The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is a federal recognition program that opened in September 2011. This program honors schools that are exemplary in reducing environmental impact and costs, promoting health, and providing effective environmental and sustainability education to give students the skills and concepts needed in the growing global economy.
This year there are 78 honored schools across the nation, each demonstrating impressive success in attaining these goals. We’d like to congratulate all of these schools and recognize a few that stood out to us!
One of these is the Journey School in Aliso Viejo, California. This school has an exciting curriculum packed with environmental and sustainability education and practices. The students spend a lot of time outside doing projects in their gardens, and not only do the students learn about gardening, but they then eat what they have grown! They even compost, giving the students an understanding of the soil as well as the plants themselves. These kids get their hands dirty and have fun, while receiving a practical science and math education.
The school has five gardens—Wow! One, they call the Native Garden where a rainwater harvesting site is located (as seen below). The rainwater site was actually created by a student as her 8th grade project! She then educated the students and entire community all about rainwater harvesting. The process is not only neat, but educational. The students use mathematics to calculate how much rain can be captured annually on the school building’s rooftops. Then that water is re-routed from the roof into a mulch pit which sustains native plants. Such an innovative and conservative way to garden!
The Journey School continues to be committed to teaching and implementing innovative environmental education and sustainable practices campus wide. They are an extraordinary example for other schools, showing an inspiring passion and flair for greener living.
Other schools exhibiting similar initiatives are the 17 schools of the Talladega County School District in Alabama providing their students with an education privileged with sustainable techniques and instruction. These schools have worked hard to ensure that their institutions are doing their part in providing an example of what it means to be a sustainable school in the United States, and they have definitely done just that!
The schools have put $6 million worth of grants to use in developing new resources for environmental education such as greenhouses, gardens, and outdoor learning facilities, as well as designing a hands-on education program for their students! The kids are taught about the environment based on their grade and age starting with the basics of recycling and progressing to the science behind air and water quality. They are taught to be green from the very beginning of their education! These schools have also excelled in the enhancement of the health and nutrition of their students and staff. They promote the physical education of their students and provide locally grown healthy food options for students and faculty alike. Much of this food is grown on the campus by the students themselves!
The Talladega School District’s maintenance of the schools in the area, (such as monitoring the thermostats and shutting off the lights for the weekends) have saved the Talladega County School District $2.5 million since the beginning of their push for sustainability! These simple changes have really paid off!
Hats off to these schools for their hands-on sustainability education!