August 2023 Infrastructure and Sustainability News

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August 2023

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

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) developed this newsletter to provide resources, promote events, and share inspiring stories of school sustainability. ED 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 (ED-GRS) honorees. 

In this issue:

In the News

2022 honoree photo

Tune in to the 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Ceremony

The 2023 ED-GRS annual ceremony will be broadcast live on Aug. 8 from 9:30–10 a.m. (keynote speakers) and 2–3:30 p.m. (awards presentation) ET on ED’s YouTube channel. While in-person attendance at the event is limited, everyone can tune in to view the ceremony online.

Tour Save the Date

Save the Date for the 2023 Green Strides Tour

ED-GRS shares promising practices and resources for sustainable school environments; whole child health; and environmental education. As part of its outreach, ED-GRS partners with states to conduct an annual tour. This year, the Green Strides Tour will partner with the California Department of Education and head to Northern and Central California with the theme "Schools for Climate Solutions." Mark your calendars for Sept. 19–21, and stay tuned — a detailed schedule will be published later in August, with registration opening at that time.

ED-GRS logo new in 2022

Apply to Your State for ED-GRS 2023–24

On April 20, in a video message from Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, as well as a blog post, report, and press release, ED announced the names of the 2023 ED-GRS honorees. For those schools that have not previously received the ED-GRS award, now is a great time to begin preparing for the 2023–24 application cycle by using the resources on the Green Strides School Sustainability Resource Hub and by contacting your state education authority. 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 email ED-GRS for more information.  

Resources and Opportunities

SIP Announcement

ED School Infrastructure Program Grants Close in August

In June, 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. The application deadline for both programs is in August. Find more information on school infrastructure grants, including pre-application webinars, here.

Energy logo

Energy Department Announces New Energy Savings Performance Contracting Resource

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new resource to help schools make infrastructure improvements through energy savings performance contracting (ESPC). ESPC is a proven, budget-neutral approach that enables customer organizations to leverage available federal, state, and other funds to maximize efficiency and operational improvements and ensure their long-term performance. The DOE’s Performance Contracting National Resource Center’s Training Certificate Series provides accredited on-demand foundational training on the ESPC process and the roles and responsibilities of involved parties, at no cost to trainees. Appropriate for a broad public and private sector audience, the training provides individuals the opportunity to earn continuing education units and demonstrate their proficiency in performance contracting. 

Starfish selfie

NOAA Launches New Student Opportunities Database

In late June, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Education launched a new student opportunities database that makes it easier than ever to search NOAA opportunities for students and recent graduates. The new searchable database contains more than 60 scholarships, fellowships, internships, youth programs, and more across NOAA and its partners. It includes opportunities for kindergarten through graduate students, as well as recent graduates.

nature everywhere logo

Supporting Equitable Access to Nature in Communities

Interested in increasing equitable access to nature in your community? Apply for the Children & Nature Network’s Nature Everywhere initiative to advance nature everywhere children live, learn, and play. The 2023 request for applications is now live — check it out and apply by Aug. 25. Attend an online Nature Everywhere information session on Aug. 10 to learn more.

escuela verde wisconsin hands on learning

Environmental Protection Agency Invites Youth to Serve on First-Ever National Environmental Youth Advisory Council

In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the establishment of the agency’s first-ever National Environmental Youth Advisory Council (NEYAC). The NEYAC will provide independent advice and recommendations to Administrator Michael Regan on how to increase EPA’s efforts to address a range of environmental issues as they relate to youth communities. All members of NEYAC will be between the ages of 16 and 29 and at least 50% of the overall membership of NEYAC will come from, reside primarily in, and/or do most of their work in disadvantaged communities. Applications for the 16 available vacancies are due Aug. 22.

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

Below, we spotlight three of the 2023 ED-GRS honorees. You can learn more about all of the ED-GRS in our annual Highlights Report and on our website.

Pioneer Elementary School Gig Harbor Washington catching frogs

Pioneer Elementary School; Gig Harbor, Washington

From design to build, sustainability and efficiency have been a focus of the Pioneer Elementary School (PES) facility, operations, and learning model. PES is a repurposed facility, built with sustainable materials and floor-to-ceiling windows. It is designed to maximize and track both energy and water use with LED fixtures, occupancy and natural light sensors, efficient HVAC units, low-flow fixtures, timed faucets, and water bottle filling stations. PES built a 4,000-square-foot covered outdoor play area that allows students to access fresh air and play in even the worst rainstorms. The school’s STEAM project-based learning model facilitates lessons that have local relevance and student agency at every grade level. In collaboration with partners, PES staff plan and deliver content-integrated units that promote critical thinking about local and global environmental problems to engage in meaningful solutions. 

