Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca announced that Vermont has nominated three schools to the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) Green Ribbon Schools program. The three nominees are:
• Reading Elementary School
• St. Albans City Elementary School
• Shelburne Community School
The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) program recognizes schools that save energy, reduce costs, feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces, protect health, foster wellness, and offer environmental education to boost academic achievement and community engagement. The recognition award is part of a larger effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about practices proven to result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness, as well as a government-wide aim to increase energy independence and economic security.
“Vermont has many schools that have learned how to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nourish health and fitness awareness among students and staff, and promote environmental literacy,” said Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca. “Sustainability education and the awareness of green careers are growing, and now three Vermont schools will have the chance to be nationally recognized.”
Reading Community School stood out among GRS applicants as a small school doing very big things for sustainability education. Young learners, especially in grades 5 and 6, are encouraged to research solutions and to use community resources to solve problems. Staff and students utilize their local ties and small size to their advantage by using locally-owned goats to eradicate playground poison ivy, growing and composting much of their cafeteria food, and including oxen in a community bridge-raising that the students researched and designed. Staff professional development includes the training of a “green certified” custodian who leads a school-wide recycling program, teachers and administrators attending a week-long sustainability conference, and food service personnel who are recognized for their successful transition to new nutrition standards while increasing the use of locally-grown food.
“Our small school in Reading makes huge efforts towards educating for a sustainable future,” said Dr. Lou Lafasciano, Principal of Reading Elementary School. “The GRS award is a testament to all those hard-working community members and partners who give their all for children."
The St. Albans City Elementary School community has undertaken targeted renovations and conscious efforts to reduce energy use, minimize waste, lead healthier lifestyles, and to incorporate sustainability and environmental learning into the curriculum. As a result the school has reduced electricity use by 26, achieved several health and wellness awards, reduced water use significantly, added fitness-oriented before- and after-school programs, and involved staff and students in Efficiency Vermont’s Whole School Energy Challenge.
"For the past five years our community has supported us working on improving the energy efficiency of our building and the overall wellness of the school community," said St. Albans City Elementary School Principal Joan Cavallo. "Along the way we realized it was a great opportunity for real-life project-based learning, and our students are a key factor in this work. When we saw the application we thought - that sounds like us - and we are so glad we applied."
The Shelburne Community School saw a 32 annual reduction in electricity use as a result of building system upgrades and occupant behavior changes. An active indoor air quality committee has worked with the Vermont Department of Health to reduce mold and bacteria and to remove toxins from cleaning products. Other notable school accomplishments include composting and recycling almost half of waste generated in the school, and growing food for both the school cafeteria and a local food bank. Shelburne Community School’s science and sustainability education programs are embedded throughout the educational system.
To be considered for the ED-GRS program, schools must have achieved or made considerable progress toward all three pillars established in the program: 1) energy efficient buildings; 2) healthy students and school environment; and 3) environmental literacy of all students. The combined achievement in these three areas is the basis for the GRS award. Learn more about Vermont’s GRS program here: http://bit.ly/WZhhpb.
Honorees will be announced by US ED in April and there are plans to host a national recognition award ceremony in Washington D.C. in May or June.