June 2023 Infrastructure and Sustainability News

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June 2023

Infrastructure and Sustainability Updates from the U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education (ED or the Department) developed this newsletter to provide resources, promote events, and share inspiring stories of school sustainability. The Department also maintains resources on the Green Strides School Sustainability Resource Hub, including upcoming webinars and information on U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees. 

In this issue:

In the News

SIP Announcement

ED Launches Two New School Infrastructure  Grants

The U.S. Department of Education announced applications for two grant programs focused on ensuring that school facilities and grounds provide safe, healthy, sustainable, and equitable learning environments: the Supporting America’s School Infrastructure grant and the National Center on School Infrastructure grant. The Supporting America’s School Infrastructure grant will award approximately $40 million to eligible state entities to increase the capacity of the state to, in turn, support high-need school districts. The National Center on School Infrastructure grant will award approximately $2 million to an eligible organization to establish a national center on school infrastructure that will serve both as a clearinghouse of resources and provide technical assistance to improve public school facilities. Applications for both programs are due August 7. Find more information on school infrastructure grants, including pre-application webinars, here.

EcoRise Commitment

Sharing School Infrastructure and Sustainability Commitments

Since February, the Department has invited national, regional, and local nonprofits, foundations, businesses, and community-based organizations to share their bold commitment(s) to advance school sustainability, encompassing infrastructure, health, environmental sustainability education, climate, and environmental justice in America. You can still complete this online form to share how your organization or entity will advance school infrastructure and sustainability priorities. 

Energy Class Prize Winners

Energy CLASS Prize Winners Announced

The U.S. Department of Energy announced 25 phase 1 winners of the Energy Champions Leading the Advancement of Sustainable Schools Prize (Energy CLASS Prize). Phase 1 winners each receive $100,000 in cash prizes, along with coaching and skills development from professionals. At the end of Phase 2, based on their performance, Phase 1 winners will be eligible for an additional $50,000 in funding. The Energy CLASS Prize is a $4.5 million competitive award promoting energy management in school districts across America. The competition was designed to help some of the nation’s highest-need K-12 schools make critical clean energy and health improvements by establishing, training, and supporting energy managers — or “champions” — in their districts.

EPA Logo

Congratulations to the EPA 2023 Winners of Environmental Educator and Youth Awards

In late April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), announced the 2023 recipients of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) and the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA).The PIAEE seeks to recognize, support, and bring public attention to teachers who are leading outstanding and enriching environmental projects. Similarly, the PEYA recognizes outstanding community level environmental projects by K-12 youth that promote awareness of natural resources and positive community involvement. Thirty-four students who worked on 15 stewardship projects received the award, and eight students received honorable mentions.

Moreno Valley Unified School District electric school buses

Clean School Bus Program Offers $400 Million In Grants

With funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA’s Clean School Bus Program provides $5 billion over the next five years (FY 2022–26) to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models. On April 24, EPA announced the availability of $400 million in grants for cleaner school buses, reducing harmful pollution and protecting children’s health, through the Clean School Bus Program. Applications to this Notice of Funding Opportunity are due Aug. 22.  

Resources and Opportunities

shades mountain faculty hike

Educators Advancing Climate Solutions in Schools

Educators can work to advance climate solutions — solutions students can see in their schools. The Educator Advocacy Toolkit, developed in partnership between This Is Planet Ed, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers, provides educators with the strategies and resources to advance climate action locally in their school districts, including talking points to help build consensus and specific programs to leverage for funding.

Sustainability Staff Report Image

Making the Case for K-12 Sustainability Staff 

The Center for Green Schools released a new report, Managing Sustainability and Indoor Air Quality in School Districts: A Profile of Staff in the K-12 Sector, which provides insights from a national survey on hiring PK-12 sustainability and environmental health staff to drive higher performing working and learning conditions for our students. In addition, a companion resource, "Making the Case for K-12 Sustainability Staff: A Toolkit for Success," features case making facts, staffing examples, job descriptions, and reporting structures.

Youth Outdoor Equity Leadership Fund

Youth Outdoor Equity Leadership Fund Mini-Grant Program Accepting Applications

The Children & Nature Network invites young leaders between the ages of 16 and 30 to request up to $500 to grow professionally as a leader in the movement or to implement projects that create change in equitable access to nature, community health and well-being, and justice. Applications are open on a rolling basis, and awards are given out monthly. 

Clean logo

Spotlight on a Resource: Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network

The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) stewards a reviewed collection of free, high-quality materials for teaching climate and energy and supports the CLEAN Network, a community of professionals committed to improving climate and energy literacy. Whether you're designing lessons or building a constructive classroom atmosphere, CLEAN has tools aligned to standards that help. The program is also conducting an anonymous 15-minute survey of teachers who are or would like to teach about climate topics to gather information about teachers' experiences, interests, and needs. Complete the survey by June 10 to be entered into a prize drawing.

Get to Know the 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Below, we spotlight four of the 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Honorees (ED-GRS). You can learn more about all of the ED-GRS in our annual Highlights Report and on our website.

