-Cycle program with rigorous waste diversion activities, recycling efforts, composting initiatives, assemblies, and field trips to learn critical conservation skills surrounding eco-system stability, waste management, and a healthy planet.  The school has Bike and Walk to School Month, during which bikers and walkers are greeted at the school with praise and a granola bar.  Eight local farms partner with the district to bring local foods to schools and Red Hawk has its own garden, which is planted and harvested by every grade level.  The Red Hawk Movement program was awarded first place in the National Physical Activity Innovation Competition.  Students complete 40 minutes of rigorous physical activity every day, in addition to their physical education class and recesses, the majority of which is outdoors.  >>>>

Red Hawk EMS
Red Hawk's tubular skylights allow natural light in the building's entryway.

Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, Penn.

The Northampton Community College (NCC) Monroe campus is the first college campus constructed entirely to meet LEED Silver certification.  Floor-to-ceiling windows made of high-performance glass maximize natural light.  Native vegetation reduces storm water runoff.  The 205,500 square foot campus is four times larger than the NCC’s original site, but incurs energy costs of only $87,000 a year thanks to geothermal system, high-efficiency HVAC and lighting systems, and a solar canopy that provides about 40 percent of the campus electricity.  A digital metering system provides real-time energy information.  NCC’s main campus offers 40 acres of wooded and grassy land as a living laboratory.  A community garden connects gardeners from the college and community for service learning and healthy living.  Biology students conduct flora and fauna inventories, and Irish Literature students plant crops to learn about land ownership in the context of 19th century Irish land laws.  Culinary students practice farm-to-table cooking strategies and compost.  The college’s environmental science associate’s degree prepares students for careers in wildlife conservation, resource management, law, and human ecology.  Students began a movement to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the use of disposable plastics in food service.  Faculty members have used EPA grants to partner with a local community supported agriculture program and an avian research center, providing experiential learning for students.  NCC’s National Endowment for the Humanities-funded programming explores how food relationships are re-localizing.  >>>>

North Hampton
The community garden on Northampton Community College's Bethlehem Campus serves as a learning laboratory not only for college students, but also for schoolchildren and community groups interested in sustainable gardening and healthy living. Here, the college beekeeper speaks with students from a local middle school about the role honeybees play in agriculture.

Coles Elementary School, Manassas, Va.

Coles Elementary’s Environmental Club spearheads work to decrease energy consumption, reducing GHG emissions by 30 percent over two years and energy use by 21 percent over just one year.  The building was ENERGY STAR certified in 2014 with a score of 81.  Coles celebrates No Paper days and Lights-Off Fridays and maintains school gardens, including a certified Monarch Waystation, organic vegetable plots, fruit and herb gardens, and a sensory garden.  Students use real-world math and science to measure the gardens, start seedlings, test the pH of soil, dissect plants, learn about life cycles, and use 375 gallons of recycled water collected in rain barrels to hand-water the gardens.  Social issues, responsibilities, laws, and moral obligations are explored as students conduct experiments and collect data to make decisions about self-sustaining ecosystems and harvest vegetables to feed needy families.  Students create environmental stewardship public service announcements, label drains for watersheds, and visit a nearby environmental science center.  Teachers’ use professional development and curricular materials from Project Learning Tree, Trout in the Classroom, and Project WILD.  Three- to five-minute dances serve as brain breaks throughout day.  Coles procures local foods and hosts Fitness and Literacy Nights to highlight connect between the two.  >>>>

Cole Elem
Coles Elementary students tend to their vegetable garden.

Resources and Opportunities


The Green Strides Webinar Series Continues This Winter

The Green Strides Webinar Series promotes sessions that provide free tools to reduce schools' environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental education.  Consult the webinar calendar and submit suggestions of free webinars related to school, district, and postsecondary sustainability to for listing.

Green Strides Design

Feb. 01, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm      Dwarf Planets (NASA)

Feb. 03, 2016, 12:00-12:30 pm   Ask the Expert (EPA)

Feb. 04, 2016, 2:00-2:45 pm      Finding and Buying Local Foods (USDA)

Feb. 10, 2016, 12:00-12:30 pm   Ask the Expert (EPA)

Feb. 11, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm      How to Apply for the ENERGY STAR (EPA)

Feb. 11, 2016, 5:00-6:00 pm      Scratch-Cooking Production Environment (CAF)

Feb. 16, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm      Portfolio Manager 101 (EPA)

Feb. 17, 2016, 12:00-12:30 pm   Ask the Expert (EPA)

Feb. 17, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm      Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

Feb. 18, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm      Portfolio Manager 301 (EPA)

Feb. 18, 2016, 2:00-3:00 pm      Farm to School Menu Planning (USDA)

Feb, 24, 2016, 12:00-12:30 pm   Ask the Expert (EPA)

Feb. 25, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm      Extrasolar Planets (NASA)


NOAA Environmental Literacy Grant Proposals Due Feb. 8

NOAA is offering funding 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 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. >>>>


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. >>>>


Apply to Participate in the Student Climate and Conservation Congress by Mar. 15

The Green Schools Alliance invites students who have demonstrated leadership in their communities to participate in the Student Climate & Conservation Congress. Hosted at  the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center, students and educators selected to participate in the week-long Congress will learn from expand their understanding of environmental, social, and economic interconnections, and create year-long commitments to meet 21st century challenges. >>>>


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 Schoools

Calling Green Schools High School Students to Join the National Green Schools Society

National Green Schools Society, offered by Project Green Schools, provides a structured chapter-based program for high-achieving, environmentally focused students to create extraordinary impact in schools, organizations, and communities while getting the recognition they deserve on a state and national level. By establishing a NGSS chapter, students in grades 2 through 12 can advance their passion for preserving the environment through environmental service projects, leadership, and activism. Learn more and start a chapter today >>>>




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 and nature conf logo

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 opens 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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