April 2022 Green Strides Newsletter

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

In the April 2022 Green Strides...

In the News

Vice President Kamala Harris Infrastructure Announcement at Neval Thomas ES

ED Announces Proposal for Office and Clearinghouse for Infrastructure and Sustainability

On April 4, Vice President Kamala Harris, along with Secretaries Cardona and Granholm, announced the Administration’s plan to upgrade public schools with modern, efficient facilities and transportation—promoting achievement, health, and financial savings to districts. This announcement included ED's proposal for a new Office of Infrastructure and Sustainability to support schools in creating healthy, safe, sustainable, 21st century learning environments, as well as to house a National Clearinghouse on School Infrastructure and Sustainability and administer the ongoing U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition award. The proposed national clearinghouse would provide technical assistance and training to state and local education agencies on issues related to educational facility planning, design, financing, construction, improvement, operation, and maintenance, including green building design and operation practices consistent with the Administration’s commitment to address the causes and consequences of climate change.

The Department of Education also named a Special Advisor for Infrastructure and Sustainability to support policy and programmatic decisions and spearhead agencywide coordination to support school sustainability and infrastructure.

John Long

ED-GRS Announces 2022 Director’s Award Recipient

The Director’s Award annually recognizes a state education agency official who does the most to advance sustainable schools by running a robust competition process; connecting more schools to resources in all three ED-GRS Pillars; amplifying the stories of honorees; helping schools learn from one another; partnering with a variety of entities to bring more resources and expertise into schools; and exhibiting a dedication to exceptional school facilities, health, and environmental education through activities outside of the administration of ED-GRS.

ED is delighted to have named Jon Long, school architect at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, as the 2022 Director’s Award recipient. Mr. Long’s leadership and dedication have been integral to ED-GRS’ success in North Carolina. He has worked to cultivate applicants in the state by mentoring, exhibiting flexibility, and conducting outreach. Mr. Long hosted the ambitious 2021 Green Strides Tour in North Carolina, despite various pandemic challenges. He has gone above and beyond his stated job description of school architect and worked across traditional silos to make connections among the built and natural environment, green schoolyards, the school as a learning tool, and overall student wellness and academic achievement.  

U.S. Department of Energy Logo

Department of Energy Recognizes Best Practices in Efficient and Healthy Schools

The Department of Energy Efficient and Healthy Schools campaign provides recognition and technical assistance to school districts seeking to implement high-impact indoor air quality and efficiency improvements that will reduce energy bills and improve student and teacher health. To date, 26 school districts across 16 states have joined or are prepared to join the campaign, representing over 1.5 million students in 2,600 individual schools. The campaign announced its first round of recognition of six districts for their best-in-class efforts in one or more areas:

  • Boulder Valley School District, Colorado
  • Charleston County School District, South Carolina
  • Columbia Public Schools, Missouri
  • Davis School District, Utah
  • Greenville County Schools, South Carolina
  • Newark Board of Education, New Jersey

The campaign will host a webinar series to share success stories from these and other districts. Learn more about the Efficient and Healthy Schools campaign, including how to join the here.

2022 ED-GRS Logo

2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Coming This Month!

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is a federal recognition award for school sustainability. 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. 

Early learning centers, schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions do not apply to ED for this award, but instead to their state K-12 or postsecondary education authority. ED will announce the 2022 honorees on Earth Day, April 22. The schools are invited to a summer ceremony in Washington, D.C., where they receive a sustainable plaque; are the subject of media attention; and have their efforts celebrated. Other schools, in turn, 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 2022-2023 application cycle by using the resources and programs available on the Green Strides School Sustainability Resource Hub 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.  

Resources and Opportunities

PV system at Bethke ES in Poudre School District

Department of Energy Invests in More Efficient School Buildings 

Yesterday, the Department of Energy (DOE) released a Request for Information to launch its new $500 million grant program for energy improvements at public school facilities, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  These grants can support comprehensive energy efficiency audits and building retrofits, HVAC and lighting upgrades, clean energy installation, and more—along with training to help staff maintain these improvements over the long-term. DOE will prioritize projects in rural and high-poverty schools, and support leveraging of additional private, philanthropic, and public funding to maximize the benefits of these grants. 

DOE is also accelerating a range of grants, technical assistance, and lending to support schools along each step of the school improvement process. These efforts include the Better Buildings Challenge and its K-12 Sector partnerships; DOE’s new tool—eProject eXpress—that can support state and local governments and K-12 schools in Energy Savings Performance Contracting project management and help leverage financing to maximize impact; and DOE’s Loan Programs Office Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Solicitation that can be accessed by schools to provide up to $3 billion in loan guarantees for retrofit projects. 

CNG buses

Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and Department of Agriculture Expand Efficient and Safe School Transportation 

Throughout this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will release additional online resources to help school districts and other eligible recipients prepare for the $5 billion Clean School Bus Program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  To support projects that help students safely walk and bike to school, the Department of Transportation is providing state and local governments with guidance to utilize a pool of $90 billion in available federal funding, including Bipartisan Infrastructure Law programs.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new commitment to support school facility and vehicle electrification, including school buses. In support of this commitment, USDA released new guidance that informs how Rural Development programs can support rural electric cooperatives to advance electrification projects for schools and other public facilities and vehicles.

NAEE EE 30 under 30

NAAEE's EE 30 Under 30 Nominations Closes April 11

Since 2016, North American Association for Environmental Education's EE 30 Under 30 program has recognized a total of 180 individuals from 40 countries who are making a difference through environmental education. The EE 30 Under 30 Class of 2022 will receive global recognition, join a growing community of inspiring EE leaders, and receive ongoing opportunities for professional development and networking, including scholarship opportunities to attend the 2022 NAAEE conference. Environmental education and leadership can take many different forms so applicants from across sectors and disciplines are welcome. Apply by April 11 online.


