Celebrating the 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

Meet the 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Each day this week, we’ll be spotlighting a few of the 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools around a theme. Today, we bring you some non-public honorees.

Indian Community School wetlands learning

Indian Community School; Franklin, Wisconsin

The Indian Community School (ICS) is a private faith-based intertribal school serving 362 American Indian children, from 4-year-old kindergarten through eighth grade. Approximately 64% of students qualify for free and reduced price lunch. ICS’s building is located on 178 acres of woodland, prairie, and wetland environments. Sprawling windows, vaulted ceilings, and all-natural building materials important to the tribes of Wisconsin bring the natural world in and afford all inside with ongoing opportunities to make connections with Mother Earth. The school itself was built into the topography of the land and prominently features materials connected to American Indian culture. The school works with Compost Crusaders for composting and has partnered with Imperfect Produce to utilize produce that cannot be sold in stores but is perfectly safe for consumption. The schoolyard and parking lots are adorned with native plantings to reduce runoff. ICS is home to an electric vehicle charging station. Students create advocacy plans for water rights and protections. The school focuses on suicide prevention, healthy eating, and mental health to support students. ICS partners with local farmers to use unprocessed food and other nutritionally sound options. Students have traveled to the Menominee Reservation and planted wild rice in their community along the banks of a local river to learn biology, ecology, and civics. The school also partners with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission that provides natural resource management expertise, conservation enforcement, services supporting exercising treaty rights, and culturally responsive and appropriate teachings with students. ICS grounds are home to a 30-acre habitat garden, a 30-feet x 30-feet food garden, a 5-acre adjacent wooded site, and a wetland with boardwalk access to take learning outside. Students can observe, write, and protect the environment around the school. ICS has also planted 50 sugar maple trees so that students will be able to learn about tapping the trees and harvesting sap to make maple syrup and maple sugar.

Montessori Children's House dirty hands

Montessori Children’s House; Redmond, Washington

Montessori Children's House (MCH) is a pre-K–5 private school serving 225 students. The green team has worked with King County Green Schools and received recognition for completing Level 1, waste management; Level 2, water conservation; Level 3, energy conservation; and in 2020 will apply for Level 4, sustaining green school. With King County’s help, the school has a system in place for tracking energy, water, and natural gas usage. MCH is also using the Eco-Schools USA program to work on specific pathways in their sustainability journey. The school replaced all overhead fluorescent lights with LED bulbs and added motion sensor switches to the lights outside each classroom. MCH enforces a no-idling policy at drop-off and works to facilitate carpooling. The school’s campus is home to a wetland that provides not only beautiful scenery and homes to diverse wildlife, but also a unique opportunity for students to learn. Every classroom has a compost, recycle, and garbage bin. The school collects markers to send to Crayola Colorcycle and plastic film to send to Trex. Garden and animal wastes are composted on site. The school has an integrated pest management plan. All the P.E. classes are held outside. For over 10 years the school has been pursuing a farm-to-table experience. The school has an extensive organic-based garden program where students discuss nutritional information, such as where food comes from, fruits and vegetables, cooking ideas, and samplings of the garden’s produce. The garden supplements the snack program with many vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, cucumbers, kale, and lettuce. The kindergarteners participate in Nature Club for 45 minutes each week. Upper elementary grades spend four days at IslandWood on Bainbridge Island annually, where they are immersed in a sustainably focused 280-acre park and learning center.

Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart 1st composting

Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart; Omaha, Nebraska

Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart is an all-girls, Catholic high school of 338 students. The school implemented composting and now has a diversion rate of 77%. Duchesne requires all students to use iPads at school and the Canvas learning management system has allowed teachers to go paperless. Duchesne retrofitted its building with high-efficiency heat pumps, high-efficiency windows, and LED lighting. Duchesne installed a 12-kW solar array. The start time for the school day was pushed from 7:55 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., and block scheduling was adopted to improve student performance and reduce stress. The school cafeteria offers farm-to-table lunches through a local food hub that connects local farmers to wholesale buyers in the restaurant industry. Duchesne serves as a pick-up location for employees and school families who purchase produce boxes. The garden includes raised beds and fruit trees. All Duchesne faculty and staff participated in a day of retreat led by a local sustainability company to determine four overarching sustainability goals. The principal worked closely with all department chairs and faculty to develop and implement cross-curricular sustainability standards. Duchesne sponsors a schoolwide Earth Month. It partners with Omaha’s “Zoo Academy” to provide students with knowledge and career explorations relating to life sciences through authentic STEM experiences at the zoo. Students have overseen tower gardens, participated in Trout in the Classroom, and spearheaded the request for solar panels.

