September 2023 Infrastructure and Sustainability News

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September 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 the Green Strides School Sustainability Resource Hub with upcoming webinars and information on U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees. 

In this issue:

In the News

Join the 2023 Green Strides Tour!

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) shares promising practices and resources in the areas of sustainable school environments; whole child health; and environmental education. As part of its outreach, the Department partners with a state to conduct an annual tour, known as the Green Strides Tour. Since 2013, the tour has engaged in over 200 events in more than 20 states at ED-GRS honoree sites.

This Sept. 19-21, the Green Strides Tour will partner with the California Department of Education and visit Northern and Central California with the theme Schools for Climate Solutions. Schools and districts featured on this tour are embedding climate solutions into their facilities management and curriculum, and ensuring that students and communities are healthy. Participants include federal, state, and local officials, policymakers, and community partners. The events are open to the press and public by registration. Consult the agenda and email indicating which sites you would like to attend.

Green Strides Tour Stops with Pictures

Park Forest plaque presentation

Honoring the 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

On Aug. 8, the Department recognized 26 schools, 11 school districts, and four postsecondary institutions, as well as one state education official at a Washington, D.C. ceremony for their efforts to cultivate sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and hands-on, outdoor, environmental learning. Senior Administration officials from the White House, departments of Education (ED) and Energy (DOE), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offered keynote remarks, and representatives participated in discussion sessions on topics ranging from green schoolyards and climate-ready schools to environmental education and healthy school environments. The ceremony plenaries (morning and afternoon) were livestreamed so that other representatives and partners could tune in remotely. Honorees were invited to send up to four representatives to accept their plaque and banner while being photographed, and to celebrate at an afternoon reception on Capitol Hill hosted by the Center for Green Schools. Consult the blog and media advisory for more information.

ED-GRS logo new in 2022

Apply to Your State for ED-GRS in 2023–24

On April 20, in a video message from Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, as well as a blogreport, and press release, the Department announced the names of the 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. 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 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 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for more information.  

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

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

Oak Ridge High School yoga

Oak Ridge High School; Orlando, Florida

Oak Ridge High Schools’ (ORHS) student-led initiatives have created a culture where students are excited to be a part of the environmental solution. ORHS’s Environmental Science Club, inspired by the AP Environmental Science course, has a distributed leadership model in which students support each other while working on sustainability initiatives. ORHS students helped build a garden at the local elementary school and develop a food share table and food donation programs to counter food insecurity and reduce waste. The school supports communitywide wellness through its School Health and Wellness Advisory Committee, Student Assistance and Family Empowerment Program, and student-led yoga sessions and wellness events. Students use plastic bottles collected from recycling to create a weekly lunchtime arts activity in the courtyard, which is then shared with the community. ORHS has implemented lighting updates, energy efficient appliances, low-flow toilets, and safe routes to school.

Jamestown School Department solar

Jamestown School Department; Jamestown, Rhode Island

Over the past few years, Jamestown School Department has completed facility renovations and replacements of building management, mechanical, and energy systems to be more efficient. These included the installation of a solar carport canopy at the Melrose School and solar roof arrays at the Lawn School. Recent changes to ventilation systems provide healthy indoor air quality. The district hosts bike to school days to encourage active transportation and safe routes to school. All students participate in composting and “Worm Wednesday” in the school cafeterias. In the classroom, students learn about climate change and pollution through hands-on learning at the Great Creek and Fort Getty Park. Students in K-8 explore on a regular basis the beach and marsh that are within walking distance from the school grounds. Students at every grade level participate in hands-on environmental and sustainability education, ranging from investigating their school’s solar projects, composting, planting trees at local farms, and tending the schools’ raised garden beds.

Eagleville Elementary Charter School

Eagleville Elementary Charter School; Eagle, Wisconsin

All Eagleville Elementary Charter School (Eagleville) students and staff participate in reducing waste through composting, recycling, and eliminating the use of plastic and paper.  Eagleville has worked to reduce outdoor air pollution through a no-idling policy and combining two bus routes to increase efficiency. The school has installed LED lighting and occupancy sensors and upgraded HVAC systems and kitchen equipment. Eagleville landscaping uses ecologically friendly methods such as rainwater harvesting, reduced fertilizer application, and water-efficient or native plant landscaping. Students make daily use of the school gardens, school forest, and access to Jericho Creek to obtain hands-on experiences with the natural environment. Whole school STEM activities teach students problem-solving, teamwork, and how to solve real-world environmental and sustainability issues. Eagleville also partners with the local community to share expertise on gardening, water health, and recycling. 

