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 District Sustainability Awardees

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 District Sustainability Awardees.

School District of Bayfield electrothon team

School District of Bayfield; Bayfield, Wisconsin

On any given day, it would be typical to find School District of Bayfield students in the school forest, on tribal forested land, within the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, or in some other local natural green space. Each year, Bayfield High School students operate a maple sugar bush project on school grounds and within the surrounding neighborhoods. A rain barrel catches runoff from the garden shed. The garden manager, school staff, and students designed and developed swales and berms to collect rainwater. Annually, students learn about alternative transportation and build an electric vehicle to participate in the Wisconsin Electrathon competition. The Bayfield community garden includes a high tunnel to extend the growing season and garden plots for each elementary classroom to tend. With the help of an Americorps Farm-to-School Specialist and the University of Wisconsin-Extension FoodWise Program, Bayfield Elementary K–5 classes receive nutrition and gardening lessons throughout the school year. Each year, middle school and high school teachers develop weeklong courses focused on local environmental topics and environmental literacy. Bayfield has installed LED lighting and water bottle filling stations. Lighting for the student and staff parking lot operates on solar energy. The school-owned community recreation center and swimming facility has rooftop solar panels.

Parkway School District green team recycling

Parkway School District; Chesterfield, Missouri

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager documents a cumulative districtwide savings of approximately $960,000 since 2010 for Parkway School District (PSD). Solar panels have been installed at each of the district’s 33 buildings. PSD participates in utility incentive rebate programs to fund the installation of occupancy sensors, LED lighting, building controls, and efficient HVAC equipment. Through this program, the district has completed 177 projects and received $1,475,000 in incentives. All Parkway schools compost their food waste, lunch trays, bowls, utensils, soiled paper, and coffee cups, cutting the district’s landfill waste in half since 2012. PSD has 30 compressed national gas (CNG) buses and two CNG fueling stations. School grounds include produce gardens, rain gardens, pollinator gardens, indoor hydroponic gardens, native plant and animal habitats, outdoor classrooms, and hiking trails that are used as outdoor learning spaces. Students participate in an “Adventure and Outdoor Education” unit in P.E., where they are introduced to the low-ropes course, rock climbing, and team building. In 2019, the Board of Education approved the addition of the Parkway Principles of Education for Sustainability to the guaranteed curriculum framework for all K–12 students, making it one of the first school districts within Missouri to do so. All 1,300 sixth-grade students across PSD participate in the Outdoor School Program at Camp Lakewood. Each month, the district’s own Sustainable Schools Challenge focuses on a different U.N. Sustainable Development Goal through the monthly mini-challenges and newsletters. By submitting activities for points, schools compete for prizes to fund other sustainability projects.

Seattle Public Schools Hazel Wolf K-8

Seattle Public Schools; Seattle, Washington

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) are encouraged to create green teams and to certify with Washington Green Schools. Funding for sustainability projects is available through a dedicated shared savings account, which is established by meeting goals in resource conservation and waste diversion. SPS has three resource conservation specialists. Over 10 years, the district saved approximately $1.4 million in waste, water, and energy costs. All facilities are benchmarked using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, and 75 percent of schools have received ENERGY STAR certification at some point. Six schools recently added 100kW+ photovoltaic systems, bringing the number of solar schools to 10. Most schools have food share tables in cafeterias. Four schools have pilot programs for food recovery with local food banks. Stormwater features that go beyond code include bioswales, detention ponds, rain gardens, and vaults. SPS conducts extensive water quality testing on a three-year cycle. Transportation equips buses with tablets for route management. District policy and procedures prohibit idling to reduce fuel use and air pollution. A newly implemented soup bar pilot in secondary schools allows students to choose their vegetables and then add a broth. Salad bars have been added to all schools. Eighty percent of schools have one or more forms of outdoor classrooms, including edible gardens, permaculture, native plants, ornamentals, rainwater-management, wetlands, and forests. SPS manages a School Learning Garden Network for the community to support these spaces. Cascade Bicycle Club provides bike and pedestrian safety for every student in grades 3–8. The district works with local rowing clubs on skill and water safety education. Fifth-grade elementary school classes participate in outdoor learning experience through IslandWood. Other elementary schools participate in the Salmon in the Schools program. Rigorous climate science is taught from elementary to high school. Advanced Placement Environmental Science is offered at seven high schools. Other opportunities include aquaponic systems work, Project Feed 1010, a horticulture class with an active greenhouse, Envirothon participation, and an International World Water Week Conference.

Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation butterfly nets

Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation; Fishers, Indiana

In 2017, Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation (HSE) hired an energy manager with the task of monitoring energy use, increasing efficiency, and engaging students and staff in sustainability endeavors. Since the creation of this position, the district has increased enrollment and opened a new school, but total energy costs have decreased. HSE has standardized the chemicals used throughout the district by installing a centrally located chemical dispensing system instead of single-use spray bottles at every school. Student-led projects have introduced vegetable gardens, rain gardens, pollinator gardens, flower beds, and trails. Water samples, population studies, soil judging, and macroinvertebrate identification are a few activities commonly completed in outdoor classrooms. HSE is cultivating a relationship with Flat Rock River Camp in Indiana, to send sixth graders to study environmental science. During students’ seventh-grade year, they travel to Camp Tecumseh, where they stay for three days and two nights to learn about ecosystem recovery, water quality monitoring, plant identification, and population counts. Across the district students work with greenhouses, beehives, chicken coops, robotics labs, and equipment purchased through a district foundation grant.

Martin County School District environmental field trip

Martin County School District; Stuart, Florida

Martin County School District Green Teams sponsor activities like No Idle Zones, Bike to School promotions, and Walk to School Day. The fleet of approximately 100 school buses are fueled by ultra-low sulphur diesel, and the Superintendent’s Office uses a hybrid car. All students from kindergarten through seventh grade, as well as high school marine and environmental science classes, visit the Environmental Studies Center (ESC) to participate in hands-on environmental education. Students explore beaches, swamps, ponds, and wetlands. They receive instruction in the Center’s indoor and outdoor interactive classrooms, science labs and museum, and, at different grade levels, experience ESC’s floating classroom, a 30-foot boat. Each summer the Center offers Camp WET (Water, Environment, Technology) for students entering fifth and sixth grade with the goals of raising environmental awareness, increasing knowledge of natural habitats, and developing sustainable behaviors.

Fayette County Public Schools tree week planting

Fayette County Public Schools; Lexington, Kentucky

In 2019, Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) developed Kentucky’s first school district sustainability and wellness strategic plan. The plan is a five-year roadmap that builds upon the district’s strengths, momentum, and years of sustainability progress. In addition to a districtwide three-pronged Sustainability Scorecard to provide schools with a tool to benchmark performance and identify opportunities for sustainability improvement, the district offers an incentive program. Since FCPS started monitoring and managing energy consumption in 2011, it has reduced EUI overall by 24 percent. Over that same period, FCPS saw its student population grow by over 4,000 additional students and an additional 800,000+ square feet of building area. FCPS schools have collected and upcycled over 20,000 pounds of nonrecyclable plastic lids into campus benches and tables incorporated into their outdoor classroom settings. With support from the district’s Outdoor Classroom Coalition, 85 percent of FCPS sites have installed an outdoor classroom.

Pullman Public Schools

Pullman Public Schools; Pullman, Washington

Pullman Public Schools (PPS) established a sustainability committee to support overall district operations and individual building goals to reduce environmental impacts, improve health and wellness, and enhance environmental and sustainability education. The committee worked with experts at McKinstry to complete a baseline energy audit. More than 50 percent of district energy is from renewable resources, such as wind and solar. Student green teams conducted a water audit and then teamed up with the City of Pullman to replace old aerators with water-conserving models. The district has installed electric car charging at two schools. An annual bike-and-walk-to-school day campaign encourages active transportation. All secondary students living within Pullman city limits have access to city bus passes. The district received a grant to fund the purchase of an electric bus. PPS is now in the second year of a scratch cooking program with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. Students learn about gardening and the source of their food and are able to grow vegetables that district kitchens can then use as ingredients for student meals. All second graders in the district take a field trip to explore a local aquifer site and learn about how it impacts the Pullman community and how they can care for these resources and reduce consumption. They learn the science behind hives, pollinating, and honey and calculate the hives’ carbon footprint. PPS has partnered with Pacific Education Institute since 2018 to provide teachers with high-quality professional learning to advance science literacy and deepen student engagement by empowering educators to teach real-world science outdoors. The Palouse Conservation District partners with PPS to provide high-quality training and workshops for district staff and students throughout the school year. Fifth grade attends outdoor environmental education camp for five days of science lessons.

Carmel Unified School District nature journaling

Carmel Unified School District; Carmel, California

Carmel Unified School District (CUSD) serves diverse students from across 600 square miles, roughly the size of Rhode Island. CUSD’s mission calls out responsibility for the environment as a core belief. CUSD’s Environmental Responsibility Team meets regularly to brainstorm ways to reduce their environmental footprint, network, and share accomplishments in environmental literacy and community involvement. The district partners with local nonprofit MEarth, to manage The Habitat, a 10-acre parcel adjacent to Carmel Middle School that is dedicated to outdoor learning and environmental literacy. CUSD utilizes a consortium of local farms through a woman-owned farm to school business to provide fresh, organic produce and salad bars. All sixth graders take an Ecoliteracy course and learn about biodiversity, human impacts, and advocacy. All middle school science classes go to The Habitat to study local and migrating birds, native plants, and insects. All school sites have gardens. All school sites incorporate composting into their curriculum.