When students at 78 schools return to school next fall, they will see a new plaque in the award case. There, nestled between the trophies for the basketball championships won and academic honors earned, students will see the first-ever Green Ribbon Schools award handed out by the U.S. Department of Education.
At an award ceremony on Monday, the Department recognized these schools — including 43 elementary, 31 middle, and 26 high schools in 29 states and the District of the Columbia — for their commitment to giving students a healthy learning environment and an understanding of the importance of environmental sustainability. How they do this is as varied as the students they teach. Some examples include:
- STAR School in Flagstaff, Arizona, which is the nation’s first school solar powered charter school.
- Acorn School in Mena, Arkansas that has a vegetable garden and greenhouse on its 15-acre campus.
- Flagstone Elementary School in rural Castle Rock, Colorado where Student Helpful Energy Resource Officers (HEROs) have successfully reduced the school’s energy use by over a third.
- Savannah Country Day School in Savannah, Georgia — the first school be designated as a National Wildlife Federation Eco School Green Flag Recipient — where students “learn simple machines by hoisting their science teacher up and down one of the many hundred year old live oaks” on campus
- The Benernard High School in Bernardsville, NJ, which holds an annual battle of the bands to support environmental initiatives.
- The Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that has one of the largest non-profit solar projects in the area and has helped area residents recycle 320 tons of waste.
The students at these schools may not truly understand how lucky they are. As Nathan Alforod-Tate, the Vice President of the Senior Class at Detroit School of Arts (DSA), said at the recent Good Jobs, Green Jobs Midwest conference in Detroit, “In my four years at Detroit School of Arts, I did not realize how blessed and fortunate I was to enroll in such a school as DSA… DSA has provided us with the opportunity to think with a broader horizon, not with just the arts and academics but with a more eco-cognizant mindset.”
Hopefully seeing this award every day, along with the education they receive, will help inspire our next generation of leaders to continue the serious work of ensuring we leave this planet better than we found it.
Learn more about the Green Ribbon Schools Award at the following: