December 2019 Green Strides Newsletter

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

In the December 2019 Green Strides...

In the News


Honoring Classified School Employees

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) will hold its inaugural competition in 2020 for the Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award to honor and promote classified school employees who provide exemplary service. 

The award will recognize a school employee in a state or any political subdivision of a state, or an employee of a nonprofit entity, in any of the following occupational specialties: paraprofessional, clerical and administrative services, transportation services, food and nutrition services, custodial and maintenance services, security services, health and student services, technical services, and skilled trades.

The Department invites the governor in each state, as well as the chief executive of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Outlying Areas, to nominate up to two individuals who demonstrate excellence in all of the following: (1) work performance; (2) school and community involvement; (3) leadership and commitment; (4) local support (from coworkers, school administrators, community members, etc., who speak to the nominee’s exemplary work); and (5) enhancement of the classified school employees’ image in the community and the schools.

The Department will recognize the honoree and communicate the single national selectee’s story in order to inspire excellence and innovative practices among classified school employees.  More information is available online.  Governors offices may contact with any questions.

Green Ribbon Schools Logo

States' Deadlines for Green Schools Applicants Fast Approaching!

Many states' application periods for 2019–20 cycle nominees to U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) will be closing around the holidays. These deadlines vary by state.  State education agencies often collaborate with other state agencies and partners to administer the program and will ultimately nominate their selections to the Department by Feb. 14, 2020.

Check to see if your state participates in ED-GRS by locating your state recognition award administrator here.  Alternatively, you can contact your chief state school officer.  Often, hearing from interested schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions helps states determine whether to participate. 

Ivy Academy Alternative Transportation Day

Alternative Transportation Day at Ivy Academy includes school community members not only biking, but also horseback riding and kayaking to school.

Brogan at Ivy Academy

Assistant Secretary of Education Visits 2013 Honoree Ivy Academy

In November, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan visited 2013 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Ivy Academy in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, where students spend at least 50 percent of their day learning outside.  High school students can specialize in veterinary science, environmental audio/video production and natural resource management.  Service-learning courses monitor school and home energy usage.  Every year, all teachers participate in environmental education professional development.  All students go on daily hikes on the trails that run along the North Chickamauga Creek.  Every quarter, students participate in a daylong 8–10 mile hike.  Students maintain an on-campus garden and participate in a daily gardening class.  “I continue to be impressed with the innovative practices that U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools demonstrate across the country to reduce environmental impact, improve health and wellness, and teach hands-on, engaging environmental education," said Brogan.  

Penny Taylor 2018 Director's Award Recipient

The 2020 ED-Green Ribbon Schools Director’s Award: Nominations Due March 1

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 letter to by March 1.  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 ED-GRS Director’s Award recipients

Meet the 2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Congratulations to the 2019 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.  

Troy University SPIN bike and scooter share program

To encourage alternative transportation, an app-based bike and scooter share program at Troy University loans 100 bicycles and 20 scooters to university community members.

Troy University, Troy, Alabama

Troy University enjoys ongoing recognition by Tree Campus USA for its responsible stewardship of campus forests and trees, which includes a 75-acre arboretum and its 180-acre Pocosin Nature Preserve.  The university provides the Trojan Shuttle Service, which enables students, faculty, and staff to take advantage of alternative transportation both on- and off-campus.  In 2015, Troy University became Food Recovery Verified, which is a program of Food Recovery Network that recognizes businesses and events for sending their surplus food to people, not landfills. Over 26,000 pounds of food have been reclaimed and apportioned into more than 15,000 meals.  Interdisciplinary academic options that are available include a first-year learning community on public service and sustainability for incoming freshmen. Additionally, programs on recycling and waste reduction, conservation, biodiversity, and campus sustainability are offered to students. Annually, the university hosts Environmental Week in April in conjunction with Earth Day.

Eden Hall facility master plan

Eden Hall Upper Elementary School students analyze their school facility and grounds master plan with a view toward their next sustainability project.

Eden Hall Upper Elementary School, Gibsonia, Pennsylvania

At Eden Hall Upper Elementary School (EHUES), murals and an interior color scheme represent the Earth’s biomes — desert, grasslands, aquatic, tundra, and forest. The school’s 30-plus acres are part of the learning experience; they feature an amphitheater, retention pond, and walking trails.  Inside the school are six live trees representing creativity, achievement, knowledge, respect, responsibility, health, and wellness. In addition, the school contains two recycled water features.  EHUES participated in a districtwide initiative to track consumption on all utilities in order to identify areas to improve efficiency.  In 2017, a group of students initiated a plan to begin recycling efforts at EHUES.  They partnered with a corporate sponsor, obtained resources, and now regularly collect recyclables from classrooms.  Fifth grade students raise brook trout from eggs to fingerlings.  Sixth grade students participate in a sustainable design challenge working with Chatham University.  

