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: Magnet and Charter

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 of the magnet and charter school honorees.

Odyssey Charter School lettuce planting

Odyssey Charter School; Wilmington, Delaware

Odyssey Charter School is a diverse dual-language Greek public charter school. Odyssey strives to foster the attitudes, skills, and knowledge within students to become responsible and empowered global eco-citizens. This is evident in its student created Eco-Code prominently displayed in the school cafeteria. All of these efforts have been made through the framework of National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools USA, working toward “Pathways” of sustainability. It also participates in the Delaware Pathways to Green Schools program. Odyssey has an edible garden with 24 raised beds (750 square feet), a chicken coop (10 hens and a rooster), an outdoor classroom, pollinator, milkweed gardens, and an indoor aeroponic garden program. Every season, students consume vegetables harvested from the garden. In 2019, the school purchased an interactive and mobile culinary cart to teach students how to be food citizens. High school students in Food Studies participate in weekly cooking labs, and middle school students take an exploratory culinary arts course taught through a Greek lens. The cafeteria serves food with reusable cutlery and on compostable trays. Odyssey is one of three schools leading the effort to plan a statewide and student-led Youth Environmental Summit.

Coyote Willow Family School bosque conservation project

Coyote Willow Family School; Albuquerque, New Mexico

Coyote Willow Family School (CWFS) is a magnet K–8 program. Students engage in problem-based explorations that are practical and hands-on. An ongoing seventh-grade, student-initiated project involves an inquiry of conservation practices along the Albuquerque riverside with professional researchers. Studies cover such topics as waste management, energy conservation measures, and nature preservation and are supported by the Next Generation Science Standards. CWFS has instituted a “no junk food policy” and a “water only” policy that help direct students to snacks and lunches that are nutritious and avoid empty calories. The school gardening program includes raised beds, pollinators, and herbs. The school’s first construction phase achieved LEED Silver certification, with a building that is energy efficient, safe, comfortable, and promotes alternative transportation. Heating is provided by a geothermal heat pump that is electricity-based. Building design and construction incorporated low-emitting materials in all paints, adhesives, and sealants. Air circulation is continuous when spaces are occupied, ensuring appropriate class ventilation. HEPA air filters are used, which remove at least 99.7% of airborne particles. Lighting systems are all LED. All plants are native or adapted to the local high desert climate. The second phase of the school construction will incorporate a substantial solar photovoltaic array; it is expected to generate 75% of the school’s energy needs and will reduce heat island effect by covering 80 parking spaces. The district architect will offer lessons to students about building design features.

Millbrook butterfly release

Millbrook Environmental Connections Magnet Elementary School; Raleigh, North Carolina

Millbrook Environmental Connections Magnet Elementary (MECME) immerses its students, 76% of whom are eligible for free and reduced price lunch, in nature-based learning. Millbrook’s program offers authentic, hands-on opportunities to investigate and connect with local and global issues outside the school’s walls. Students attend Environmental Inquiry classes two times per week. The Environmental Connections Integration Specialist meets regularly with different grade levels to assist with teaching using an environmental lens. In 2019, gardens (rain, pollinator, and edible) were installed on campus. Students use this engaging space to learn about irrigation, food cultivation, stormwater runoff, impermeable surfaces, and other horticulture, sustainability, and ecology topics. MECME’s waste and energy consumption reduction efforts are led by student teams that have conducted audits. Each year, fifth grade completes a unit focused on air quality at school. Air quality monitors are placed at various locations around the school campus. Students use their research to create public service announcements, brochures, and posters to educate parents. MECME has a Food Corps volunteer on-site two full days per week, co-teaching garden curriculum, maintaining garden space with student help, and monitoring the cafeteria and composting. 

Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School oil boom

Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School; Mclellanville, South Carolina

Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School (CREECS) is located on a tidal creek that provides students with the opportunity to get their hands dirty in real-life scientific explorations. CREECS is home to an organic garden and a myriad of animals, including chickens, goats, pigs, and sheep. CREECS installed LED lighting and has a solar-powered weather station and fan in the outdoor classroom. The student council created a bike path to make biking safer for students. CREECS facilitates carpools for students and helps to subsidize a bus. The school installed a drip irrigation system and rain barrels in its garden to help reduce water usage. The school is home to a registered Monarch butterfly waystation, pollinator garden, and rain garden. CREECS manages an active honeybee hive. Students collect and sort recycling every Friday before putting it into the school bin. The school composts to help reduce food waste. CREECS has switched over to entirely compostable silverware, plates, and bowls at all events. All students are encouraged to bring a waste-free lunch and use bamboo cutlery in their lunch boxes. The school participated in the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Breathe Better program to reduce vehicle idling on campus. CREECS is a chemical-free campus. All students attend environmental education class at least twice per week. 

