ED-GRS Announces 2016 Director’s Award Recipient

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides


Director's Corner

Bernie Piaia

ED-GRS Announces 2016 Director’s Award Recipient

ED has selected Bernard E. Piaia, Jr., Director of the Office of School Facilities at the New Jersey Department of Education as the 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Director’s Award Recipient.  Bernie will be honored, alongside schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions at a ceremony in Washington, DC on July 20th.

The Director’s Award recognizes a state education official’s exemplary efforts to administer the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition award.  The ED-GRS Director’s Award is given annually to the state education agency official who does the most to advance green schools in his or her state by running a robust competition and nomination process; connecting schools to resources in all three Pillars; amplifying the stories of honorees; helping schools learn from one another; partnering with a variety of entities to bring more resources and expertise into schools; and exhibiting a dedication to exceptional school facilities, health, and environmental education through activities outside of the administration of the award.  

Bernie piloted ED-GRS in New Jersey and gave the award a permanent home in his state.  He hosted a leg of the 2013 Green Strides Tour and developed mechanisms to use honorees to incentivize more schools.  Bernie has built lasting partnerships with numerous state entities and encouraged his state to participate in the postsecondary competition, in addition to K-12.  Every year, Bernie submits his nominees and then immediately looks for opportunities to improve his process in subsequent cycles.  Bernie’s leadership and dedication have been integral to the award’s success in New Jersey.


In the News


ED to Announce 2016 Honorees on Earth Day, April 22nd

Each year, U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) asks state authorities to send their highest performing nominees (up to five PK-12 schools or districts and one postsecondary institution) in three areas that we call Pillars.  Pillar I is “Reducing Environmental Impact and Costs,” including waste, water, greenhouse gases, energy, and alternative transportation.  Pillar II is “Improving Health and Wellness,” including physical activity, nutrition, and environmental health.  Pillar III is “Teaching Effective Environmental Education, including STEM, civics, and green careers.  The federal review and selection process is nearly complete.  Secretary of Education John King’s announcement of the 2016 honorees will be made available on the Department’s YouTube site at 2 p.m. ET on April 22, 2016. >>>>

Partnership logos

State of Our Schools: America’s K-12 Infrastructure Released

The State of Our Schools: America’s K-12 Infrastructure, a joint report of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, the 21st Century School Fund and the National Council on School Facilities (NCSF), is the first-ever-state-by-state analysis of data on investments in school infrastructure and finds the U.S. is significantly underinvesting in K-12 public school facilities.  The report describes how the way the country currently funds school facilities is inequitable, and provides a snapshot of current school infrastructure and recommendations for investments, innovations, and reforms to ensure safe and healthy learning environments for all children. >>>>


Exciting New Opportunities for Environmental Educators

The North American Association for Environmental Education recently launched a new platform specifically for environmental educators.  EEPRO is an online community to connect environmental education professionals from around the world to each other and to the most effective professional development resources available in our field. Anyone can join eePRO, and gain access to job opportunities, webinars, online courses, workshops, and a variety of other resources.  Participants can also post resources, events, jobs, and other happenings to share with others. >>>>

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Every Kid In the Park Prepares for A Second Cohort of Fourth-Graders!

As part of President Obama’s commitment to protect our nation’s unique outdoor spaces and ensure that every American has the opportunity to visit and enjoy them, the Every Kid in a Park initiative allows fourth graders nationwide to obtain a pass for free entry for them and their families to more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters nationwide for an entire year.  The second year of this annual program will begin on September 1.  Parents, teachers, and community organizations can lead fun, educational outings for kids currently in the 4th grade to any national park, national forest, or other federal land or water site across the country.  More information to help plan trips is available on the Every Kid in a Park website and Scholastic has developed activities.  A North Face transportation grant is available until April 5th.  You can follow Every Kid in the Park on Twitter and Facebook.  >>>>


Resources and Opportunities


Spotlight on A Resource:

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GreenSchools for Early Childhood

Many ED-GRS honorees have used Project Learning Tree resources over the years.  PLT has just expanded its GreenSchools program to specifically meet the needs of early childhood educators and younger learners.  GreenSchools for Early Childhood includes an Educator Guide and five Investigations that teach young children about their environment and how they can make a difference, while developing their skills in language, mathematics, and science. >>>>

Green Strides Design

The Green Strides Webinar Series Continues This Spring

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 ed.green.ribbon.schools@ed.gov for listing.

