Kids go to school to learn reading and math, but it is also important that they learn more about the world around them, including how to protect our environment and improve health and wellness in their communities. Since 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDOE) Green Ribbon Schools program, 712 schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions have been doing this in exemplary ways. The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools is a public engagement initiative recognizing schools for their cost-saving, health promoting, and performance-enhancing sustainability practices.
In 2023, 40 schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions were honored with the USDOE’s Green Ribbon Schools designation.
Celebrating these schools, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, “Your work shines a spotlight on the ways that modern, healthy, efficient school facilities; wellness practices; and learning about environmental sustainability can increase student achievement and educational equity.”
Honored schools come from communities and states around the country. In fact, over the life of the program more than 40 percent of honoree schools are from disadvantaged communities, demonstrating how all schools can be green.
Highlights from this year’s Green Ribbon schools include:
- Even the youngest learners participate in school sustainability initiatives. For example, at 2023 Green Ribbon School Little Tree Huggers (LTH) Preschool in Leesburg, Virginia, students learn the importance of environmental stewardship through daily participation in different aspects of farm operations from caring for rescue animals to planting seeds in the garden. A bilingual, nature-based preschool, Little Tree Huggers established a wildlife sanctuary around a fully restored, three-acre, mid-19th century farm complex recognized for its extensive wildlife habitat and riparian conservation areas, all of which are planted and maintained by students, staff, and parents.
- Across the country in Puyallup, Washington, K-12 students at 2023 honoree Chief Leschi Schools, which serves 97 percent Native American students, uplift the traditional ways of the Puyallup people in their belief that “all natural things are our brothers and sisters. They have things to teach us if we are aware and listen.” The district restored and improved Lake Leschi, the on-campus wetlands, to create a powerful outdoor learning space that inspires students and helps them see their connection to the land. Much of the restoration work was completed by students themselves, so they can apply the environmental and sustainability concepts they learn in the classroom.
- At Cardinal Valley Elementary (CVE) in Lexington, Kentucky, a community school serving more than 550 Prek-5 students, students enjoy free fruit or vegetable snacks and a weekend food backpack program for students experiencing food scarcity. This food is sourced from the school’s community garden, fed by their schoolwide composting program. The garden space includes 25 raised beds, a monarch butterfly waystation, a large native plant garden, an art mural, two apple trees, and multiple berry producing bushes.
- In Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s Park Forest Elementary Creative Sciences & Arts Magnet School developed a Creative Smart Lab and Renewable Energy Lab, featuring STEM-based lessons to educate students on renewable energy and water and energy conservation. Students experience different types of gardening from the traditional raised garden bed to aeroponic garden towers inside the lab. Park Forest uses “Agriculture in the Classroom” to apply authentic, agricultural-based content as the context to teach core curriculum concepts in science, social studies, language arts, and nutrition.
These are just a few examples of the incredible environmental and school sustainably initiatives happening around the country. Learn about more about the 2023 Green Ribbon Schools and the amazing ways they are involving their students and teachers in initiatives that promote school and community sustainability practices in this 2023 USDOE report.
Have these schools inspired you to think of ways your company can support this year’s Green Ribbon Schools as well as past honorees? Green Ribbon Schools are identified in our K-12 education database so it is easy to create a campaign to recognize their community changing initiatives. To learn more, contact us today!