March Green Strides Newsletter

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

In the March 2019 Green Strides...

In the News

John Olson

ED-GRS Announces 2019 Director’s Award Recipient

ED has selected John Olson (@JohnCasperOlson), science specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education, as the recipient of the 2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Director’s Award.  In 2013, Olson gave the award a home in his office. Then, in 2014, he hosted a Minnesota Green Strides Tour to promote sustainable school practices in the state.  The tour garnered some of the highest turnout of any of the 20 tour legs to date.  Olson successfully engaged postsecondary counterparts in 2015, making Minnesota the only state to nominate a full six institutions, the maximum allowed with the advent of the postsecondary award.  He also developed a detailed plan to sustain his efforts during a Peace Corps leave of absence in early 2016.  Olson has engaged stakeholders from other state agencies, non- and for- profit private sector, as well as higher education to share sustainable schools best practices, select nominees to ED, and celebrate the honored institutions at assemblies and presentations.  Olson will be honored, alongside schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. this fall.

Green Ribbon Schools Logo

2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Coming Soon!

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is a federal communications and outreach tool for school sustainability.  It is structured as a recognition award for schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions.  The award allows the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to recognize a handful of schools making progress in three areas that encompass sustainable school facilities, health, and environmental learning, and, in doing so, inspire other schools down a more sustainable path.  You can learn about the areas that comprise the award, known as the Pillars, here.  Every honoree must demonstrate progress in all three Pillars and all underlying Elements.  

Each state designs its own application process and sets its deadlines.  Generally, states open their applications in the summer, with deadlines to submit applications in the winter, and then state education agencies make their nominations to ED early in the new year.  ED is currently reviewing the 2019 nominees from states and will be announcing honorees in a few weeks.  Stay tuned for more information on the 2019 selectees!

For those not already honored, now is a great time to begin preparing for the 2020 application cycle by using resources and programs on Green Strides and contacting your state authority.  Review Frequently Asked Questions on all three award categories.  Interested colleges and universities should contact their state higher education authorities, while schools and districts should contact state education agencies.  Schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions are only eligible if nominated by state authorities.  State education authorities can find award criteria and other state implementation guidance on ED's website and should contact U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for more information.   >>>>

Meet the 2018 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

In a few months, we'll be announcing the 2019 cohort.  Until then, learn from the 2018 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees.  View the honorees and read about their work on the Green Strides website and on the ED awards page.  Three of the honorees are spotlighted below.    

Wexford Nature Trail

Wexford Elementary School uses its nature trail for environmental and outdoor education.

Wexford Elementary School, Wexford, Pennsylvania

Wexford Elementary School (WES) tracks utility consumption to identify areas where it can become more efficient.  WES participates in a local utility energy rebates program and an energy curtailment program to power down over the summer.  Water is tested periodically in all buildings for lead exposure and all toilets are low-flow.  Aerators are cleaned every night, and faucet screens are cleaned periodically.  WES features a half-mile nature trail where students can learn about the environment and how to responsibly interact with it.  WES has a cafeteria recycling program that was initiated by a second-grade student.  Since the program's inception, WES has recycled over 100,000 milk and water containers.  WES has also established a garden of four raised beds, which is maintained by staff and students, and connected to the school's STEAM and health curricula.  In conjunction with the vegetable garden, the staff initiated a lunchroom composting program to educate students on returning nutrients to the soil.  Green cleaning is the standard; most products used for nightly cleaning are safe for human health and the environment.   >>>>

Maple Village Waldorf School Lagoon Trip

Maple Village Waldorf School (MVWS) students enjoy regular trips to Colorado Lagoon, about a half-mile walk from the school. The MVWS STEM by Nature initiative trains and supports teachers in the use of the natural world, school grounds, and field trip experiences to teach STEM content and skills.