Better Buildings Logo

U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit is May 17-19

The U.S. Department of Energy's next Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit will take place May 17-19, 2022 in Arlington, VA. This 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 18-19

Climate Generation’s Summer Institute for Climate Change Education is hosted in partnership  with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Climate Office. Join a network of teachers from across the country for a two-day virtual conference plus regional breakouts on a third day to learn new tools, skills, and resources to teach climate change in any subject area! Topics will include data, communication, and equity. Learn more about registration and scholarship opportunities.


Green Strides Design

The Green Strides Webinars continue through spring

The Green Strides Webinar Series has promoted over 2,300 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 ed.green.ribbon.schools@ed.gov. (Note: All times listed are ET.)

Apr. 6, 5-6 p.m. Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Outdoor Learning (Big Green)

Apr. 6, 7-8 p.m. Artemis Future Missions (NASA)

Apr. 7, 7-8 p.m. GLOBE Atmosphere & Clouds (NASA)

Apr. 13, 2-3:15 p.m. Portfolio Manager 101 (EPA)

Apr. 13, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Become An AmeriCorps VISTA Sponsor (AmeriCorps)

Apr. 19, 1-2 p.m. How to Avoid Common Mistakes When Benchmarking K-12 Schools (EPA)

Apr. 19, 5-6 p.m. Earth Observing Satellites and the Engineering Design Process (NASA)

Apr. 20, 3-4 p.m. Taking on Traffic Laws:  A How-To Guide for Decriminalizing Mobility (Safe Routes Partnership)

Apr. 21, 1-2 p.m. Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

Apr. 27, 5-6 p.m. Teaching and Learning Outside (Out Teach)

Apr. 28, 5-6 p.m. Explore Earth with GOES-T Weather Satellite (NASA)

May 4, 12-1 p.m. Portfolio Manager – Ask the Expert (EPA)

May 4, 3-4 p.m. Environmental and Social Justice Forces (AASHE)

May 11, 5-6 p.m. Creating Outdoor Spaces: The Infrastructure of Living Schoolyards (Green Schoolyards America)

Learn About the 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Later this month, we will announce the 2022 ED-GRS honorees. In this Green Strides edition, we continue to learn from the 2021 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.  

Starms Early Childhood natural playground

Starms Early Childhood; Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Starms Early Childhood (SEC) completed a multiyear holistic schoolyard redevelopment project. The new schoolyard allows SEC to teach environmental themes, conservation, and cross-curricular lessons that emphasize careers. Through the project, SEC removed 12,200 square feet of asphalt and installed green infrastructure features that manage 42,430 gallons of stormwater per rain event. The center composts food waste and contributes to the Crayola marker and Trex recycling programs. SEC has conducted an energy audit and receives a score of 91 in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The raised vegetable beds are cultivated, planted, tended, and harvested with the help of students, staff, family members, and volunteers. Moveable tree trunk small-group stations, toadstools, planter pots, and a student-sized picnic bench enable children to be immersed in the beauty of the garden. SEC has planted an arboretum on campus containing 30 varieties of trees. Twenty-five bird houses were installed and decorated with shapes, letters, and numbers so children can go on observation hunts.

Francis Scott Key Elementary releasing shad fry

Francis Scott Key Elementary School; Washington, District of Columbia

Francis Scott Key Elementary School was one of the first schools to participate in D.C. Farm to School Week. In 2011, students started a school garden market for the community that continues today. The outdoor classroom shaded by native trees provides fixed and flexible seating and worktables. In addition to 14 raised beds, pollinator garden, and woodland forest, there is a shed for garden tools and supplies, signage, an outdoor whiteboard, various planters, and a handwashing station that uses water harvested from rain barrels or municipal water. School grounds renovations added a nature-inspired treehouse structure with boulders for climbing. A custom-made trolley themed structure representing the history of the area provides music-making, imaginative, and sensory play. Key offers upper grades the opportunity to conduct in-depth studies grounded in research and inquiry in a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience. Students raise shad fry from eggs in the classroom, monitor water quality, and study the shad life cycle. The PTO raised funds for an environmental specialist position. In the fall of 2020, energy-efficient upgrades were made to Key’s HVAC systems to increase fresh air filtration throughout the school building. In 2013, Key was one of six D.C. public elementary schools chosen to participate in a pilot program for recycling food waste from the cafeteria and garden. A bioretention dry stream bed, rain garden areas, bioswales, and permeable pavements reduce stormwater runoff.

Fryberger Elementary School organic farming board presentation

Fryberger Elementary School; Westminster, California

In 2016 Fryberger Elementary School installed energy efficient HVAC systems, upgraded the entire campus to LED lighting, and added a 45.4 kWDC solar array that generates 90% of the school’s energy needs. Fryberger installed low-flow plumbing fixtures and upgraded irrigation controls. Fryberger maintains an 80% diversion rate by recycling and composting. School meals feature organic fruits and vegetables from local farms. Kindergarten students participate in organic farming to apply engineering design concepts, mathematical thinking, and scientific principles necessary to grow plants. First grade students study natural resources conservation, while second grade students learn how humans can reduce pollution in the ocean. Third grade students study how to combat microplastics in the ocean. A partnership with the Surfrider Foundation teaches students about the "5 gyres." Fourth and fifth graders learn about energy conservation. All field trips focus on the environment and provide fieldwork opportunities that complement what students are learning in the classroom. Students have visited the beach to clean up, explored wetlands, investigated local farms, observed local phenomena on walks, and networked with scientists.

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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