Join ED-GRS on the Green Strides Tour in Pennsylvania

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

Join ED-GRS on the ‘Real-World Learning’ Green Strides Tour!

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) and its Green Strides outreach initiative share promising practices and resources in the areas of safe, healthy, and sustainable school environments; nutrition and outdoors physical activity; and environmental and sustainability education.  To bring additional attention to honorees’ practices, ED-GRS conducts an annual Green Strides tour, allowing schools, school districts, and postsecondary institutions to share their work with community leaders and policymakers and celebrate their achievements.   

View the tour schedule here and join us.  All visits are open to the public.  Read Why I Can’t Wait to Get Back to the Green Strides Tour”).  We invite you to share tour photos and impressions with us on Twitter (EDGreenRibbon) and Facebook (EDGreenRibbonSchools) using hashtag #GreenStridesTour.

2013 tour
ED-GRS Director Andrea Falken gets a tour of the school garden from Longfellow Elementary students in Long Beach, CA on the 2013 Green Strides Education Built to Last Facilities Tour.

Thanks to the Green Schools National Network, Green Schools, and National Wildlife Federation, kind 2016 ceremony plaque and Green Strides Tour sponsors.

Thank you sponsors

Debunking Myths Behind U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Five years ago, I was tasked with developing what came to be called U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS).  The recognition award is now known for honoring sustainable schools annually.  What is a “green” or “sustainable” school, you ask?  Well, we established a federal definition when we created the award.  State education authorities voluntarily nominate up to five schools and school districts and up to one postsecondary institution each year to the U.S. Department of Education (ED).  We announce the honorees on or near Earth Day and then invite them all to a special ceremony in Washington D.C. in the summer.  That’s the part that most people know.  What I’d like to discuss are the common misconceptions about ED-GRS. >>>>


Every Kid in a Park Kicks Off Second Year (of 12!) on September 1

The program provides free access to public lands and waters to our nation’s fourth graders and their families.  To obtain the pass, fourth grade students can visit and download the paper pass to bring with them to visit more than 2,000 public lands and waters nationwide.  Students who will be fourth graders in the upcoming school year can obtain their passes starting each September for the next 12 years.  The Every Kid in a Park updated website also has new features this year, including a toolkit for community and youth leaders, an expanded field trip list, and information in Spanish. >>>>

school house

State Authorities Prepare for 2016-2017 ED-GRS Award Cycle

For 2016-2017, states are now preparing their applications and will post them by the fall with deadlines to submit to them in the winter.  State authorities’ school, district, and postsecondary nominations are due to ED by February 1.  Interested colleges and universities should contact their state higher education authorities, while schools and districts should contact their state education agencies.

Meet the 2016 Honorees

Want to make some sustainable improvements on your school this year? Take inspiration from the 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees and learn more about their work on Green Strides.

Westdale Heights Academic Magnet, Baton Rouge, La.

Westdale Heights Academic Magnet (WHAM) is located in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.  It is a dedicated academic magnet school focusing on environmental science, math, and technology.  WHAM maintains a close relationship with LSU School of Veterinary Medicine; the Agricultural Center and their Smart Bodies program; and the Coastal Roots program, which has had students planting native tree seedlings in restoration areas.  The school also participated in planning and teaching for the LSU Ocean Commotion Day, where students learned about Louisiana wildlife and rehabilitation.  School gardens are certified as a Monarch Watch Waystation, a NWF Wildlife Habitat, and NWF Bird Habitat.  Under the careful supervision of a local professional farmer, students grow fruits and vegetables, which they enjoy in the classroom and share with teachers and parents.  Fruit and vegetable waste is fed to science lab pets or composted.  Students participate in a Geaux Green team and two annual STEAM nights.  A community wildlife rehabilitator began working with the students to offer hands-on learning, observation, and stewardship.  Although its facility dates to 1959, WHAM is focused on green operations and behaviors.  Over five years, WHAM has reduced energy consumption by 27 percent and water consumption by 67 percent.  >>>>

Westdale Heights Academic Magnet participates in two citizen science projects: the Cornell Lab Project Feeder Watch and the Monarch Watch butterfly tagging program. The school has received reports that some of their local monarchs made it to Mexico.