Maple Village Waldorf School, Long Beach, California

When Maple Village Waldorf School (MVWS) opened in 2007, it aimed to (1) reduce waste to little or zero; (2) lower its energy and water usage; (3) serve whole foods in the cafeteria; (4) adopt a farm-to-school program in which the school would buy locally produced, farm-fresh foods; and (5) provide students with abundant outdoor time and physical activity, rain or shine.  The goal was for students and teachers to balance their hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits and to develop a reverence for others and for the environment.  Since 2007, the school has undergone three play yard expansions that removed turf to build a natural playground of mulch, wood poles and stumps, tires, climbing ropes, sand, and multiple gardens.  MVWS hired a gardening teacher and built a dedicated outdoor garden classroom.  Each family is instructed in packing zero waste lunches, and compliance is 100 percent.  Cooked meals in all early childhood classes are served in reusable ware, which the children wash and set out to dry. All serving ware for daily use on campus is reusable or can be composted.  The amount of landfill trash produced per person per month is less than 1.5 milk jugs. Cleaning supplies and pest management products are either homemade from natural ingredients or are green-certified.  Nearly 70 percent of transportation to and from school is alternative. The school's abundant natural light reduces the need for overhead lights.  MVWS reduces its irrigation use by using rainbarrels and hand watering.  MVWS offers a weekly faculty yoga class.  Kindergarteners take daily walks, all grades walk to the park every Thursday to spend half of their day outdoors, and all students average 9.5 hours a week of physical education.  Teachers employ a place-based curriculum integrated across all subjects rather than taught in isolation, which infuses students’ lives and learning in science, geography, history, math, and language arts.  Field trips to a local farm highlight innovative farming.  Students use the school grounds and surrounding community to deepen their understanding of the natural world.   >>>>

Spangdahlem Recycling

Spangdahlem Middle School students collect and dispose of paper products. Educators reduce paper waste by using Schoology and Google Apps for Education. Metal utensils have completely replaced plastic ones in the cafeteria.

Spangdahlem Middle School, Spangdahlem, Germany

Spangdahlem Middle School (SMS) collects and analyzes utilities data, which reflect notable reductions in usage and cost over time.  The school implemented a “Flip the Switch” lights-out plan in the 2016–17 school year.  Drivers shut off their bus engines while waiting for students to board the bus.  School personnel are working closely with the local Civil Engineering Squadron and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in designing and building a new facility.  Staff and faculty members participate in a weekly bountiful baskets program to support local farmers and provide healthy farm-to- table meals.  Students attending “Fraction Boot Camp” were tasked with solving math problems, then jumping up to complete sets of burpees, jumping jacks, and sprints. Research, evaluation, and responsible action are themes woven into math, science, health, art, host nation, geography, and language arts lessons to raise a problem-solving generation with the necessary skills to control and effect change for a sustainable future.  Staff members have served on the planning committee for a district STEM conference for 2017 and 2018, which focused heavily on renewable resources.  SMS held a Conservation Convention, during which students presented new ideas about reducing waste, reusing, and recycling.  Eighth-grade health students developed a tool to bring awareness to simple habits that can help reduce impact on the environment and the after school environmental club researches environmental issues.   >>>>

Resources and Opportunities

North Face Explore Fund

Apply for a North Face Explore Fund Grant by April 2

The North Face Explore Fund provides grants to U.S.-based nonprofit organizations that offer their participants meaningful outdoor experiences. Specifically, the fund seeks to support experiences that instill an enduring appreciation of the outdoors, promote positive personal or societal change, and/or demonstrate environmental stewardship principles and practices. >>>>

Earth Echo

Apply to the EarthEcho International Youth Leadership Council

EarthEcho International invites young environmental leaders living in the U.S., ages 15–22, to apply for the EarthEcho International Youth Leadership Council (YLC). The YLC provides young people with the unique opportunity to provide valuable insight and expertise from a youth perspective to the development of EarthEcho International’s programs, lead initiatives to engage young people in conservation work on a global scale, and develop programs to help support EarthEcho’s mission of inspiring young people worldwide to act now for a sustainable future. Applications for this program are due April 12. >>>>

ESPN Replay logo

ESPN RePlay Grant Applications Open Until May 15

RePlay is a national effort led by ESPN and Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC) to revitalize vacant spaces into places for sports, recreation, and play.  With support from ESPN to provide grants for planning and implementation, along with LISC’s technical assistance to local, community-based groups and other qualified organizations, awardees can bring vitality back to local neighborhoods by creating courts, playgrounds, and other safe spaces for youth to play and communities to thrive.  >>>>


Green Strides Design

The Green Strides Webinar Series Continues Through Spring


The Green Strides Webinar Series has promoted over 1,000 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 for listing additional free, publically available webinars related to school, district, and postsecondary sustainability to (Note: All times listed are EDT.)

