Last week President Obama asked us to work together to create an America built to last — one that thrives on innovation, collaboration, affordable education and spending within our means. As part of this effort, the U.S. Department of Education is working to encourage sustainable schools where facilities, health and education practices combine to support the nation’s needs in the long term.
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognizes public and private schools for meeting some of the most critical challenges of our time. All schools are capable of reducing their energy consumption, and some are even candidates for renewable energy projects. Every school can implement a coordinated school health program that addresses student health, fitness and nutrition to improve academic achievement. And every school can offer students a well-rounded environmental education with strong science and mathematics foundations—an education that can help students learn robust civics skills and environmental stewardship as they enhance their career and college preparedness.
ED-GRS is just one effort by the Department of Education that addresses the environmental factors that can improve a child’s ability to learn. To ensure the health and wellness of all students, ED collaborates with the First Lady’s Let’s Move!, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Surgeon General’s office to underscore the link between good health and positive academic outcomes.
ED has proposed a $265 million grant to expand support for the subjects important to a complete curriculum, including environmental literacy. As the President said, in order to fill the innovation and research –based jobs our nation’s companies require, students must engage early and stay hooked on the critical science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects. Environmental education engages students in these subjects, and a host of others.
To assist older students, ED administers vocational grants to help states develop green high school career programs that will prepare graduates for jobs in the green economy and funds energy and cost-saving improvements at minority-serving campuses. Along with roughly a dozen other agencies, ED is developing a comprehensive Environmental Justice strategy and has joined the Federal Urban Waters Partnership to help connect all students to healthful environments and revitalize their communities.
These various programs all aim to help students achieve, go on to college, and graduate ready for the innovation and high-skill based job market. Fostering a sustainable education means that our economy will possess the trained employees and creative thinking it requires to grow and flourish for years to come. With these programs, we set a bar for graduates prepared to invent, renew, take responsibility and collaborate on behalf of our nation. This new, sustainable generation will be up to the task, fortified by an education built to last.
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Please note: U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools is a federal recognition award and should not be confused with any green schools program conducted by non-governmental entities.