Yesterday, on Earth Day, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the 2014 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) and District Sustainability Awardees. Joined in a live telecast by Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Mike Boots, Secretary Duncan celebrated the forty-eight schools and nine school districts chosen for their exemplary efforts in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective environmental education, including civics, STEM and green career pathways. You can view the video of the Earth Day announcement here and read the White House blog by ED Green Team Social Media Manager Kyle Flood here. The full list of 2014 honorees is available here and a report, detailing each of them is available here.
Meet the 2014 Honorees
As the handful of examples below indicates, our ED-GRS schools and districts are once again setting an example for all to follow:
Interdistrict Discovery Magnet School, Bridgeport, Conn.
Interdistrict Discovery Magnet School (IDMS) serves 524 students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, with 100 percent of students receiving free breakfast and lunch. The urban school offers a learning environment that is rich in outdoor and field experiences. IDMS’ curriculum has a strong environmental theme, supported by partnerships with local environmental educators, including the Discovery Museum, Fairchild-Wheeler School, the Connecticut Audubon Society, Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, the Maritime Aquarium, and the Bridgeport Lighthouse after school program. Each experience allows students to apply what they learn in the school’s 90-acre wooded campus. Students learn through hands-on work, in the sustainable garden, while raising Trout in the Classroom, and during the Discovery School BioBlitz. In addition, IDMS is a LEED Gold-certified facility, with an extraordinary building. From the rooftop solar photovoltaic system, to low-flow fixtures, students use green technology to learn about sustainability. >>>
Hurley K-12 School, Hurley, WI
Hurley’s science department is fully invested in incorporating environmental education, and the energy cycle is taught in all phases of the curriculum. The physics department developed and implemented a classroom energy-monitoring team to identify positive and negative energy-consumption habits in school buildings. Students study the local bird population through an annual service-learning project examining the nesting success of area loons and enjoy ice fishing using tip up/downs during a unit on simple machines. All students have been trained in using scientific equipment, learning about monitoring methods such as forestry surveys, soil surveys, water quality monitoring, and wildlife surveying. To improve energy efficiency and health, the school replaced lighting and windows, insulated the roof, and upgraded the HVAC system. They also installed a water bottle filling station to encourage students to reduce the use of disposable plastic water bottles. Hurley has received multiple grants to increase availability of healthy food and fitness programs. All elementary school students plant a variety of vegetables to be used in the lunch program and sold at the local Iron County Farmers Market. A schoolwide Walk to School Day held in the spring encourages exercise for all members of the community. >>>
Encinitas Union School District, Encinitas, Calif.
Consisting of nine traditional schools serving 5,400 students, Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) contains a National Wildlife Federation Eco-School, two Alliance for a Healthier Generation schools, and four National Wildlife Federation certified habitats, and is home to a strong districtwide green team and wellness committee. Both groups meet monthly, with the superintendent, school board members, department directors, teachers, parent volunteers, representatives from local businesses, and leaders of community organizations among them. From farming efforts, waste diversion, and daylighting to hand dryers, daily yoga, and solar-panel installation, EUSD is becoming a model for sustainability in the region. EUSD’s ten-acre Agro-ecology Learning Center (ALC), opening in 2014, is poised to be the focal point of the district—and community—for years to come. Leveraging public and private partnerships, EUSD will grow organic food for the district’s farm-to-cafeteria program while showcasing cutting-edge sustainable farming techniques and renewable energy technologies. Opportunities for hands-on learning about hydroponic and aquaponic farming, renewable energy generation, and fuel cell storage will facilitate a learning center like no other. >>>
Wellington Elementary, Lexington, Ky.
Wellington Elementary was built in 2010 and is designed to be one of the most energy efficient and sustainable schools in suburban Lexington, Ky. The school features photovoltaic solar panels, a rainwater capture and reuse system, a geothermal hot water system, permeable pavers, a rain garden, automatic lighting controls, native landscaping, and an outdoor classroom. Wellington has a student- and teacher-led sustainability team that monitors and holds the school accountable for its sustainability initiatives. An energy assessment is conducted annually and plan of action implemented. Students have worked to implement a nightly computer shutdown, to monitor energy use, and to provide conservation reminders during monthly energy patrols. Student energy teams collect recyclables, educate their peers about how and what to recycle, audit waste bins for recyclable items, and transfer them to a recycling dumpster. >>>
Shadow Lake Elementary, Maple Valley, Wash.