Iowa City Community School District greenhouse

Iowa City Community School District; Iowa City, Iowa

The Iowa City Community School District's (ICCSD's) systemic approach to greenhouse gas reduction is outlined by the district’s 2019 Resolution to Address Climate Change and Facilities master plan, which includes an inventory of emissions and reduction strategies. Twenty-five of the 29 ICCSD schools operate on geothermal systems, providing 100% of these buildings’ heating energy needs. ICCSD’s integrated pest management program has resulted in the successful elimination of most pesticide applications and 100% pesticide-free turf areas. ICCSD works with Field to Family, an organization that connects local farmers with schools through their food hub, to source thousands of pounds of local products annually for the school nutrition program. Every sixth grader in the district participates in a weeklong School of the Wild program to learn about the environment firsthand in an outdoor classroom that features prairie, lakes, and forests. ICCSD administers a prairie initiative that has converted one to five acres of turf grass to prairie and pollinator spaces annually.

Stone Lakes Elementary School In Orlando Florida Chicken Enclosure

Stone Lakes Elementary School; Orlando, Florida

The Stone Lakes Elementary School agriculture program not only provides students with the opportunity to grow and care for crops and livestock, but also creates a seamless pathway for the agriculture programs in middle and high schools. Agriculture education provides a hands-on and highly engaging experience for all students that incorporates a wide variety of skills, including reading, math, science, social studies, and critical thinking. Students are involved in and lead every sustainability project on campus, including recycling, composting, walk or bike to school days, and energy conservation. The school’s butterfly garden is a prime example of collaborative efforts, where students, staff, families, community volunteers, and businesses all play an integral role in its development. 

Bellarmine College Prep Rain Barrels

Bellarmine College Preparatory; San Jose California

Since 2010, Bellarmine College Preparatory’s new construction and renovation projects have met LEED Gold certification standards. The school generates energy on-site using 466 photovoltaic panels and uses a natural gas cogeneration system to heat its pool and showers while generating electricity from the heat of combustion. In 2017, Bellarmine adopted its sustainability mission to guide the school’s curricular, programmatic, and student service offerings. As a result, Bellarmine has implemented several high-priority initiatives, such as composting and recycling for waste diversion, offering students healthier food options, and building an organic garden to donate the harvest to local food pantries. The school builds student environmental literacy with its sustainable engineering projects in its Maker Lab and AP Environmental Science courses. Between the two courses, almost every student participates in some form of environmental literacy education.

Little Tree huggers leesburg Virginia garden

Little Tree Huggers Preschool; Leesburg, Virginia

Little Tree Huggers (LTH) Preschool is a bilingual, nature-based preschool, where students learn the importance of environmental stewardship by participating daily in aspects of farm operations. LTH established a wildlife sanctuary around a fully restored, three-acre, mid-19th-century farm complex that has been recognized for its extensive wildlife habitat and riparian conservation areas, all of which have been planted and maintained by students, staff, and parents. LTH’s curriculum has students engaging in movement 500 or more minutes, five days a week, and muscle strengthening daily, with such activities as climbing and carrying water. LTH installed geothermal heating and cooling, a 48-panel solar array, generating approximately 16,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually, and various other energy efficiency solutions, making LTH carbon neutral. LTH reduces its materials use by building 90% of all play and outdoor instructional areas with repurposed or recycled materials, making 80% of all classroom projects with repurposed or recycled materials, and composting all food waste on-site.


Green Strides Design

Take Advantage of the Ongoing Green Strides Webinar Series 

The Green Strides Webinar Series has promoted over 3,000 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 ed.green.ribbon.schools@ed.gov. (Note: All times listed are ET.)

June 5, 6–7 p.m. Coral Reef and Kelp Forest Ecosystem Resource Collections (NOAA)

June 6, 2–3 p.m. Family Time in Nature (Children & Nature Network)

June 13, 11 a.m.–12 p.m. Should Your Climate Strategy Include Carbon Offsets? (ISSP)

June 15, 3–4:30 p.m. Benchmarking Sustainability Metrics for Healthy & Resource Efficient Schools (USGBC)

June 21, 2–3 p.m. Cli Fi, Sci Fi, and the Culture of Sustainability (AASHE)


ED Spaces Logo Year Generic

EDspaces Conference November 7–9 in Charlotte, North Carolina

EDspaces an the event shaping expectations for what the physical learning experience will be in the future. It unites the architects, designers, administrators, and facilities managers who are reimagining traditional school settings with the manufacturers, distributors, and service providers offering thoughtful products and solutions that motivate students at all levels of their educational journey. This year's conference will be held Nov. 7–9 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Jefferson Elementary School Composting

Plan a Green Apple Day of Service at Your School

 Keep students and our planet healthy through direct action to create better learning spaces in and out of school buildings. 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.   

ED Best of Green Schools Award Receipt 2023

In case you missed it, Special Advisor for Infrastructure and Sustainability Andrea Falken (center left) and Impact Fellow Naomi Stern (center right) of the U.S. Department of Education accepted a Best of Green Schools Award from Jenny Seydel (left), executive director of the Green Schools National Network, and Anisa Heming (right), executive director of the Center for Green Schools at the Green Schools National Conference in March in New Orleans.