March 21, 1–2 p.m.  Child Nutrition Reauthorization Listening Session Series (National Farm to School Network)

March 21, 3–4 p.m.  Connecting People to Nature:  From Caring to Conservation and More (NAAEE)

March 21, 4–5 p.m. Tools for Getting to Zero Energy in School New Construction (DOE)

March 21, 6–7 p.m.  Explore Space Tech:  Rockets 101 ― Forces and Motion (NASA)

March 26, 1–2 p.m.  Portfolio Manager 301 (EPA)

March 27, 12–12:30 p.m.  Portfolio Manager ― Ask the Expert (EPA)

March 27, 1–2 p.m.  Child Nutrition Reauthorization Listening Session Series (National Farm to School Network)

March 27, 7:30–8:30 p.m.  Easy, Local Bird-focused Citizen Science (Green Teacher)

March 28, 12–1 p.m.  Energy Star and Green Building Rating Systems (EPA)

March 28, 1–2:30 p.m.  Step Up Your School’s IAQ Program With Preventive Maintenance (EPA)

March 28, 3–4 p.m.  Forest Management for Mitigating Drought Impacts (USGS)

March 28, 5–6 p.m.  Space Communication ― Speaking in Phases (NASA)

April 2, 3–3:30 p.m.  Boost Your Budget with Afterschool Meals (Food Research & Action Center)

April 3, 3–4:20 p.m.  Sustainably Developing Sustainability Programs and Curriculum (AASHE)

April 4, 1–2 p.m.  Child Nutrition Reauthorization (National Farm to School Network)

April 9, 1–2:15 p.m.  Portfolio Manager 101 (EPA)

April 9, 6–7 p.m.  Listening to “See” Beneath the Waves: Soundscape Monitoring in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (National Marine Sanctuaries)

April 10, 3–4 p.m.  Getting to Climate Neutrality: Does Wood Biofuel Help or Hurt? (AASHE)

April 10, 7:30–8:30 p.m.  Secrets to Snagging Great Science Partners (Green Teacher)

April 11, 3–4 p.m.  Breakfast Matters: Community Eligibility or Provision 2 (Food Research & Action Center)

April 11, 5–6 p.m.  NASA Global Climate Change Resources (NASA)

April 16, 1–2 p.m.  Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

April 16, 3–3:30 p.m.  Strategies to Keep Participation High (Food Research & Action Center)

April 17, 3–4:20 p.m.  Internal Carbon Pricing in Higher Education Toolkit (AASHE)

April 17, 5–6 p.m.  The Scoop on Soil (NASA)


National Healthy Schools Day Logo

National Healthy Schools Day Is April 2

National Healthy Schools Day is coordinated by Healthy Schools Network in partnership with many agencies and organizations. It promotes the use of EPA's IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit, as well as other EPA environmental health guidelines and programs for schools and children’s health.  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 air/environmental quality program, you are invited to host a local activity that educates others and celebrates your school’s successes. >>>>

NEEF logo

National Environmental Education Week Is April 22–26

National Environmental Education Week is held each spring around the time of Earth Day and inspires environmental learning and stewardship among K–12 students.  Find resources tailored for educators and a promotional toolkit. >>>>

Better Buildings Logo

U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings' Summit is July 1011 

The U.S. Department of Energy's annual Better Buildings' Summit will be held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.  It provides the opportunity for professionals to explore emerging technologies and share innovative strategies in energy and water efficiency. Attendees can expect two days of interactive sessions with industry experts and market leaders as well as many opportunities to network with peers. >>>>

Weyerhaeuser tree planting

Wildcat Woods at Weyerhaeuser Elementary School, a 2018 honoree, includes forest and seasonal wetland. Students are outside in this learning space daily.

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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