Redwood Cooperative School garden

Redwood Cooperative School; Lexington, Kentucky

For the last four years, Redwood has co-hosted the citywide used cooking oil recycling project, called the Gobble Grease Toss. Students are required to bring a water bottle to school. The space directly outside of every classroom has been turned into outdoor classrooms. Redwood does not use any harmful chemicals, such as pesticides or cleaning products. Redwood built a raised bed garden using free end cuts from a local lumber yard to reduce waste. Each class starts seeds in the classroom and tends to the seedlings until they are ready to be transplanted in the outdoor garden, and all classes tend to the outdoor garden and harvest produce. Redwood is also home to an aquaponics system with koi and edible plants that the students tend and utilize for food production, data collection, and STEM education. Preschool students tap maple trees in their playground area and process the sap to make maple syrup. Redwood participates in the University of Kentucky Extension egg incubation project. Classes incubate, hatch, and care for the chickens. All students, preschoolers through fifth graders, are provided 90 minutes of daily unstructured outdoor time for social and emotional growth, free play, and nature explorations. Each week, Redwood teachers are provided with an opportunity to take free yoga and mindfulness classes.

Aspen Prep Academy Toss Like a Boss

Aspen Prep Academy; Greenwood Village, Colorado

The National Wildlife Federation recognized Aspen Prep Academy as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. This habitat provides natural sources of food and water for native plants and animals, all without the use of pesticides. The grounds include over 50 teaching gardens, a wetlands garden, and a beehive. As part of the Full Option Science System (FOSS) curriculum, every unit incorporates journaling in the outdoors. The school’s annual energy consumption decreased by 45% from 2014–15 to the 2017–18 school year. Aspen Prep reduced water consumption by 50% since 2011. Each student participates in at least one 30- to 45-minute fitness-related class every day. Fifth through eighth graders participate in a weeklong outdoor education program of hiking, rock climbing and rappelling, orienteering, mountain biking, and wilderness medicine training.

Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School Stream Team

Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School; Ladue, Missouri

Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (MICDS) is a junior kindergarten through 12th grade independent day school on a 100-acre campus. Among MICDS’ efficiency achievements are a comprehensive energy audit; installing synthetic turf to reduce mowing, painting, and runoff from the athletic fields and playgrounds; and state-of-the-art irrigation that waters native plantings only during drought conditions using collected rainwater. Other upgrades include lighting, HVAC, and windows that reduce energy consumption. The STEM Building and Center for Community earned LEED Platinum certification. The STEM Building boasts a 10,000-gallon rainwater tank and a 1,100 gallons-per-day tank that stores greywater. Captured rainwater is filtered with UV light for reuse in drip as well as in low-flow toilet room fixtures. The building has an over 400 square-foot solar thermal array used to generate hot water and ventilation air preheat/reheat. MICDS has an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager score of 89 out of 100. In recent years, MICDS has brought online three photovoltaic arrays totaling 220 kW. All food is made in small-batch form to eliminate food waste. MICDS has adapted its World Language department to pursue the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. High school students can pursue AP or regular environmental science, among other sustainability focused classes, such as human geography, plant sciences, and sustainable development. 

The Grace School at Meeting Street

The Grace School at Meeting Street; Providence, Rhode Island

Serving a population that includes 32% of students enrolled in special education, The Grace School’s curriculum was designed “to develop students’ understanding, compassion, and care for people, the material world and the natural environment.” The building was built on 10 acres of brownfields that were remediated to residential standards. In 2014, 338 solar panels were installed, saving the school approximately $12,000 annually. In the cafeteria, students use reusable flatware and trays. A “Uniform Swap” allows families to reuse gently worn uniforms. The green space includes an accessible playground, walking paths, and outdoor classroom space. Classes meet outside to conduct observations of the plants and wildlife for science or use the outdoor classroom space for writing inspiration. Students in grades 3–5 are invited to participate in the bike club, where they travel to different bike paths and trails across the state to ride. Most of The Grace School’s P.E. equipment, including a set of adaptive bikes, is adapted for all students to participate in all units. Students regularly do fieldwork at Roger Williams Park Zoo and Planetarium. The second grade visits the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. Every year, the Narragansett Bay Commission visits for several weeks to teach the students to keep waterways clean for plants, animals, and humans and to instill in them a curiosity, understanding, and respect for how all these aquatic ecosystems work together. 

Woodside Priory

Woodside Priory School; Portola Valley, California

The Woodside Priory School (Priory) is a private and independent college preparatory school serving sixth- through 12th-grade day and boarding students. The efforts to create a sustainable school began in 2009 with a student-formed Sustainability Club. This led to the establishment of the Faculty Sustainability Committee in 2010 and then the Sustainability Director position. Priory began on-site solar generation in 2007 and now generates 30% to 40% of its electricity need. Priory has a waste diversion rate of 75%. Garden crop waste and kitchen prep waste are used to feed a flock of 50 chickens. Chicken manure, bedding, straw, and other organic waste materials are added to the garden’s 800-square-foot student-built composting enclosure. Priory’s 9,000 square-foot Franklin Garden supplies the school kitchen with a daily harvest of fruits and vegetables. Priory offers sustainability classes in Ecological Design & Sustainability, AP Environmental Science, Food Production, Discourse of Dining, Plant to Plate, Stewards in Action, and Health and Wellness.