Park Forest Elementary tower gardens

Park Forest Elementary Creative Sciences & Arts Magnet School; Baton Rouge, Louisiana

At Park Forest Elementary Creative Sciences & Arts Magnet School (Park Forest) a creative smart lab and renewable energy lab feature STEM-based lessons. Students experience different types of gardening, from the traditional raised garden bed to aeroponic garden towers, in the lab. The garden bed vegetables directly connect to standards and important concepts for student learning. Park Forest uses the Agriculture in the Classroom curriculum to apply authentic, agricultural-based content to teach core science, social studies, language arts, and nutrition concepts. At least one teacher from each grade level has attended a National Energy Education Development Project professional development session. Park Forest has reduced its overall energy consumption by over 40% compared to a 2015 baseline. The school was renovated after a 2016 flood and now features LED and motion sensor lights and faucets, programmable thermostats, increased insulation, and water bottle filling stations. 

shades mountain elementary school track

Gulf Shores City Schools; Gulf Shores, Alabama

Adjacent to a state park and wetland, Gulf Shores City Schools (GSCS) focuses on sustainability by encouraging teachers to take students outside to explore the local environment. Students learn by doing with electric cars, water quality testing, outdoor classrooms, and sand dune restoration. History courses include explicit instruction about climate change. GSCS reduced energy and water use by replacing lighting and air conditioning systems; adding motion sensors, low-flow and hands-free switches and fixtures; installing solar panels; and utilizing well and reclaimed water. GSCS oversees a “bike train” to safely escort students to school and is home to multiple “bike barns” that house 30 bikes each and are used for biking field trips. The district replaces its buses with models that reduce emissions from transportation by 90%. GSCS offers locally grown vegetables in the cafeterias and sponsors walking and running clubs. Standing desks and yoga clubs are available to all staff and students. Health class offerings include lifeguarding, sports medicine, paramedics, and emergency services. 


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 (Note: All times listed are ET.)

Aug. 2, 12–1 p.m. Federal Funding for School Renovation and New Construction (Center for Green Schools/AASA)

Aug. 3, 3–4 p.m. Boosting Breakfast Participation in Grades 6–12 (FRAC)

Aug. 9, 3–4 p.m. Minor Renovations Pilot Program (CHPS)

Aug. 10, 1–2 p.m. Climate Change and Mental Health (NEEF/USDA)

Aug. 10, 3–4 p.m. School Lunch:  Practices & Policies that Promote Participation (FRAC)

Aug. 10, 4–5 p.m. Marine Heatwaves (NOAA)

Aug. 17, 2–3 p.m. Edible Food Recovery Programs (CURC)

Aug. 17, 3–4 p.m. Taking a Fresh Look at Afterschool Meals (FRAC)

Aug. 22, 2–3 p.m. Monarch Sanctuaries (FWS)

Aug. 23, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. The Power of Procurement: Activating Allies for Climate Action (ISSP)

Aug. 24, 3–4:15 p.m. Climate Conversations: Schools (The National Academies)

Aug. 25, 12:30–1:30 p.m. Community Conversation — Professional Sustainability Credentials (USGBC)

Aug. 30, noon–1 p.m. Federal School Funding:  Unanswered Questions (Center for Green Schools/AASA)

Aug. 30, 2–3 p.m. Campus Sustainability’s Secret Sauce — Athletes (AASHE)


ED Spaces Logo Year Generic

ED Spaces is Nov. 7–9 in Charlotte, North Carolina

EDspaces is the event shaping expectations for future physical learning experiences. Both an incubator of progressive ideas and a knowledge-sharing playground, EDspaces unites the architects, designers, administrators, and facilities managers who are reimagining traditional school settings with the manufacturers, distributors, and service providers that offer products and solutions to holistically motivate students at all levels of their educational journey. This year's conference will be held Nov. 7–9 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and registration is now open at the link above.

K-12 Facilities Forum Panel Federal Funding for School Facilities

K–12 Facilities Forum is Nov. 12–14 in Austin, Texas 

The K–12 Facilities Forum is an annual event that connects and informs K–12 facilities leaders and business administrators involved in all aspects of planning, design, construction, and operations. The event will take place Nov. 12–14 in Austin, Texas, and more information on attending can be found here.