Resources and Opportunities

Green Schoolyards America Logo

Complete A Schoolyard Forest Survey

Schoolyard forests are climate-adapted groves that provide students with shade, outdoor learning opportunities, physical activities, social interactions, and abundant playtime. Green Schoolyards America is seeking information to document and showcase schoolyard forests at PreK-12 schools across the world! Complete this schoolyard forest survey today. Even if you are unsure if your schoolyard’s grove meets these criteria, or if your schoolyard forest is in progress or in the planning stage, you are invited to fill out the 5-10 minute survey, including questions about forests’ design, use, and impact, as well as the option to share photos. If your school or district does not yet feature a schoolyard forest, these schoolyard forest case studies may inspire you.


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.)

Sept. 5, 4 - 5 p.m. Child Nutrition Programs Subgrant Opportunity (FRAC)

Sept. 7, 2 - 3 p.m. Supporting Social Emotional Learning and Academic Outcomes (Children & Nature Network)

Sept. 7, 3 - 4 p.m. A Deep Dive on Breakfast After the Bell (FRAC)

Sept. 7, 3 - 4:30 p.m. Decarbonizing Chemicals (RMI)

Sept. 12, 1 - 2 p.m. Exploring Partnerships with Safe Routes to Parks (Safe Routes Partnership)

Sept. 13, 2 - 3 p.m. Community Supported Agriculture as a Benefit (AASHE)

Sept. 19, 3 - 4 p.m. How Visitors Help Sanctuaries Monitor Climate Change (NOAA)

Sept. 20, 2 - 3 p.m. Enhancing Safe Routes to School through Vision Zero (Safe Routes Partnership)

Sept. 21, 3 - 4 p.m. Advocates: A Key Ingredient to School Meal Success (FRAC)

Sept. 27, 2 - 3 p.m. Rewild Your Campus with the Green Grounds Certification (AASHE)

Sept. 27, 3–4 p.m. Green Learning for a Just Transition (Unbounded Associates)

Oct. 5, 2 - 3:30 p.m. Funding School Infrastructure: Advocacy and Impact (AIA)


IAQ Workshop

Indoor Air Quality Staff Training in October

The Center for Green Schools and the U.S. Department of Energy, in coordination with the U.S. EPA, are hosting a free in-person training session for K-12 school staff focused on developing or strengthening district Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) management plans and sharing the most up-to-date best practices for continuous IAQ monitoring. The training will take place Oct. 18-19 in Washington, D.C. Travel stipends are available to support K-12 school staff in attending the event. The deadline to apply for a travel stipend is Sept. 22. Learn more about the workshop and register for the October event!

students hiking

National Public Lands Day is Sept. 23

The National Environmental Education Foundation’s National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer event for public lands. Established in 1994 and held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, this celebration brings out thousands of volunteers to help restore and improve public lands around the country. NPLD is also a Fee-Free Day, one of only five days a year when entrance fees are waived at national parks and other public lands. Find resources for registering an NPLD event, tips for hosting an in-person or virtual event, a map for locating NPLD events near you, and so much more. 

K-12 Facilities Forum Panel Federal Funding for School Facilities

K-12 Facilities Forum

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 feature a session on federal tools to bolster school facilities with speakers from ED, DOE, and EPA. More information on attending can be found here.

GSC 2024

2024 Green Schools Conference

The Center for Green Schools and Green Schools National Network announced that the 2024 Green Schools Conference will be held in Santa Fe, New Mexico March 5-7. The Green Schools Conference brings together everyone involved in creating and advocating for green schools, with a focus on those leading their schools and school systems toward whole-school sustainability. Now in its 14th year, the three-day event provides a platform for the green schools community that inspires and facilitates the progress of the green schools movement. 

ED Green Team

Meet the small but mighty ED Green Team! Pictured left to right are Special Advisor for Infrastructure and Sustainability Andrea Falken, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, Policy Advisor Loredana Valtierra, and Infrastructure and Sustainability Impact Fellow Naomi Stern.