Shadow Lake has been designated a National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat since 2005, and students have daily opportunities to increase their appreciation of the local wildlife that benefit from the school gardens. The school uses a stormwater curriculum in which students study salmon habitats, including how stormwater is the number one source of pollution in the Puget Sound. Students focus on recycling and composting every day, but work even harder each Waste-Free Wednesday to reduce waste to as close to zero as possible during lunch periods. Student leaders monitor lunchtime waste, recycling, and composting, and give out raffle prizes of reusable lunch containers as incentives. Students who serve as Green School Ambassadors work before school to ensure that breakfast waste is managed efficiently. Students create and maintain the gardens and trail, and become familiar with the natural environment not only on their campus, but on an adjacent nature trail and on field-trip visits to the nearby Shadow Lake Peat Bog. >>>
Read more about the 2014 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and District Sustainability Awardees here. From Florida to Vermont, West Virginia to Oregon, New Jersey to Oregon, they are sure to inspire you!
In the News
Message from Arne Duncan for the 2014 Green Schools National Conference
In case you missed it this year, Secretary Duncan offered a welcome message at the 2014 Green Schools National Conference in late March, highlighting how green school practices save money, keep students and teachers healthier and are an innovative way of increasing educational equity. He notes how green schools are helping students to perform better and stay engaged by using hands-on, project-based learning particularly in STEM subjects, civics, and the green careers of the future. >>>
Resources and Grants
ED’s Green Strides Webinar Series continues with the tools to reduce schools’ environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental literacy, including STEM, green careers, and civic engagement. Find sessions for educators, facilities managers, and advocates weekly.
Apr. 28, 2014, 2:00-4:00 p.m. PCBs in Schools, Session II: Health Risks (EPA)
Apr. 29, 2014, 3:00-4:00 p.m. Implement EPA School Environment Programs (EPA)
Apr. 29, 2014, 4:00-5:00 p.m. Life Science Resources for Grades 4-12 (NASA)
Apr. 30, 2014, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Creating Healthy Indoor Environments (EPA)
Apr. 30, 2014, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Solar System and the Periodic Table (NASA)
May 6, 2014, 4:00-5:00 p.m. Recursos de NASA en Español! (NASA)
May 8, 2014, 6:30-7:30 p.m. The Adventures of ECHO the Bat (NASA)
May 12, 2014 5:30-7:00 p.m. Robotics on a Budget (NASA)
May 13, 2014, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Things That Go BOOM In the Air (NASA)
May 14, 2014, 4:00-5:00 p.m. Rainforest Alliance Curriculum (Rainforest Alliance)
May 14, 2014, 4:00-5:00 p.m. Effective Climate Change Communication (NPS)
May 14, 2014, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Amusement Park Physics with a NASA Twist (NASA)
May 15, 2014, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Seeing the World Without a Passport (NASA)
May 19, 2014, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Art and the Cosmic Connection (NASA)
May 20, 2014, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Curiosity on Mars: The Search for Clues of Life (NASA)
May 27, 2014, 6:30-7:45 p.m. Rockets 2 Race Cars Teacher Program (NASA)
June 4, 2014, 6:30-7:45 p.m. Rockets 2 Race Cars Teacher Program (NASA)
Bring Back the Monarchs: Free Milkweeds for Schools and Non-Profits
As your students may have learned, monarchs and pollinators need help due to habitat loss. If your school or non-profit organization is interested in this conservation measure and learning opportunity, Monarch Watch, a nonprofit educational outreach program based at the University of Kansas, with funding from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), can help you create a habitat for monarchs and pollinators. If your school or organization qualifies, Monarch Watch will provide a free flat of 32 milkweed plugs as well as guidance on how to create a new habitat or enhance an existing garden. >>>
USDA Awards Grants for School Food Service Equipment to Dish Up Healthy Meals
On April 18th, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $25 million in grants to help schools purchase needed kitchen equipment as they continue to provide school lunches and breakfasts that give children the nutrition they need to learn and grow. Over 90 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards, serving meals with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, and less sodium and fat. These new grants provide additional support to schools to help them prepare meals that meet those standards. Schools that are interested in applying for these grants should contact their state agency for further information. A list of state agency school nutrition contacts is available here. >>>
Odds and Ends
NEEF Invites You to Upload Your Earth Changing Moment from Your Smartphone
The National Environmental Education Foundation invites you to pull out your mobile phone and create and upload a short video sharing your "aha" Earth Changing Moment -- the moment when you realized the importance of the environment and your connection to it. Your submission makes you eligible to win a $100 gift card. >>
A very happy Earth Day from the ED Green Team to your Green Team!