Recognizing Green Schools on Earth Day

Students gardening at an elementary school. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Students gardening at an elementary school. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Ed. note: This is cross-posted at the U.S. Department of Education's Homeroom blog. See the original post here.

To celebrate Earth Day, earlier today U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the 2014 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) and District Sustainability Award recipients.

Joined in an online live stream by Acting Chief White House Council on Environmental Quality Mike Boots, Secretary Duncan celebrated the 48 schools and 9 school districts chosen for their exemplary efforts in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective environmental education, including civics, STEM, and green career pathways.

Reiterating the Department’s support for green schools, Secretary Duncan praised the selected schools and districts, stating: “Today’s honorees are modeling a comprehensive approach to being green by encompassing facility, wellness and learning into their daily operations.” Duncan went on to say that the recipients “are demonstrating ways schools can simultaneously cut costs; improve health, and engage students with hands-on learning that prepares them with the thinking skills necessary to be successful in college and careers.

The 48 schools and 9 school districts were selected from a pool of candidates voluntarily nominated by 30 state education agencies across the country. The schools serve various grade levels, including 29 elementary, 16 middle, and 18 high schools, with several offering various K-12 variations. Many schools also serve pre-K students, demonstrating that health, wellness, and environmental concepts can be taught to every student, even the earliest learners.

Selected schools and districts also demonstrated that their efforts not only improve the physical, environmental, and nutritional health of school communities, but also save schools money in utility costs which can be applied directly back to where it is needed most – the classrooms. Read all about this year’s honorees and their tremendous achievements.

In addition to recognizing this year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees, Secretary Duncan announced a new nomination category for the 2014-2015 awards cycle. This award will offer higher education institutions the chance to receive much-deserved recognition for their resource conservation, healthy living and learning environments, and commitment to education for sustainability.

For this award, states are encouraged to document how the nominees’ sustainability in facilities, health, and learning has also reduced college costs, increased completion rates, led to higher rates of employment, and ensured robust civic skills among graduates. As with the Pre-K to 12 school and district nominations, which have honored 48 percent disadvantaged selectees over the course of the last three cycles, authorities are also encouraged to consider diverse types of institutions.

There are many tools and resources available to all schools, Pre-K to postsecondary, to help with resource conservation, health, and to ensure education for sustainability. You can find free resources available through the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Strides Resources and Webinar Series. You can also stay up to date through the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools’ webpage, where you can connect with the Facebook, Twitter, and newsletter.

With these tools, next fall your school may be ready to apply in your state for one of its nominations to the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools! State education agencies are encouraged to indicate their intent to nominate next spring by August 1, 2014, and schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions to contact their state agencies for more information on applications.

Kyle Flood is a confidential assistant in the Office of the General Counsel and social media manager for the ED Green Team.
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