March 2021 Green Strides Newsletter

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

In the March 2021 Green Strides...

In the News

American Rescue plan

The American Rescue Plan Includes Funds for School Indoor Air Quality and Environmental Health Upgrades

On March 11, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021, providing additional relief to address the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The ARP includes a total of $169.5 billion in funding for education, with $129.6 billion for K-12 education and $39.6 billion for higher education.  It also includes $7.2 billion in funding for the federal E-Rate Program, extended to provide devices and connectivity to students, educators, and the patrons of public libraries.  In addition, it includes $39 billion for early childhood programming. 

Specifically for K-12 education, the ARP provides $122 billion for new Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund awards to State Education Agencies (SEAs), which must allocate 90% of their funding to local educational agencies (LEAs).  Allocations to both SEAs and LEAs are based on their relative shares of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I, Part A funding. 

The Department announced last week that it will make ESSER Fund allocations available to SEAs this month, so that they may immediately fund health and safety measures consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, including by investing in resources to improve indoor air quality and reduce risk of exposure to environmental health hazards, which is covered in Pillar IIA of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS). Consult the Department letter to Chief State School Officers and fact sheet).  Visit EPA’s website to access a suite of resources for healthy schools, including guidance to reduce exposure to indoor environmental contaminants in schools through proper ventilation, effective cleaning, and preventive maintenance practices.

CDC Healthy Schools

CDC Updates Guidance for In-Person Instruction

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated school guidance to incorporate the latest science on safe school operation during COVID-19. The updated Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention enhances CDC’s existing resources for K–12 schools in opening for in-person instruction and remaining open. 

Based on these new studies, the preponderance of evidence from schools in the U.S. indicates that limited in-school transmission occurs in schools that have universal masking combined with other prevention strategies, even those with less than 6 feet between students. The science indicates that using a distance of at least 3 feet between students in classrooms that are participating in cohorting could be a feasible option for schools providing full in-person instruction, as long as universal mask requirements are in place. 

RIDE logo

ED-GRS Announces 2021 Director’s Award Recipients

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has selected Joseph DaSilva, school construction coordinator, Manuel Cordero, assistant school construction coordinator, and Mario Carreno, school construction finance specialist, at the Rhode Island Department of Education as recipients of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) 2021 Director’s Award.

Fondly known as the "Pep Boys of Rhode Island," the trio hosted an ambitious “Education Built to Last” facilities-themed Green Strides Tour in 2013.  They engaged stakeholders from various agencies and sectors to share sustainable best practices, select ED-GRS nominees, and celebrate honored institutions.  Most notably, they have worked to cultivate ED-GRS applicants by linking an existing Rhode Island facilities grant program to green schools work, encouraging not only exemplary facilities practices, but also efforts to improve environmental literacy and wellness. The Pep Boys will be honored, alongside schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions, at a ceremony this fall, public health conditions permitting.

Green Ribbon Schools Logo

2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Coming Soon!

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is a public engagement initiative structured as a federal recognition award for school sustainability.  It helps to facilitate state and local collaboration regarding school facilities, health, and environmental education. By highlighting schools’, districts’, and postsecondary institutions’ cost-saving, health promoting, and performance-enhancing sustainability practices, ED-GRS celebrates these schools and brings more attention to their work. 

Schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions do not apply to ED for this award but to their state K–12 or postsecondary education authority. ED is currently reviewing the 2021 nominees and will be announcing the honorees on April 22.  The schools are invited to a fall ceremony in Washington, D.C., public health conditions permitting, where they receive a sustainable plaque; are the subject of media attention; and have their efforts celebrated. Other schools, in turn, may learn about and adopt their practices.

For those schools that have not already received the award, now is a great time to begin preparing for the 2022 application cycle by using the resources and programs available on Green Strides and by contacting their state education authority.  Review frequently asked questions for all three (school, district, postsecondary) award categories. Interested colleges and universities should contact their state higher education authorities, while schools and districts should contact state education agencies

State education authorities can find award criteria and other state implementation guidance on ED's website and may contact U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for more information.  


Green Schools Conference Logo

Be Part of the Green Schools Conference

This year, the Green Schools Conference will convene virtually on June 28–29.  The event will build on a series of green schools summits in February, bringing together green schools advocates from across all professional backgrounds — those who build, lead, operate, or teach in green schools — for cross-collaboration and learning.  The education program features two days of programming, including interactive sessions for direct attendee engagement and contribution.  Registration opened on March 8 and early bird pricing remains in effect through May 14.

