Celebrating a Sixth Cohort of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools; Launching the 2017 Green Strides Tour

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) began in 2011-2012 by defining “green school” according to three Pillars.  In 2012-2013, ED added a District Sustainability Award and began an annual tour spotlighting the practices of honorees and launched a Green Strides resources portal for all to employ.  The 2013-2014 cycle added an honor for state officials and 2015 brought a postsecondary category and saw the revamping of the Green Strides portal.

Need an occasion for celebration? On Wednesday, July 19th, we recognized 45 schools, nine districts, nine postsecondary institutions, and one state education agency official at a Washington, D.C. ceremony for their efforts to cultivate sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and authentic place-based learning.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Management Holly Ham addresses the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools at a ceremony on July 19th in Washington, D.C.

The Director of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy James L. Elder, Director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council Anisa Heming, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Management Holly Ham, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Education Director Louisa Koch congratulated the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools.  They were also treated to a special briefing with hydrogen fuel car demonstration offered by the U.S. Department of Energy, a National Park Service ranger-led tour of National Monuments, and a reception with their Hill members sponsored by the Center for Green Schools.

As ED-GRS Director, I rejoice in honorees’ achievements each passing year while continuing to look for ways to make this federal communications and outreach tool structured as a recognition award fresh and useful to the school communities we serve.  From tentative beginnings, it has become quite clear to us here at ED that sustainable school practices are here to stay and that our federal agency requires some understanding of school facilities, health, and environment matters, particularly as they affect learning.  I’ve been honored to serve in this evolving role, to read each and every one of our nominations in full every year of this award, and to preside over our annual ceremony — which is always a special event.

Learning from the many national non-profit and federal colleagues who have educated us in these areas over the last five years, I, too, have come to think of healthy, safe, sustainable schools that offer real-world learning opportunities as something that should be the norm in all of our schools.

I’m also thrilled to share that we’ll conduct a fourth iteration of the Green Strides Tour, which spotlights our honorees’ work, this year to Georgia, and focused on the importance of outdoor learning.  You can learn more about that tour here.

To learn more about this year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees, visit our website and annual Highlights Report.  You may also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  Watch the ceremony video and view photos.


Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and Facilities, Health, and Environment Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.  

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