Quail Lake Environmental Charter School garden math

Quail Lake Environmental Charter School students in every grade have garden lessons every two weeks that not only focus on gardening skills, but also tie into state standards.

Quail Lake Environmental Charter School, Clovis, California

Quail Lake Environmental Charter School (QLECS) has a science instructional support provider spearheading the effort to integrate environmental science and sustainability into all content areas.  QLECS environmental education field trips include a zoo education center, a nature center, an outdoor education center, Sequoia National Park, Sequoia Lake, a water treatment facility, and a three-day trip to Sierra Outdoor School.  QLECS middle school students take electives focused on such areas as agricultural business and energy and the environment.  The school grounds include 4,000 square feet of garden space featuring an outdoor classroom, a 2,000 square foot butterfly garden, a 17x35-foot greenhouse, and planter beds.  In the summer of 2016, QLECS installed a 137-kW photovoltaic system to offset 62 percent of the site’s annual energy usage, resulting in approximately $25,000 in annual savings. QLECS' remaining electrical needs are met by the local utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, which has a 27 percent renewable portfolio minimum.  QLECS has aimed to go paperless in as many areas as possible. School communications are sent out electronically. Students in grades one through eight use 1:1 iPads.  QLECS recycles 60 cubic yards per month and composts 10 cubic yards per month, achieving a waste diversion rate of 78 percent. 

Resources and Opportunities

Sustainable Gardening Library

Spotlight on a Green Strides Resource

Launched in 2015, thanks to generous support from the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, Green Strides is ED’s portal for sustainable schools resources.  The Sustainable Gardening Library is an online, curated collection of resources on how to grow flowers and food in planet-friendly ways. The documents, images, illustrations, maps, and videos located here are provided by public gardens, arboreta, and other nonprofit educational organizations; colleges and universities; and government agencies.  


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Calls for Applications from Students, Educators, and Schools

The application period is now open for the 2020 President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) program and the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE). The PEYA program recognizes outstanding environmental stewardship projects by K–12 youth, promoting awareness of our nation's natural resources and encouraging positive community involvement. The PIAEE recognizes outstanding kindergarten through grade 12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for student learning. Applications for both programs are due Jan.15, 2020. 

Also open are the EPA's Environmental Education Grants, designed to support environmental education projects that promote environmental awareness and stewardship and help provide people with the skills to take responsible actions to protect the environment. This grant program provides financial support for projects that design, demonstrate, and/or disseminate environmental education practices, methods, or techniques.  The application deadline for grants is Jan. 6, 2020.  Since 1992, EPA has distributed between $2 and $3.5 million in grant funding per year, supporting more than 3,700 grants. 


Green Strides Design

The Green Strides Webinar Series Continues Through Winter


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, publicly available webinars related to school, district, and postsecondary sustainability to (Note: All times listed are ET.)

December 16, 6–7 p.m.  Moon to Mars:  Mission and Resources Overview in Spanish (NASA)

Dec. 17, 1–2 p.m.  Portfolio Manager 301 (EPA)

Dec.17, 6–7 p.m.  Moon to Mars:  Mission and Resources Overview (NASA)

Dec.18, 12–1 p.m.  Portfolio Manager – Ask the Expert (EPA)

Dec. 18, 6–7 p.m.  NASA Commercial Crew Program:  Mission and STEM Resources Overview (NASA)

Dec.19, 6–7 p.m.  Life Sciences in Space (NASA)

Jan.13, 5–6 p.m.  A Day in the Life Aboard the International Space Station (NASA)

Jan. 14, 6–7 p.m.  Managing National Marine Sanctuaries in a Changing Ocean (National Marine Sanctuaries)



Green Schools Conference & Expo Registration Is Open

The 2020 Green Schools Conference & Expo (GSCE) will be held March 2–4, 2020 at Hilton Portland (Oregon) Downtown.  Connect with U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools staff while you're there!  GSCE is the only national event to bring together all the players involved in making green schools a reality: people who lead, operate, build, and teach in U.S. schools.  Attendees engage in hands-on learning, participate in in-depth discussions and problem solving, and get inspired by speakers at the forefront of connecting sustainability and education.  An early-bird registration discount applies through Dec. 20.  (Note: Green Schools National Network members receive early-bird pricing regardless of when they register.)  

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