March 2022 Green Strides Newsletter

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

In this Green Strides Edition...

In the News

Director's Award Recipient Joe DaSilva and Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten

2022 ED-Green Ribbon Schools Nominations Due March 1

State education authorities can submit early learning, school, district, and postsecondary institution nominees for U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) until March 1 (an extension from the Feb. 18 deadline). ED will announce the 2022 selectees on Earth Day, April 22. Public health conditions permitting, honorees will be invited to send representatives to a recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C. this summer. 

For those institutions that have not already been honored (this is a one-time award), now is a great time to begin preparing for the 2023 application cycle by using resources and programs on Green Strides and contacting your state education authority. For future cycles, interested colleges and universities should contact their state higher education authorities, while schools and districts should contact their state educational agency. Schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions are only eligible if nominated by state authorities. State education authorities can find award criteria and other state implementation guidance on ED's website and should contact U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for more information

Nominations for the ED-GRS Director’s Award, which recognizes state education authorities’ exemplary efforts to administer ED-GRS, are also due on March 1. If you wish to nominate a state education official, please send your nomination letter to

Read about the work of past ED-GRS Director’s Award recipients

Gadsden Elementary School water bottle filling

Environmental Protection Agency Announces $20 Million to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  is offering $20 million in grant funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to assist communities and schools with removing sources of lead in drinking water. Under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, EPA has $10 million for projects to conduct lead service line replacements or implement corrosion control improvements and $10 million for projects that remove sources of lead in drinking water  in schools or childcare facilities.  EPA will award this funding in alignment with the goals of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, which seeks to deliver at least 40 percent of the benefits of certain federal investments to underserved communities. In addition, EPA is working with states, tribes, and territories to award over $50 million in fiscal year 2021 funding through EPA’s two other drinking water grant programs established by WIIN—the Voluntary Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care grant program and the Small, Underserved and Disadvantaged Communities (SUDC) grant program.

VP with a bus

White House Releases Infrastructure Guidebook

The White House released the initial edition of its Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) guidebook to help state and local governments and other stakeholders unlock the benefits from this historic investment. The guidebook contains 12 chapters, grouping BIL’s more than 375 programs by issue area: transportation (such as electric school buses); climate, energy, and the environment (such as lead service line replacement); and broadband. Future editions will feature critical dates, timelines for program implementation, best practices, case studies, and links to key resources.

State of Our Schools Cover

Read About the State of School Infrastructure

The 2021 State of Our Schools Report from the 21st Century School Fund, the International WELL Building Institute and the National Council on School Facilities compiles and analyzes the best available school district data regarding U.S. PK–12 public school facilities funding. In addition to drawing attention to the disparity across the U.S. in funding levels, it finds that the U.S. is underinvesting in school buildings and grounds by $85 billion each year. These findings bring to light the proper financial support required for all children, in every district, to attend healthy and safe schools that provide the best learning environments and most resilient facilities. 

National Wildlife Federation Logo

Read Along With Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten and Ranger Rick, Jr.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has worked for more than eight decades to inspire youth to engage with nature and become tomorrow’s conservation champions. Ranger Rick, Jr., NWF'smagazine aimed at kids ages 4–7, is celebrating its 10th birthday later this month, and the U.S. Department of Education is helping to mark this special anniversary! Read-along with Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Cindy Marten a Ranger Rick Jr. story from the magazine's birthday edition.

Resources and Opportunities

Outdoor Classroom Challenge

Outdoor Classroom Challenge

Project Green Schools is challenging schools across the country to develop and implement a meaningful outdoor classroom and learning space.  The challenge will award one Grand Prize of $10,000 to enhance an existing space or build a new space. Project Green Schools will invite the top five designs to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges in spring 2022 to determine the $10,000 winner.  All U.S.-based PK–12 schools are eligible to apply. Schools must submit a formal write-up, proposed budget, and design of their outdoor learning classroom/space. Applications are due Friday, April 8, 2022.

Rappahannock water sampling

Highlighting Water Education Resources

Below are a few water education resources for educators looking to incorporate environmental and sustainability learning.

  • Minnesota Sea Grant: The Watershed Game is a series of active, hands-on simulation activities used in 20 states that help participants learn how land use affects water quality and natural resources.
  • US Geological Survey Interactive Water Cycle Diagrams for Schools and Kids allow the user to explore the parts of the water cycle and view explanations, pictures, and more online. The diagram is available for three levels of students.
  • Water Footprint Calculator illustrates how everyday actions—from washing dishes to watering the lawn to buying groceries—impact water use. The site includes middle- and high-school lesson plans, as well as reference material about water use and the connections among water, food, energy, and consumer products.
  • Trout in the Classroom is a conservation-oriented environmental education program for elementary, middle, and high school students. Throughout the school year, students raise trout from eggs to fry and then release them into approved cold water streams and lakes. Teachers can tailor the program to fit their curricular needs and work with state program coordinators.
MAST Academy Solar Guard Shack

McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation Grants

The McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation sponsors proposals that enhance student learning and educational quality, paying particular attention to those that best serve the at-risk and under-funded. Educators can apply for funding for the formation/implementation of groundbreaking K–12 classroom instruction in order to increase the effectiveness of individual educators and small teams of teachers. There are three different funding opportunities: Academic Enrichment Grants (175 grants), Teacher Development Grants (125 grants), and Student Teaching Scholarship/Mentoring (limit 50).Applications open Jan. 15 and close April 15 or at 350 submissions.


NAAEE logo

NAAEE 2022: Educating for Change

Join the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) for its return to an in-person conference in Tucson, Arizona. Offered in partnership with the Arizona Association for Environmental Education, the 19th annual research symposium (October 11–12) and the 51st annual conference (October 12–15) will explore educating for change. A virtual option will be available. 

