May 2021 Green Strides Newsletter

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

In the May 2021 Green Strides

In the News

Melito Ramirez with Award

ED Announces First Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Awardee

On May 18, in a video message, Secretary Cardona announced the selection of Melito Ramirez, an intervention specialist at Walla Walla High School, in Walla Walla, Washington, as the nation’s first Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) awardee.  The Secretary notified Mr. Ramirez of his award on a surprise Zoom call the day before.

This new honor, established by Congress in 2019, spotlights classified school employees’ outstanding contributions to quality education.  For this inaugural competition, the Department of Education received 32 nominations from 20 states encompassing paraprofessional, clerical, and administrative services; transportation services; food and nutrition services; custodial and maintenance services; security services; health and student services; technical services; and skilled trades professions.  Over two rounds of review, encompassing 18 internal and external reviewers, Mr. Ramirez came out on top.

Center for Green Schools logo

Report Shows How Schools Worked to Improve Air Quality During the Pandemic

The Center for Green Schools, with technical support from ASHRAE, has released a new report detailing how school districts have used air quality measures in their buildings to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The report, Preparation in the Pandemic: How Schools Implemented Air Quality Measures to Protect Occupants from COVID-19, includes additional data to reinforce the case for school infrastructure investment.  Schools relied on their HVAC systems to make buildings safer for students and teachers, but, in many cases, these systems were outdated or not designed to support the recommended strategies.  The report is the only known national view of indoor air quality in schools during the pandemic, covering what school districts have prioritized, what actions they have taken, how they have made decisions, and what the consequences have been. 

Resources and Opportunities


Apply to Your State for RISE in 2021-2022

This month, we celebrate Melito Ramirez as the 2021 RISE awardee and are reminded of the critical work of all classified school employees in supporting student success.  Individuals interested in nominating or applying for the 2021-2022 cycle should contact their governor’s office to inquire about their state-specific process.  Governors’ office and state educational agency program administrators may contact with any questions and to indicate a state’s plans to participate for the coming cycle.  Each state may make up to two nominations by the Nov. 1 deadline.

Green Ribbon Schools Logo

Apply to Your State for ED-GRS in 2021-2022

For those schools that have not already received the ED-GRS award, now is a great time to begin preparing for the 2021-2022 application cycle by using the resources on Green Strides and by contacting your state education authority.  Review Frequently Asked Questions for all three award categories.  Interested colleges and universities may contact their state higher education authorities, while schools and districts may contact state educational agencies.  State education authorities can find award implementation guidance on ED’s website and may contact U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for more information.  

Meet the 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Meet the 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. Throughout the year, we’ll highlight a few honorees’ practices in every newsletter.

Paramount beekeepers

Paramount Brookside; Indianapolis, Indiana

Paramount Brookside is a K-8 public charter school that aims to be a transformative force in its neighborhood.  Over six years, the school transformed a desolate and overgrown portion of the campus into a welcoming pocket park for the Brookside neighborhood. Paramount Brookside’s 5.5-acre site includes a working farm.  The 3.5-acre farm includes 90 vegetable and 10 herb beds, a seven-variety orchard, a pollinator garden, a 2,200-gallon water cistern system, an outdoor classroom, composting bins, a shipping container barn, a chicken coop, a goat barn, a two-hive apiary, and a cheese production kitchen.  The licensed dairy operation is the basis for Paramount’s artisan cheese enterprise.  From start to finish, Paramount middle school students and staff handcraft the cheese, which is available for purchase at local retail outlets.  Extracurricular activities include Goat, Bee, Recycling, and Gardening Clubs.  An Eco-Discovery Center in the building includes a butterfly hatchery, observation beehive, and a rooftop butterfly garden with Indiana native pollinators.  Other campus green resources include five grid-linked wind turbines that provide an energy offset of 11%, two battery-based solar light arrays, and a 60-seat electric bus.

Anderson Island Elementary beach investigation

Anderson Island Elementary; Anderson Island, Washington

Anderson Island Elementary School (AIES) is small, rural school serving 22 students from pre-K to 3rd grade.  In just a few years, AIES transformed parts of the forest to an outdoor classroom.  The AIES school community also worked to restore the local creek, building up the ecosystem by raising and releasing salmon each year.  Embracing the weather, students go outside every day, rain or shine.  P.E. is always outside.  Students participate in annual field trips to beaches for water quality testing and habitat exploration and to a nearby hands-on science museum.  AIES educators teach math in the form of direction finding, calculating tree age, and looking for geometric shapes within plants.  Students craft bird houses, create natural ornaments, and discuss texture and shape in plants.  The school garden, integrated into life and earth science, math, and nutrition education aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards and Washington’s Environmental and Sustainability Education standards, provides food for students seasonally.  AIES partners with the local community to educate students about healthy foods and gardening.

Lehigh Trashion Show Runway

Lehigh University; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

In 2020, Lehigh University adopted its Sustainability Strategic Plan 2030, which encompasses six focus areas and 113 goals, with each goal aligning with one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  In 2020, Lehigh joined the EV Purchasing Collaborative to leverage the buying power of fleets to make electrification more simple, affordable, and accessible.  Over the last several years, Lehigh has purchased an all-electric bus and eight hybrid/all-electric vehicles for its fleet.  Lehigh students are engaged in sustainability research, internships, and opportunities to use the campus as a living lab.  Some of the examples include an app to help direct leftover food from campus events to hungry students, smarter trash and recycling bins to eliminate recycling contamination, and a food carbon footprint calculator for Lehigh Dining to display how carbon intensive the menu item is and to motivate sustainable food selections.  Students present this work annually at the Lehigh Expo, a universitywide showcase of project work.


