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.

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(UPDATED) Join Education ‘Taking Learning Outside’ on the 2017 Green Strides Tour!

UPDATE August 18, 2017 and August 21, 2017: The schedule for the second day (September 20) has been updated. Please see below.


As my toddler son grows, I’ve become intrigued by the outdoor and forest preschool movement. In fact, so convinced have I become of the benefits of outdoor play and learning at his age that I’ve made a point to get Íñigo out every day of his first two years — swimming, hiking, running, biking, camping, climbing, and skiing.  There’s not a day or a temperature at which I don’t bundle him up and get him out, and Íñigo absolutely loves it.

This is just one of many reasons I’m especially thrilled to share that we’ll conduct a fourth iteration of the Green Strides Tour, which spotlights our U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees’ work, this year to Georgia, and focused on the importance of outdoor learning.

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Sixth Cohort of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Announced

On May 4th, the U.S. Department of Education named the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. Across the country, 45 schools, nine districts, and nine postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.

The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states and the Department of Defense Department of Education Activity. The selectees include 39 public schools, including five magnet schools and one charter school, as well as six nonpublic schools. Forty-four percent of the 2017 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body and 14 percent are rural. The postsecondary honorees include three career and technical and community colleges.

Curious what it takes to be a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School? Here are a few of the actions that three of the 2017 honorees are taking.

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Sustainability as a Mechanism for School Engagement

Cross-posted from the Green Schools National Network.

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is founded on the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) authority to identify and communicate practices that increase student and community engagement and, in doing so, also raise academic achievement.  Annually, the Green Strides Tour shines a spotlight on the potential for sustainable schools practices to engage students, teachers, families, and community members.

Growing avocado. (Photo courtesy of the Green Schools National Network)

Growing avocado. (Photo courtesy of the Green Schools National Network)

The 2016 “Real-World Learning” Green Strides Tour put this commitment on display, as we toured schools, districts, and even a postsecondary Pennsylvania ED-GRS honoree, celebrating their achievements, and educating visitors on the many ways schools old and new, public and private; districts large and small; and colleges and universities can reduce environmental impact and costs, improve health and wellness, and teach by the most hands-on, engaging means possible.

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Join Education on the ‘Real-World Learning’ 2016 Green Strides Tour!

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) and its Green Strides outreach initiative share promising practices and resources in the areas of safe, healthy, and sustainable school environments; nutrition and outdoor physical activity; and environmental and sustainability education.

To bring additional attention to honorees’ practices, ED-GRS has conducted an annual Green Strides tour, allowing schools, school districts, and postsecondary institutions to share their work with community leaders and policymakers and celebrate their achievements. The following is the tentative tour schedule. Updates will be shared through our newsletter.

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Debunking Common Myths Behind U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

What is a “green” or “sustainable” school, you ask? Read on!

What is a “green” or “sustainable” school, you ask? Read on!

Five years ago, I was tasked with developing what came to be called U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS).  You may have heard of it.  The recognition award is now known for honoring sustainable schools annually.

What is a “green” or “sustainable” school, you ask?  Well, we established a federal definition when we created the award.  That federal education definition includes three broad areas that we call PillarsPillar I is ‘Reducing Environmental Impact and Costs‘, including waste, water, greenhouse gases, energy, and transportation. Pillar II is ‘Improving Health and Wellness‘, including physical activity, nutrition, and environmental health. Pillar III is ‘Teaching Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education.’

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Thinking about the Meaning of ‘Green’ as We Recognize Schools, Districts, and Colleges this Earth Day

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) began in 2011-2012, recognizing 78 green schools. In 2012-2013, ED added a District Sustainability Award and honored 64 schools and 14 districts. The 2013-2014 cycle had 48 school honorees and 9 district honorees. 2014-2015 brought 58 schools, 14 districts, and nine first-ever Postsecondary Sustainability Award recipients.

For the fifth consecutive year, to celebrate Earth Day, the U.S. Secretary of Education announced the 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), including District Sustainability Awardees and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. Joined by Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Christy Goldfuss, Secretary King celebrated the 47 schools, 15 districts, and 11 postsecondary institutions chosen this year for their leadership in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective sustainability education.

As I think reflect on these first five years of our award, I sometimes wonder if “green” was the best choice of name, since it leads to occasional misinterpretation. To be clear, we define a “green” or “sustainable” school, as a healthy, efficient learning environment where school budgets are not drained by utility costs and students can use their very school building (whether older or new) as a learning tool.

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