Gwynedd Mercy Academy water bottle filling

Gwynedd-Mercy Academy Elementary School; Spring House, Pennsylvania

Gwynedd-Mercy Academy Elementary (GMAE) is equipped with motion-sensor, energy-saving LED lighting, and valves have been installed on steam radiators to control the temperature more efficiently in each room. All water fountains have been retrofitted with water bottle filling stations. The school eliminated plastic utensils and dishware in the cafeteria by investing in reusable plates, bowls, silverware, and commercial dishwashers. Plastic water bottles are no longer sold, and cafeteria waste is composted. Weekly communications and student information systems are now all digital and the school has 1:1 technology. The director of the greenhouse is responsible for overseeing, managing, and supervising the environmental education and sustainability initiatives related to the greenhouse. All cleaning and sanitizing supplies are eco-friendly. No hazardous chemicals are kept or used on campus. GMAE recently conducted a mold and asbestos assessment. GMAE is home to an exploratorium for inquiry-based learning in kindergarten through fourth grade, two middle school science labs, a STEM Center, and an outdoor learning area. Various grade levels take field trips to the Morris Arboretum, Perkiomen Valley Water Shed, Longwood Gardens, Camp America, and the Science Center in Harrisburg to support experiential learning. Windmill projects, hatching chicks, sustainable living projects, dissecting owl pellets, plantings in the greenhouse, taking care of class pets, and hatching Monarch butterflies are a few of the ways students make a difference.

Wasatch Academy Moab climbing trip

Wasatch Academy; Mount Pleasant, Utah

Since 1875, the 30-acre campus of Wasatch Academy has been home to a diverse international student body. In 2012, Wasatch designed and installed a state-of-the-art geothermal system that heats and cools seven buildings. Wasatch’s Sustainability Council promotes sustainability education on campus through student-driven projects and events. In 2017, the Director of Sustainability and Experiential Education position was introduced. A Ban the Bottle Campaign drastically reduced consumption of bottled water and allowed the Council to raise money for the purchase and installation of water bottle filling stations. Outdoor recreation offerings include rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, paddle boarding, rafting, snowshoeing, sledding, skiing, and snowboarding. Wasatch has its own ski cabin and ski hill/terrain park. The school also has an equine indoor riding arena, a spacious 20-stall barn and turn out pens, outdoor riding pad, and a galloping track. The Sustainability Council works with “Chef Joe” in the school kitchen to offer healthy meals to students and staff and to adopt sustainable practices in the kitchen. Food scraps are collected and donated to local goat and pig farmers or used in the community garden. By pursuing designations as a Utah Green School with the Utah Society of Environmental Education and as an Eco School with the National Wildlife Federation, Wasatch strengthens sustainability education. Statistics students grapple with, “Can we use data to predict how much food will be consumed during a given meal to save money and limit food waste?” Discrete Math students try to answer the question, “How can Wasatch Academy most effectively move toward a net-zero campus?” Driving questions inspire students with an immediately engaging prompt and provide them with the opportunity to dive deeply into investigation, to be creative in their solutions, and to pursue the knowledge that is most relevant to the problem. Experiential Immersions are five-day minicourses offered to all Wasatch Academy students each fall. For example, students design and build two water catchment tanks to supply rainwater irrigation to the new gardens and constructed wetland area near the engineering building.

Ursuline Academy

Ursuline Academy; Wilmington, Delaware

Ursuline Academy is an independent, Catholic school serving students from pre-K to grade 12 in an urban setting. Ursuline had an energy audit performed in 2017 by Practical Energy Solutions. It is currently undertaking a comprehensive set of energy conservation and renewable energy measures through a project with Seiberlich Trane Energy Services to replace HVAC systems, install a demonstration solar array, and retrofit light fixtures, envelope, weatherization, and water fixtures. Students in grades 6–12 have laptops, and the use of Google Classroom for schoolwork has resulted in a significant reduction in paper. The cafeteria uses compostable bowls and plates and has eliminated trays and straws. Students use raised beds for vegetables and herbs, design and build birdhouses, compost with worms, graph rainfall, and maintain a wildlife-edible Christmas tree, among other activities. Students in grades K–5 take part in the “Wander and Wonder” program, in which students are encouraged to wander outside, learn about a certain topic, and then wonder about future questions. Through Delaware’s Adopt-a-Wetland program, Ursuline has adopted the Cool Spring reservoir where students engage in cleanups several times a year.