Green Strides Design

Connect to the Green Strides Webinar Series This Spring

The Green Strides Webinar Series has promoted over 2,200 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.)

May 26, 12–1 p.m.  Portfolio Manager – Ask the Expert (EPA)

May 26, 3–4 p.m. Unpacking the Education for Sustainable Development 2030 Toolkit (AASHE)

May 26, 1–2 p.m. Mission Biomes and Earth Observatory (NASA)

May 26, 4:30–5:30 p.m. X-Plane Glider Design Challenge (Español) (NASA)

May 26, 6–7 p.m. Explore Flight: Making It Culturally Relevant (NASA)

May 27, 3–4 p.m. Reports from the Frontlines: COVID and Beyond (Healthy Schools Campaign)

May 27, 6–7 p.m. Advanced Astroculture & the Tomatosphere (NASA)

May 27, 7:30–8:30 p.m. STEM Teaching Tips for Teachers (NASA)

June 1, 1–2 p.m. Digital Badges for Educators and Students (NASA)

June 1, 3–4:30 p.m. Getting Schools to Zero Carbon Webinar Series:  Tracking & Communicating Carbon Reductions (The Center for Green Schools/K-12 Climate Action)

June 1, 4:30–5:30 p.m. Your Chance to Go to the Moon! (NASA)

June 1, 6–7 p.m. The Lost Lessons of Christa McAuliffe (Part 3) Effervescence (NASA)

June 2, 1–2 p.m. The Cassini Mission to Saturn (NASA)

June 2, 1–2:15 p.m.  Portfolio Manager 101 (EPA)

June 2, 3–4:30 p.m. Climate Friendly Pledge and New Regulations Affecting Campuses (AASHE)

June 2, 6–7 p.m. Designing a Crew Module for Artemis Astronauts (NASA)

June 3, 4:30–5:30 p.m. Space Games Incorporating Social Emotional Learning (NASA)

June 3, 6–7 p.m. Digital Badges for Educators and Students (NASA)

June 7, 7:30–8:30 p.m. Art and the Cosmic Connection (NASA)

June 8, 1–2 p.m. Explore Aeronaut-X:  Sound Effects (NASA)

June 8, 3–4 p.m.  Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

June 8, 4:30–5:30 p.m. Commercial Crew: Updates and Resources for Educators (NASA)

June 8, 6–7 p.m. Light & Color with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (NASA)

June 9, 1–2 p.m. Four Forces of Flight (NASA)

June 9, 3–4 p.m. Using Sustainability Education to Equip Students as Change Agents (AASHE)

June 9, 3–5 p.m. Session 1:  The Compass to Nature - 7-Week Series (USFWS)

June 10, 1–2 p.m. What Can Trees Tell Us About Climate Change and Ecosystems (NASA)

June 10, 4:30–5:30 p.m. Second Orbital Flight Test and Crew-3 (NASA)

June 10, 6–7 p.m. Celebrating International Space Station Robotics (NASA)

June 14, 1–2 p.m. Storybooks and Space Place Fun (NASA)

June 14, 7:30–8:30 p.m. Explore el Sistema Solar y más:  El arte y la conexión cósmica (NASA)

June 15, 1–2 p.m.  Portfolio Manager 301 (EPA)

June 15, 4:30–5:30 p.m. Celebrating Hubble 30th Anniversary (NASA)

June 16, 3–5 p.m. Session 2:  The Compass to Nature - 7-Week Webinar Series (USFWS)

June 17, 2–3 p.m. Justice, Equity, Diversion and Inclusion on Campus (CURC)

June 17, 4:30–5:30 p.m. Got Robots? (Part 2) (NASA)

June 23, 3–5 p.m. Session 3:  The Compass to Nature - 7-Week Webinar Series (USFWS)

June 24, 4:30–5:30 p.m. Gaining Traction on Mars:  Engineering Design Challenge (NASA)


Great Outdoors Month Logo

Celebrate Great Outdoors Month

June is Great Outdoors Month — a celebration of our parks and waters and the many ways to enjoy them.  It’s also a time to reflect on what we can do to preserve America’s natural spaces for the enjoyment of future generations.  The month includes National Trails Day (June 5), National Fishing and Boating Week (June 5-13), National Get Outdoors Day (June 13), and the Great American Campout.  Camp, hike, bike, fish, and boat — just keep state and local authorities’ guidelines in mind.  

Starms Early Childhood natural playground

Virtual Early Learning Conference

The Natural Start Alliance Nature-Based Early Learning Conference will take place online from July 26-30.  Attend the virtual conference for teaching, administration, research, educator preparation, and advocacy in nature-based early learning.  

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.

NAAEE 2021 Conference postcard

Save the Date for North American Association for Environmental Education Annual Conference

The 50th North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) annual conference will be held virtually, from October 11-15.  For more than four decades, NAAEE has convened one of the leading annual conferences for environmental education professionals.  The conference is designed to promote innovation, networking, learning, and dissemination of best practices.  The annual Research Symposium, held in advance of the conference, attracts new and established researchers to examine in-progress environmental education research and promote dialogue between researchers and practitioners.

Green Apple Day of Service Logo

Plan a Green Apple Day of Service at Your School

As schools return to in-person classes this fall, they will be in greater need of community support than ever.  A Green Apple Day of Service gives parents, teachers, students, companies, and local organizations the opportunity to transform all schools into healthy, safe, and productive learning environments through local service projects.  Check out project ideas, pick up helpful event resources, and register your project online.    

Wake County Public School System Poe Health Center Presentation

Partnering with the Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education, Wake County Public School System in North Carolina, a 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardee, educates over 21,000 K-12 students with a certified health professional.

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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