Read a recap of a series of Green School summits sponsored by the Center for Green Schools, each with targeted audiences, including educators and administrators, building industry professionals, and facilities and sustainability leaders  The rich conversations at those summits informed a list of specific topics that will be addressed at the summer conference.

National Healthy Schools Day Logo

National Healthy Schools Day Is April 6

National Healthy Schools Day is coordinated by Healthy Schools Network, in partnership with many agencies and organizations. It promotes the use of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA’s) Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit as well as other EPA environmental health guidelines and programs for schools and children’s health.  Since 2002, parents, teachers, school nurses, custodians, advocates, and agencies have promoted National Healthy Schools Day activities nationwide.  Whether you are at the beginning stages of investigating healthy school environments or have an established indoor air/environmental quality program, you are invited to host a local activity that educates others and celebrates your school’s successes.

NEEF logo

National Environmental Education Week Is April 19–23

National Environmental Education (EE) Week is held each spring around the time of Earth Day and inspires environmental learning and stewardship among K–12 students.  Find links to activity guides, educational videos and infographics, and citizen science resources from last year's EE Week, and sign up to receive forthcoming 2021 resources and information.

Better Buildings Logo

U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit is May 17–21 

The U.S. Department of Energy's next Better Buildings, Better The U.S. Department of Energy's next Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit will take place May 17–20, 2021. This virtual, no-cost event will feature engaging and interactive sessions, as well as opportunities for attendees to network with their fellow industry peers and experts. View the agenda and register.

Climate Generation

Summer Institute for Climate Change Education is July 28-30

Join a network of teachers from across the country for a three-day virtual conference to learn new tools, skills, and resources to teach climate change in any subject area! Climate Generation’s 16th annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education will be hosted in partnership  with The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Climate Office. Register and learn more about scholarship and cohort leader opportunities.

Resources and Opportunities


New Factsheets on Ensuring Drinking Water Quality in Schools During and After Extended Closures

US EPA announced the publication of two factsheets: 1) Ensuring Drinking Water Quality in Schools During and After Extended Closures and 2) Ensuring Drinking Water Quality in Child Care Facilities During and After Extended Closures. These factsheets provide guidance on maintaining drinking water quality during extended closures and recommends start-up procedures when reopening to ensure that drinking water is safe for consumption.  The factsheets are part of the EPA 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities (3Ts) ToolKit.


Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program (Multiple Deadlines)

NOAA will fund locally relevant, experiential Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) for K–12 students in seven U.S. regions through its Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program. MWEEs are indoor and outdoor classroom activities that increase understanding of watershed, ocean, coastal, riverine, and estuarine ecosystems. Fiscal year 2021 B-WET funding will include support for meaningful responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that are also creative approaches to watershed education, especially for students of color and low-income families.  Learn more about the program and view the application and regional deadlines.

NAAEE logo

Spotlight on a Green Strides Resource: EEpro

EEpro is the online platform for environmental education professional development and resources. Anyone can join the network to take advantage of networking groups, learning, jobs, opportunities, and other resources.


Green Strides Design

The Green Strides Webinars Continue Through Winter

The Green Strides Webinar Series has promoted over 2,000 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.)

March 30, 1–2:30 p.m.  Part 3:  How to Benefit from Benchmarking Compliance with Strategies for Improving Energy Performance (EPA)

March 30, 6–7 p.m.  Explore Humans in Space:  Crew Transportation with Orion (NASA)

March 31, 12–1:15 p.m.  Portfolio Manager – Ask the Expert (EPA)

March 31, 3–4 p.m.  Secrets for A Strong Course Affiliation Program (AASHE)

March 31, 4:30–5:30 p.m.  Explore Humans in Space:  Making It Culturally Relevant (NASA)

March 31, 4:30–5:30 p.m.  Teach Outdoors Weekly Workshops:  Maple Syruping (Teach Outdoors!  Minnesota)

March 31, 6–7 p.m.  NASA’s FlyByMath:  Using Aeronautics to Solve Hands-On Distance-Rate-Time Problems (NASA)

April 1, 6–7 p.m.  Explore Earth:  Climate Change Research Initiative - Blue Carbon (NASA)

April 5, 6–7 p.m.  Explore Humans in Space:  The Lost Lessons of Christa McAuliffe (Part 2) Liquids in Microgravity (NASA)

April 6, 6–7 p.m.  Highlighting Scientific and Technological Contributions from Historically Underrepresented STEM Professionals at NASA (NASA)

April 7, 1–2 p.m.  Portfolio Manager 101 (EPA)

April 7, 4:30–5:30 p.m. Exploring Earth Systems:  Water Walk Field Trip (NASA)

April 7, 7:30–8:30 p.m.  The Food Matters Action Kit & Activity Guide for Educators (Green Teacher)

April 8, 1–2:30 p.m. Rooted in Research: Reducing Virus Transmission, Improving Ventilation and Promoting Healthy IAQ in Schools (EPA)

April 8, 2–3 p.m. Consumer Behaviors & Zero Waste Communities:  Inform?  Enable?  Incentive?  Regulate? (Keep America Beautiful)

April 8, 3:00–4:00 p.m. Moving Field Guide:  A Kinesthetic Approach to Environmental Education (NAAEE)

April 8, 4:30–5:30 p.m. Climate Change Research Initiative – Urban Surface Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effects (NASA)

April 12, 5–6 p.m. Celebrate Earth Day with NASA STEAM Activities (NASA)

April 13, 6–7 p.m. Exploration of STEM Careers and Career Pathways at NASA (NASA)

April 14, 12–1 p.m.  Portfolio Manager – Ask the Expert (EPA)

April 14, 2–3:15 p.m.  Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

April 15, 2–3 p.m.  Safety & Sustainability:  Reusable Dining during COVID-19 (CURC)

April 15, 2–3 p.m.  Wetland Restoration Without the Use of Plastics (USFWS)

April 19, 1–2 p.m. Environmental Control and Life Support System, Water Filtration and the Engineering Design Process (NASA)

April 19, 6–7 p.m. The Future of Forests – Patterns of Succession (NASA)

April 20, 1–2 p.m.  Portfolio Manager 301 (EPA)

April 20, 6–7 p.m. Diversifying STEM Workforce:  NASA STEM-Related Mission Resources that Celebrate Diversity (NASA)

Learn about the 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Next month, we will announce the 2021 ED-GRS honorees.  In this Green Strides edition, we continue to learn from the 2020 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.  

School district of bayfield reseeding rice

School District of Bayfield, Bayfield, Wisconsin

School District of Bayfield students learn in the school forest, on tribal forested land, andon the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, as well as at other local natural green spaces.  Students and staff designed and developed swales and berms to collect rainwater. Annually, students build an electric vehicle and participate in the Wisconsin Electrathon competition. The Bayfield community garden includes plots for each elementary classroom to tend.  Elementary teachers provide nutrition and gardening lessons while middle and high school teachers develop weeklong courses on local environmental topics and environmental literacy. The school-owned community recreation center and swimming facility has rooftop solar panels.

Highland Elementary Willow Planting

Highland Elementary School; Lake Worth, Florida

Highland Elementary School has a temperature-controlled share table for students to select healthy snacks, such as fruit, salad, and milk, to supplement their lunch options, consume during snack time, and bring home. The Highland butterfly garden is full of native and naturalized flora that are a huge boon to the local pollinator population and the educational community. Students visit MacArthur Beach State Park, Norton Sculpture Garden, and Grassy Waters Preserve to engage in outdoor learning.

Odyssey hydroponic tower garden

Odyssey Charter School; Wilmington, Delaware

Odyssey Charter School is a dual-language Greek public charter school. Odyssey strives to foster students’ attitudes, skills, and knowledge to help them become responsible and empowered global eco-citizens. The school participates in the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-School USA program, which works to form pathways of sustainability. It also participates in the Delaware Pathways to Green Schools program. Odyssey has a garden with 24 raised beds, a chicken coop, an outdoor classroom, a pollinator, milkweed gardens, and an indoor aeroponic garden. Every season, students consume vegetables from the garden. The cafeteria serves food with reusable cutlery, on compostable trays.

Park Avenue Elementary School kindergarten students are on the lookout for signs of spring.

At 2018 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Park Avenue Elementary School in Warwick, NY, students observe the first signs of spring.

Connect With Green Strides

Green Strides: Resources for School Facilities, Health, and Environment
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools
Facebook: @EDGreenRibbonSchools
Twitter: @EDGreenRibbon
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