In September, Secretary Arne Duncan announced the Green Ribbon Schools program, which honors schools for reducing environmental impact, promoting health and wellness, and providing effective environmental education. In seeking to identify and celebrate schools’ achievement in these areas, the recognition award has also encouraged state agencies to work together on behalf of schools in new ways.
Notably, the program is helping to break down one of the chief obstacles to schools providing environmental education in sustainable, healthy spaces. It does this by creating an opportunity for federal and state governments and non-governmental entities to work together, bringing more private and public resources to support schools, in spite of tough economic times.
State departments of education have taken bold steps to achieve the vision that Green Ribbon Schools sets. Education departments were quick to reach out to peer agencies with critical resources, enlisting help in designing processes for selecting and rating schools for submission of nominees to ED.
As one of the first states to announce participation in Green Ribbon’s pilot year, the Pennsylvania Department of Instruction is building on its Pathways to Green Schools with work bolstered by environmental protection, conservation and natural resources, and community and economic development agencies. Likewise, in California, Hawaii and Washington green schools nominations, the inter-agency groups that are providing input into Green Ribbon policies and procedures include agriculture, public utilities, public health, energy and state parks.
Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, which implements energy, resource conservation and health programs will support the Alabama Department of Education in its efforts to nominate green schools to ED. In Colorado, the Department of Public Health and Environment will build on an existing awards program to assist Colorado Department of Education in selecting the state’s nominees to ED. In North Carolina, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will serve a similar function.
In numerous other states, departments of public health, environment and community development, among others, are offering to support state departments of education and schools in their green schools efforts, by providing much of the technical expertise, and some of the manpower, required to submit nominees to ED for the award.
For years, at federal, state and local levels, health, natural resource, energy and safety authorities have possessed expertise and programs appropriate for school communities. Green Ribbon has encouraged connections among schools and this existing pool of resources — one that will enable them to advance more speedily toward reduced environmental impact, improved health and environmentally literate graduates.
ED salutes the various state agencies for their hard work in making the pilot year of Green Ribbon Schools possible. Here’s to maximizing efficiency with minimal resources, in each of our governments – and at every level — just as we are asking of our schools.
This is the first in a series of blog posts on the Green Ribbon Schools program’s pilot year. Check back for stories on:
- The overwhelming number of states taking part in the Green Ribbon Schools program in its pilot year;
- State departments of education leveraging the support of non-governmental entities to achieve Green Ribbon’s vision; and
- Schools and state departments employing complementary federal resources, standards and programs thanks to Green Ribbon.