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

This spring, we’ll be announcing the 2022 ED-GRS honorees. Meanwhile, continue to learn from the 2021 ED-GRS, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. View the honorees and read about their work on Green Strides’ website and on ED’s awards page. Three of the honorees are spotlighted below.

commonwealth charter academy agworks roto gro

Commonwealth Charter Academy; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA) is a Title I public, cyber charter school serving K-12 students across Pennsylvania. Its AgWorks Center is the largest K–12 school-based aquaponic facility in the country (pictured above). The facility includes fish tanks, grow beds, clarifiers, LED lights, and technology to bring learning alive to students. AgWorks is 100 percent powered by 1,050 rooftop solar panels. The remaining energy is used to supplement power to the rest of academy's Capital Campus location. Students use an online dashboard to learn about energy production and how to reduce energy usage and costs.  They alsolearn about composting, embryology, animal husbandry, and hatching chickens. Students participate in field trips to wastewater treatment plants, and have studied ecosystems, lake ecology, mine impacts, waste management, and alternative energy.  CCA partners with Harrisburg University to have students analyze and report their water usage and carbon footprint, with the goal of reducing their environmental impact. The Harrisburg Family Service Center was able to reduce energy usage by a third through a grant to install solar panels on the roof with a learning dashboard for students to track energy generation. The mobile aquaponic classroom also has small panels and a dashboard.  CCA offers an adventure club and field trips that include archery, canoeing, white water rafting, zip lining, hiking, snow tubing, ice skating, horseback riding, outdoor rope courses, orienteering, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, golfing, fishing, and paintball.

discovery charter school hiking

Discovery Charter School; Porter, Indiana

Discovery Charter School (DCS) is adjacent to a parcel of the Indiana Dunes National Park. DCS students have easy access into the eastern deciduous forest by means of a trail that links to the National Park Service’s more extensive Glenwood Dunes Trail system. The 14,000-year-old dunes, the forest, wetlands, and old home sites provide a natural laboratory for students to make observations; explore plants, animal signs, and water quality indicators; and learn to care for the land. School grounds include a butterfly garden that has been certified as a Monarch Waystation, beehives and pollinator plantings, bat houses, a rain garden, and a re-seeded grassy playing field that was once gravel. As often as weather permits, students use an outdoor lunch space with picnic tables, sunshades, and native plantings. An outdoor classroom adjacent to the building provides seating and includes a rolling table and chalk board. Students have examined energy use, biodiversity, consumption and waste, healthy living, and schoolyard habitats through the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program, earning a Silver Award for the school. Several classes have used the Earth Force framework to identify problems in their community and to devise and implement solutions. They also participate in citizen science projects, such as water quality monitoring, and in stewardship projects, such as the removal of invasive plants from surrounding natural areas.

Wake County Public Schools Health Lessons with Poe Center

Wake County Public School System; Cary, North Carolina

Wake County Public School System’s (WCPSS) over 26 million square feet of facilities are benchmarked for energy, water, and greenhouse gas emissions in ENERGY STAR’s® Portfolio Manager®, resulting in annual certification. Landscaping for new schools includes native plants that do not require irrigation, while older schools have installed rain barrels and cisterns and engage students in these conservation projects. Five schools within the district have been designated as Watershed Stewardship Schools. Partnerships have been forged with First Tee golf, Girls on the Run, and the Carolina Hurricanes to develop lifelong wellness habits. Working with the Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education, over 21,000 K–12 students learn with a certified health professional. Meaningful engagements with such organizations as the Interfaith Food Shuttle and local faith-based groups have helped to provide students with healthy meal options outside of school hours. Two elementary schools share the district's designation as Centers for Environmental Connections. Several high schools use engineering to tackle such topics as food insecurity, sustainable energy sources, and access to clean water. Other career academies at high schools feature such themes as biomedical sciences, sustainable energy engineering, environmental studies, and agribusiness leadership. Citizen science projects are incorporated at all levels. These engagements also lead to student connections with scientists in the region. Outside of the classroom, schools provide opportunities for students to become involved in projects like student green teams, Envirothon, Big Sweep participation, STEM nights, zoology clubs, family environmental events, garden clubs, and many other opportunities for students to connect with the natural world.


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 1, 7–8 p.m. Aeronaut-X:  Propelling the Payload with Electric Propulsion (NASA)

March 2, 12–1 p.m. Portfolio Manager – Ask the Expert (EPA)

March 3, 2–3 p.m. Energy Efficiency and Conservation (AASHE)

March 7, 6–7 p.m. Aeronaut-X: Senses of Sound (NASA)

March 8, 1–2:15 p.m. Portfolio Manager 101 (EPA)

March 8, 7–8 p.m. Biotechnical and Medical Science NASA Spinoffs (NASA)

March 9, 1–2 p.m. Tracking GHG Emissions in Portfolio Manager (EPA)

March 10, 7–8 p.m. Water Education Resources (NAAEE)

March 16, 12–1 p.m. Portfolio Manager — Ask the Expert (EPA)

March 17, 1–2 p.m. Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

March 22, 3-4 p.m. Developing Greening STEM Projects and Proposals (NEEF)

March 23, 1–2 p.m. Green Career Solutions to Climate Change (Climate Generation)

March 23, 3–4 p.m. Declaring a Climate Emergency (AASHE)

Schlitz Audubon Nature Preschool winter nature walk

At 2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Schlitz Audubon Nature Preschool in Milwaukee, WI, students enjoy daily hikes to build endurance and observe changes in the world around them.

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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