Wellwood International School student built butterfly garden

Wellwood International School; Baltimore, Maryland

Wellwood International School (WIS) uses an energy management database and has undergone building renovations, including a roof replacement, a new chiller system, HVAC renovations, and energy performance contract upgrades. All lighting fixtures are now LED motion sensor lights. Second-grade students conducted a water audit and requested repairs. Wellwood has installed a rain barrel near the butterfly garden to maintain it during the summer months and does not use other outdoor irrigation. Wellwood has tested school drinking fountains for lead since 2016. Wellwood is one of two elementary schools in its district to be piloting a compost program, led by classroom “Recycling Captains.” A tower garden, used by all students at WIS, teaches children how to grow their own vegetables and then enjoy a healthy salad. Fifth-grade students participate in an annual BioBlitz program, when citizen-scientists go into an area park to identify as many organisms as they can. WIS offers yoga, Zumba, flexible seating, movement breaks, and an annual fun run. Students travel to nature centers, farms, and parks for outdoor education. WIS offers copious professional development on sustainability related topics, such as waste, food, green schools, and environmental education. Each grade has multiple environmental projects throughout the year. Over the past five years, students have planted over 50 trees on school property and the adjacent park.

SEEQS river work

SEEQS: The School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability; Honolulu, Hawaii

The School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability (SEEQS) is a public charter middle school. Over the course of their middle school experience, each student engages in three yearlong investigations into a sustainability topic, presents related project work at six public project exhibitions, and compiles a portfolio of these accomplishments. Students maintain raised garden beds, aquaponics, and field systems on campus. The food produced is offered to families at no charge through a weekly farm stand. SEEQS has shifted away from the use of Styrofoam lunch trays, implemented a one-to-one Chromebook program to reduce paper waste, and instituted a (student-championed) ban on single-use plastic drink containers on campus. Students regularly spend time at the Manoa-Palolo stream, which runs alongside the SEEQS campus and is a central feature of the local watershed. They learn about the factors that contribute to stream health, participate in projects to study water quality, and remove invasive species.

Anderson M. Clark Magnet School Student takes selfie with starfish.

Anderson W. Clark Magnet High School; La Crescenta, California

Anderson W. Clark Magnet High School implements project-based learning through solving real-world problems with a hands-on, practical approach. It created an Environmental and Spatial Technology Program in 2003. Students at Clark Magnet pursue their passions through a senior project, including such activities as designing a hydroponics system and a Plexiglas microclimate. On-site, students conducted a water survey of the campus. Clark Magnet received ENERGY STAR certification in 2010, scoring 94 out of 100. Bike Club members invest approximately 100 hours outside of school during afternoons and on weekends working out and competing in regional cycling competitions. Students in Clark Magnet’s Environmental Club led the establishment of a rose garden and have planted California native plants that support pollinators and are drought tolerant. To reduce waste, Clark Magnet implemented a trade-in program for P.E. clothes and combination locks.

Fifth graders at Lincoln Heights Environmental Magnet School conduct soil testing

Lincoln Heights Environmental Connections Magnet Elementary School; Raleigh, North Carolina

In 2018, Lincoln Heights Environmental Connections Magnet Elementary School completed a building renovation in which it integrated best practices for reducing energy costs and increasing water efficiency and for reducing stormwater runoff. The school has reduced domestic water use by 61% and energy use by 29% over 10 years. Recycling encompasses comingled materials, Crayola Colorcycle, Terracycle, and batteries. Art classes use recycled materials. Free breakfast is available for all students every day. Three tower gardens in the building and raised gardens allow students to grow produce. The entire staff has completed Project Learning Tree and Problem Based Learning training and participates in yearlong Using the Outdoors to Teach Experiential Science activities in partnership with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The Environmental Connections Integration Specialist focuses on curricular integration, grants, scheduling professional development, guest speakers, and field trips. Expeditions are 30-minute clubs at the end of each day to allow students to further investigate environmental theme-related topics of their choice, with offerings changing each quarter. Teachers use the outdoors for all subjects, not just science. Science proficiency has jumped from 52% to 76%.