Imagine asking a group of urban students how they upcycle. I assumed I would get answers such as, ‘We keep scrap paper and use it for other projects’ or ’We reuse cardboard paper towel inserts for various projects in our classes’. However, after participating in this year’s “Living School Grounds” 2018 Green Strides Tour in St. Louis, Missouri and seeing the innovative efforts of nine unique schools, I have a new understanding of what it means to be green.
Each of the schools we visited on the 2018 Green Strides Tour demonstrated progress in the three Pillars of ED-GRS: 1) sustainable facilities and grounds, 2) health and wellness and 3) environmental and sustainability learning. These award Pillars are excellent areas to tackle if our overarching aims are to advance student and community engagement; reduce school operating costs and improve health.
It’s my favorite time of the year again: Green Strides Tour season!
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 outdoors physical activity; and environmental education. As part of its Green Strides outreach, the Department conducts an annual tour of past honorees. This year, the Green Strides Tour will reach its twentieth state, Missouri, on October 24 and 25, and spotlight ED-GRS honorees’ use of Living School Grounds.
I had the honor of attending the Georgia Green Strides Tour 2017 with Andrea Falken of the U.S. Department of Education and Keisha Ford-Jenrette of the Georgia Department of Education, and numerous other national, state and local partners. We rode a van to some of the school sites that had been honored over the years as U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. This year’s two-day tour focused on the theme “Taking Learning Outside,” and covered a wide range of approaches.
It’s a rainy day in Walker County, Georgia. In most schools, this would mean a day indoors with children and teachers wishing they could be outside. At Gilbert Elementary, you can look out the window and see a group of kindergarteners, in lime green rain suits, splashing their way across the playground on their way to the forest. These students will spend the next two hours making mud pies, building boats from found materials and observing the differences rain makes in their environment.
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.
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.
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.