Issaquah School District, Washington

The Issaquah School District has a comprehensive waste reduction and recycling program, with seven schools recycling at a rate of 60 percent or more.  The district’s energy conservation program has resulted in the district using 4.6 percent less energy even though the district has added nearly 36 percent more square footage.  Due to the district’s water conservation efforts, the irrigation rate has stayed the same even though the district added five buildings with new irrigation systems.  By installing low-flow fixtures and toilets, the district has had a 30 percent reduction in domestic water use.  Issaquah has developed an indoor environmental quality plan, including ways to reduce the level of air pollutants, provide adequate airflow, and reduce the use of chemicals and pesticides.  Students participate in outdoor fitness activities that take advantage of the district’s rich environment, such as hiking trails on Tiger Mountain.  Sustainability concepts and topics are embedded at each grade level.  Courses include hands-on, real-life field experiences, where students are collecting and analyzing data and reporting their results.  Issaquah has developed strong partnerships with local sustainability organizations to provide professional development to staff and offer environmental field trips.  Several schools are located within walking distance to salmon streams, wetlands, wilderness parks, and lakes.  These walking field trips provide interdisciplinary learning about the relationships among ecosystems and human communities.  >>>>

Issaquah SD
Through Issaquah School District’s partnership with local sustainability programs and entities, students learn about careers by participating in hands-on, real-life field studies led by experts in the field. For example, Friends of the Cedar River Watershed offers community activities, educational programs, and habitat restoration projects facilitating the study of watershed flooding, soil erosion, water retention, and salmon habitat.

Wilmington Montessori School, Wilmington, Del.

The Wilmington Montessori School (WMS) maintains the gifts of the school’s 25-acre outdoor classroom, which features gardens, composters, and a monarch way station.  Toddlers play in a specially designed area that allows them to interact with natural elements such as dirt, seed pods, and water and teachers provide appropriate language.  Preschool students make feeders for birds, care for plants, and name the stages of the butterfly’s life cycle.  Lower elementary students learn about the needs of plants and animals, along with the underlying processes of the larger natural world.  The upper elementary curriculum includes work with square foot gardening, composting, the design of “land art” projects, and an investigation of watersheds, estuaries, and oysters.  In 2014-15, WMS opened several maker studios where students practice the skills of experimentation, testing, redesigning, and retesting.  Students create water filtration systems, build hydroponic planting systems, dye fabric by natural means, and create code for computers.  Measures to reduce environmental impact taken at WMS include: the installation of a new roof, approximately 200 energy-efficient windows, 10 energy-efficient exhaust fans, a building automation system, seven energy-efficient HVAC rooftop units, five energy-efficient dishwashers, and six low-flow toilets; the conversion of 220 lighting fixtures from T12 to T8 fixtures and all exterior lighting to LED or compact fluorescent; re-striping of the parking lot; reinsulation of an entire wing; and diverting stormwater runoff to a drainage basin.  >>>>

Toddler playground
Toddler students at Wilmington Montessori use a specially-designed playground area that allows them to play with natural elements such as dirt, seed pods and water. Teachers provide the appropriate language related to these experiences and the plants and animals that they observe.

Resources and Opportunities

plt logo

Apply for a GreenWorks! Environmental Education Grant by Sept. 30

Project Learning Tree offers grants up to $1,000 to schools and youth organizations for environmental service-learning projects that link classroom learning to the real world. Students implement an action project they help design to green their school or to improve an aspect of their neighborhood’s environment.  The projects partner students with their whole school, local businesses and/or community organizations, and provide opportunities for student leadership. >>>>

captain planet

Apply for Captain Planet Foundation Small Grants by September 30th 

Captain Planet Foundation’s Small Grants fund environmental stewardship and service-learning projects that engage children in critical thinking, research, inquiry investigations, and real-world environmental problem-solving.  Grants provide educators with the funding needed to purchase equipment, materials, or supplies.  >>>>


Recycle-Bowl and America Recycles Day Open Registration

Keep America Beautiful offers two fall events to educate and engage school communities. School registration opens Aug. 1 for the Recycle-Bowl (Oct. 17- Nov. 15) competition or to register an America Recycles Day (Nov. 15) event.  >>>>

Green Strides Design


The Green Strides Webinar Series Continues This Fall

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.

Sept. 01, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  Real NASA Data for Real Learning (NASA)

Sept. 06, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  See Your Students at NASA:  Propulsion Engineer (NASA)

Sept. 07, 2016,  12-12:30 pm  Portfolio Manager - Ask The Expert (EPA)

Sept. 08, 2016, 1:00-2:30 pm  Implementing Campus-Wide Bin Standards (CURC)

Sept. 13, 2016, 4:00-5:00 pm  Wright Brother’s Inspired Calculations (NASA)

Sept. 14, 2016,  12-12:30 pm  Portfolio Manager - Ask The Expert (EPA)

Sept. 14, 2016, 7:00-8:00 pm  Lava Layering:  Making and Mapping a Volcano (NASA)

Sept. 15, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm  Waste & Materials Tracking in Portfolio Manager (EPA)

Sept. 20, 2016, 2:00-3:00 pm  How to Apply for the ENERGY STAR (EPA)

Sept. 21, 2016,  12-12:30 pm  Portfolio Manager - Ask The Expert (EPA)

Sept. 21, 2016, 4:00-5:00 pm  Virtual Missions and Exoplanets:  Curriculum (NASA)

Sept. 22, 2016, 4:00-5:00 pm  Virtual Missions and Exoplanets:  Technical (NASA)

Sept. 26, 2016, 6:30-7:30 pm  Solar System & Beyond:  JUNO to Jupiter (NASA)

Sept. 27, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm  Portfolio Manager 101 (EPA)

Sept. 28, 2016,  12-12:30 pm  Portfolio Manager - Ask The Expert (EPA)

Sept. 28, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm  Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

Sept. 29, 2016, 1:00-2:00 pm  Portfolio Manager 301 (EPA)


green apple

Green Apple Day of Service is Saturday, Sept. 24 at YOUR School

All over the world, communities are coming together to improve local schools, making an impact on the environment, supporting health and wellness, and advancing environmental and sustainability literacy. Since 2012, more than 750,000 volunteers have hosted some 12,660 events with a collective impact on the learning environments of approximately 7 million students in all 50 U.S. states across 73 countries. Visit for ideas and resources, and sign up to host or join an event in your community. >>>>

learning scapes

LearningScapes is Sept. 28 – Oct. 1 in Philadelphia, PA

The annual Association for Learning Environments (formerly CEFPI) LearningScapes conference is Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 in Philadelphia, this year under the theme “Revolutions in Learning.”  >>>>

AASHE logo

The 2016 AASHE Conference and Expo is Oct. 9-12 in Baltimore, MD

The AASHE Conference & Expo brings together some 2,000 campus administrators, sustainability staff, students, faculty, businesses, media and others to explore more than 400 educational sessions, workshops, tours and keynote addresses that advance sustainability in higher education.  This year's theme, “Beyond the Campus,” explores the dissemination and implementation of sustainability solutions in surrounding communities and the world. >>>>


The North American Association for Environmental Education Conference is Oct 19-22

For more than four decades, NAAEE has convened one of the leading annual conferences for environmental education professionals, from classroom teachers and teacher educators to nature center staff to climate science researchers and everyone in between. Averaging 1,000 participants each year, the event is designed to promote innovation, networking, learning, and dissemination of best practices.  This year’s conference, with the theme “From Inspiration to Impact,” is in Madison, WI. This is the first year the conference is offering a green schools track and there will be several sessions related to ED-GRS.  >>>>

ed spaces

EDSpaces is Nov. 2-4 in Cincinnati, OH

EDspaces is the gathering place for architects, facility planners, designers, administrators and dealers to learn about trends and experience the latest products and services to enhance student learning.  >>>>

Happy end-of-summer from the ED Green Team!

end of summer

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