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

For U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Week, each day we’ll be spotlighting a few of the 2020 honorees around a theme. Today, we bring you some of the rural honorees.

Wahluke tomato plants

Wahluke School District; Mattawa, Washington

The Wahluke School District (WSD) is a school district in an agricultural region of eastern Washington. The district serves 2,563 students, 98 percent of whom are minority and 92 percent of whom qualify for free and reduced price lunch. The WSD maintenance department is applying automation to coordinate HVAC systems around the district. LED bulbs are phased in as old bulbs die out. All district electricity comes from renewable hydropower provided by the Grant County Public Utility District. All district irrigation uses non-potable water from the irrigation canal system serving Grant County. WSD partnered with the Grant County Transit Authority and Ben Franklin Transit to provide staff with access to carpools to their jobs in Grant County from communities more than 50 miles away. WSD has established on-site composting at two elementary schools, cutting food waste by 50 percent. One elementary school garden is established, and another is under development. Elementary school students have three outdoor recesses per day. WSD’s three elementary schools partnered with the Mattawa Community Medical Clinic to provide nutrition classes to the after-school garden clubs. Students across all grades have been involved in the pumpkin patch located on district grounds. All Wahluke elementary schools are part of the K–5 Science Education Cooperative through Educational Service District 105, which includes the Smithsonian: Science for the Classroom curriculum and ClimeTime teacher training linking climate science and Next Generation Science Standards. Wahluke Junior High participates in the Salmon in the Classroom program in partnership with the Mid-Columbia Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The high school offers environmental science, animal science, and natural resources courses.

Guatemalan Studies Class

Mount Desert Island High School; Bar Harbor, Maine

Mount Desert Island High School (MDIHS) is a public high school in Maine that draws 542 students from 10 K–8 schools, including three tiny schools (3–36 students) from outer islands. In the fall of 2019, MDIHS became the first high school in Maine to generate all its electricity needs from on-site solar. It also has an electric bus. MDI completed a conversion to LED lights inside school and LED “night-sky” compliant lighting in parking areas. Composting in the cafeteria started at the end of 2018–19. During the 2019–20 school year, more than 50 percent of students were in at least one course that included a focus on climate change, human impacts on the environment, and/or proposing and designing solutions for problems they identify and research. Students enrolled in the nine-week Farm to Table elective visit local farms and spend some time in the kitchen, learning to prepare and cook locally grown and gathered food. In the Food and Nutrition course, students discuss the environmental impact of agriculture, compare the impacts of eating locally versus globally sourced foods, and explore the impact of global climate change on the availability of clean water. Students in the Clothing Construction course compare natural, synthetic, mass produced, and locally grown fibers and their impacts. The Guatemalan Studies class, offered every other year since 2012, is a semester-long course combined with two weeks of study, cultural immersion, and service learning in the highlands of Guatemala.

Rappahannock water sampling

Rappahannock County Public Schools; Washington, Virginia

Rappahannock County Public Schools (RCPS), comprised of an elementary and high school, has a total district enrollment of 801 students. Both schools have had windows replaced, HVAC control systems installed, and exterior lighting retrofitted. Schools have composting bins and a food-sharing table to reduce food waste. Weekly classroom newsletters, folders, and other communications have gone digital. Cafeterias have reusable plates. The high school uses rain-harvesting cisterns to collect and then water plants in the greenhouse and school gardens. Salad bars are available in both schools and all students are provided vouchers to purchase from the local farmer’s market. . A sensory pathway has been installed in the elementary school and a Neuronasium – with pedal desks, standing desks, glider desks, balance desks, swivel desks, and wobble stools – in the high school. Master naturalists and master gardeners work with students on the importance of pollinators and ways to ensure their survival. Both schools participate in the Trout in the Classroom program. A new courtyard at the elementary school houses raised beds, a pond with a waterfall, composting bins, a kiln, a greenhouse, and a labyrinth. Designees from the school division participate in multiple professional development opportunities funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Culpeper Soil and Water, Project WET, Project Learning Tree, and Project WILD. Each year, fourth-grade students visit an experimental farm to participate in various hands-on lessons, and fifth- graders take a trip to Shenandoah National Park.