Apr. 04, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  Airplanes and Rockets:  Exploring the Extreme (NASA)

Apr. 05, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  Airplanes and Rockets:  Principles of  Flight (NASA)

Apr. 06, 2016, 4:00-5:00 pm  Virtual Missions and Exoplanets: Part 1 (NASA)

Apr. 07, 2016, 4:00-5:00 pm  Virtual Missions and Exoplanets: Part 2 (NASA)

Apr. 12, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  Airplanes and Rockets:  Flying with Bernoulli (NASA)

Apr. 13, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  Air and Space:  Smart Skies Line Up with Math (NASA)

Apr. 14, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm  How to Apply for the Energy Star (EPA)

Apr. 14, 2016, 1:00-2:30 pm  Taking Action to Improve IAQ in Your School District (EPA)

Apr. 18, 2016, 6:00-7:00 pm  BEST Green Propellant Challenge (NASA)

Apr. 19, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm  Portfolio Manager 101 (EPA)

Apr. 19, 2016, 2:00-3:30 pm  Vertebrate Turf Pest on School Grounds (EPA)

Apr. 19, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  The Hubble Space Telescope-  A History (NASA)

Apr. 20, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm  Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

Apr. 21, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm  Portfolio Manager 301 (EPA)

Apr. 21, 2016, 6:00-7:00 pm  Airplanes and Rockets:  NASA Rockets 101 (NASA)

Apr. 26, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  Air and Space:  Smart Skies Fly by Math (NASA)

Apr. 27, 2016, 4:00-5:00 pm  Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools (Chef Ann Foundation)

Apr. 28, 2016, 6:00-7:00 pm  Kepler Mission Exploring Strange New Worlds (NASA)

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Submit a Recipe to the First Lady’s Fifth Annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge by April 4

The 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge is here! The First Lady is inviting kids 8-12 across the country to create healthy, delicious, affordable recipes for a chance to attend this year’s Kids State Dinner >>>>


EPA’s Local Environmental Education Grant Proposals Due Apr. 8

The EPA is looking to support locally-focused environmental education (EE) projects that increase public awareness and knowledge about environmental issues. Projects should promote environmental stewardship and help develop informed, knowledgeable, and responsible citizens in the community(ies) in which the project is located.  >>>>



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National Healthy Schools Day is April 5th

Since 2002, parents, teachers, school nurses, custodians, advocates, and agencies have promoted National Healthy Schools Day activities nationwide.  Whether you are at the beginning stages of investigating school environments or have an established indoor environmental quality program, you are invited to host a local activity that educates others and celebrates your school’s successes. National Healthy Schools Day promotes the use of EPA's IAQ Tools for Schools guidance as well as other EPA environmental health guidelines and programs for schools and children’s health.  >>>>

NEEF logo

National Environmental Education Week is April 17-23

National Environmental Education Week (EE Week) is held each spring around the time of Earth Day and inspires environmental learning and stewardship among K-12 students. This year, the theme is “Greening STEM: Rooted in Math.”  EE Week celebrates the educators who are making a difference in environmental education and STEM learning and provides them with the resources they need to continue inspiring the next generation of lifelong environmental learners. >>>>

Arbor Day Foundation logo

National Arbor Day is April 29th

National Arbor Day is always celebrated on the last Friday in April, but many states observe Arbor Day on different dates throughout the year based on best tree planting times in their area.  Find resources to get involved in this celebration of trees. >>>>

Green Foward logo

The International Young Environmentalists Youth Summit is May 13-14

The International Young Environmentalists Youth Summit (IYEYS) is a youth-imagined and -executed event aimed at providing young environmentalists the tools they need to take their campaigns to the next level.  From youth who have started global organizations, to youth who are leading school-based environmental projects, IYEYS is for everyone.  The conference also welcomes adults who are looking to learn more about how to implement youth leadership and engagement strategies into their classrooms, organizations, or businesses.  >>>>


Meet A Few More of the 2015 Honorees – Next Month Comes the 2016 Cohort!