Bayard sod repurpose

Bayard Public Schools; Bayard, Nebraska

Bayard Public Schools conducted an energy audit, leading it to invest in LED lights, occupancy sensors, and a new HVAC control system. Bathrooms have been upgraded to sensor-based water fixtures, and water bottle filling stations have replaced the traditional drinking fountains. Students are working on a re-development of the parking lot to mitigate storm water runoff in a bioswale with pollinator friendly vegetation. Students have also taken part in planting diverse species of trees in four locations on campus and are working to label them into an arboretum system. The district manages worm and tumble composters and then uses the finished compost in its gardens. Students lead recycling efforts. The school district has participated in the Nebraska school radon testing program and undertaken a mold abatement project. Students study ecology as it relates to the biosphere, ecosystems, populations, communities, and global change. The agricultural program includes traditional farming, an aquaponics system, and a newly constructed greenhouse. First grade tours the local landfill, fourth grade visits solar and wind farms, and the fifth grade utilizes Trout in the Classroom.

Sunrise School bee keeping

Sunrise Elementary School; DeSoto, Missouri

Sunrise Elementary School participates in the Green Schools Quest (GSQ), a six-month, project-based contest for Missouri schools that catalyzes student-driven green projects. A 22-acre outdoor classroom allows for a variety of learning experiences in several ecosystems, including a pond, a woodland, and a cultivated vegetable garden. In 2016, Sunrise installed a storm water detention basin that detains approximately 75% of the school campus runoff water. Sunrise composts 40 pounds of raw fruit and vegetable scraps on-site per week from the lunchroom. Feed the hogs and worms composting programs engage local farmers and families. The state department of conservation funds outdoor field trips for each grade level, while the county health department provides monthly lessons for grades K–2. The University of Missouri Extension offers health education and cooking lessons to every student using school garden produce. Local farmers provide minilessons to specific grade levels based on content needs, and a master gardener offers lessons during the planting season to second grade. The Jefferson County Beekeepers Association worked alongside the school to help teach sessions regarding the importance of bees and to install hives from which students extract honey for sale to the community. The use of water bottle refilling stations, rain barrels, tower gardens, and an aquaponics system reinforce the value of water conservation. The rural school uses well water, which is tested and adjusted monthly to ensure water quality. Sunrise installed a geothermal heating/cooling system, and 100% of the school building has been converted to LED lighting.

Milking goat at MAgnolia nature school

Magnolia Nature School at Camp McDowell; Nauvoo, Alabama

Magnolia Nature School is a nature-based pre-K school on the 1,140-acre campus of Camp McDowell in Winston County, Alabama. Children ages 3–6 explore the farm, forest, and streams of Camp McDowell. Through hands-on experience and inquiry-based learning, Magnolia is a place where curiosity is welcome and there are never enough answers. The school serves a rural, socioeconomically disadvantaged community and provides a high-quality STEAM-based education that utilizes the natural world as its classroom. The Magnolia Curriculum is an inquiry-based model that focuses on exploring nature and encouraging creativity. Children use natural objects to imagine, examine, wonder, create, and count. Magnolia Nature school students spend at least 80% of the school day outside exploring the farm, streams, and trails. Magnolia provides breakfast, lunch, and snacks, including fresh fruits and vegetables. Any leftover fruit, vegetables, or bread from their meals or snacks are fed to the pigs or chickens at the farm, composted in the farm compost bins, or picked up by farmers to give to their farm animals. Students participate in planting projects and eat food from the raised bed garden that they help maintain. The camp features a solar array and hydroelectric systems that together produce more energy than the campus uses.

Camden Hills Regional wind turbine and compost pile

Camden Hills Regional High School; Rockport, Maine

Camden Hills Regional High School (CHRHS) is a rural public high school serving 720 students in grades 9 through 12. The student sustainability group led the effort to install a 100-kW wind turbine and a 159-kW solar array, together providing 30% of electricity needs. The composting system includes paper waste and horse manure, and the output is used on school grounds and sold at fundraisers. The campus features gardens, an orchard, and asparagus patch, all supplying the cafeteria. CHRHS’ outdoor classroom is heavily used by teachers. The nature trails are used by Nordic skiing, mountain biking, and cross-country teams. Over 77% of teachers incorporate sustainability education into courses. All freshmen Global Science courses cover climate science and sustainability. AP Environmental Science labs are designed around investigation of campus air and water quality. Honors English 9 students write climate fiction. Other courses include Horticulture, Humans in the Environment, Advanced Marine Ecology, Active Citizenship, and Maine Outdoor Experience, a P.E. course featuring snowshoeing, sea kayaking, hiking, and camping.