Colby Elementary School, Colby, Wisc.

Colby Elementary School has upgraded to more energy efficient lighting, HVAC, and boiler; removed vending; installed occupancy sensors in gym; and started composting.  Electricity usage is tracked, and the elementary school is in competition with the middle and high schools to see which building can save the most.  Only half of the lights in the hallways and most classrooms are turned on and classroom doors are kept closed to help control temperature.  Colby staff and students constructed cold frames that have been used to grow fruits and vegetables.  Lettuce, cabbage, and onions are harvested from the school garden, used in the lunch program, shared with the community, and used as teaching tools.  Two mornings each month, staff walks the halls for 20 minutes.  Kindergarten students walk or snowshoe through the school forest monthly, and the school offers an annual walk or bike to school day. Sustainability is integrated at every grade level.  Staff development includes trainings from KEEP, University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, Project WET, the Wisconsin School Garden Initiative, and many others.  The school obtains teaching materials from a variety of sources, including Xcel Energy, FOSS science kits, and Farm Safety Day.  Students have set up a weather station and use the school forest to conduct experiments.  >>>>

Colby Elem, WI
Colby students participate in both composting and recycling.

William Davies Middle School, Mays Landing, N.J.

William Davies Middle School (WDMS) kick started its sustainability program six years ago when it was awarded a netbook for every student.  This motivated the staff to rewrite the curriculum to use this technology to create 21st-century learners who are also young environmental stewards.  Students hear from speakers from the Atlantic County Utilities Authority and create projects demonstrating how they are reducing their carbon footprint.  They focus on water conservation via their annual Walk for Water to raise money to place wells in Ghana.  They participate in an annual Green Career Day, which offers presentations from local sustainability-minded companies.  Students research and investigate sustainable agriculture.  The school is an Eco-Schools USA and a Keep America Beautiful Recycle Bowl participant.  Local businesses, nonprofit groups, utility companies, and colleges help support an outdoor learning space including vegetable garden beds, a greenhouse, a koi pond, rain barrels and a drip irrigation system, and a butterfly garden.  WDMS partnered with the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey to conduct an extensive energy audit on the school.  The installation of solar panels generating 14 percent of the school’s energy usage resulted in significant savings, and doubles as a learning tool for students. >>>>

William Davies MS, NJ
Students at William Davies Middle School clean the school's pond along with community partners.

Stamford School District, Connecticut

Through local partnerships with Audubon Greenwich, Bartlett Arboretum, the Stamford Museum and Nature Center, and the Environmental Council of the States, Stamford School District students learn about the environment, nature, conservation, and preservation.  Many students participate in SoundWaters’ Young Mariners program, which culminates with students spending a night on a boat while learning about the local ecosystem.  Audubon Greenwich has helped establish schoolyard habitats.  Teachers use Project WET and PLT materials and outdoor classrooms to integrate sustainability at every grade level.  The leader of the Dolan Middle School garden club recently founded GIVE: Green Initiatives for Vegetables in Education, which supports Stamford school gardens.  GIVE and Stamford’s Garden Club host an annual Lettuce Challenge, where students are challenged to grow a head of lettuce for six weeks.  Two full-time energy managers look for projects that can reduce the district’s energy costs and carbon footprint.  Projects completed include solar panels, a LEED Silver certified school, Vending Misers installed on all vending machines, Fridgetek fan controllers installed on all walk-in refrigerators, heating and cooling set points controlled through an energy management system, and monitoring all schools’ progress with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.  Through lighting retrofits, building retrocommissioning, and HVAC upgrades, Stamford’s energy managers have reduced the district’s electric consumption, saving $1,400,000 in five years. >>>>

Stamford SD, CT
Stamford students attend the first annual STEMfest.

Connect with Green Strides

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