Schools in the Wake and Cumberland county public school districts and a private school in Durham are among 35 schools nationwide named today as U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for their efforts to reduce environmental impact, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.
Earning the recognition in North Carolina are Abbotts Creek Elementary School in Wake County, Douglas Byrd High School in Cumberland County and Immaculata Catholic School in Durham. The Green Ribbon honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states. The winners include 25 public schools – among them, three magnet schools and two charter schools – as well as 10 non-public schools. Thirty-six percent of the 2019 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body.
In addition to the individual schools, 14 districts and four postsecondary institutions are also being honored for their innovative efforts to address the goals of the program.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made the announcement and congratulated the schools, districts and postsecondary institutions for their commitment to sustainable facilities, health and classroom practices.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson said the three North Carolina schools are demonstrating key values and teaching important lessons for students facing new challenges now and in the future.
"These three schools are showing students how to be good stewards of the environment, how to be good citizens and to understand the importance of health and fitness," Johnson said. "They're good role models for other schools to follow."
Including the winners announced today, eight North Carolina public schools and two school districts have received the award, first given in 2012 to honor schools that "exercise a comprehensive approach to creating ‘green' environments through reducing environmental impact, promoting health, and ensuring a high-quality environmental and outdoor education to prepare students with the 21st century skills and sustainability concepts needed in the growing global economy."
The Green Ribbon Schools Award is the first comprehensive federal policy for schools related to environment, health and education. It describes a thoughtful vision for the nation's schools, sets a high bar for success, and raises the profile of individual green schools and the states that support them.
Here are highlights about the three North Carolina schools, summarized from a report from the U.S. Department of Education about the honorees:
Abbotts Creek Elementary School opened in the fall of 2015. As with most urban districts, sites for new schools can be hard to find. The school is adjacent to a re-purposed landfill, and it has embraced that proximity as a teaching opportunity that focuses on environmental resources and sustainability. In addition, the school focuses on the internal health and well being of it entire community. Initiatives such as the Green Chair Project and Backpack Buddies help ensure the critical needs of all students are met. And whether participating in healthy eating and fitness programs, monitoring local rainfall, or tagging monarch butterflies, students are fully engaged.
Douglas Byrd High School (DBHS) is focused on the future. The school's Academy of Green Technology is in its 11th year, intended "to prepare students to be the innovators of the next generation as they pursue the technical and collaborative skills necessary to drive the emerging green and global economy." This focus has driven students and staff to work collaboratively, researching solar energy through its Sun Stewards program and study the impacts of carbon banking through the Carbon Sequestration Research Project. At the same time, initiatives to reduce the school's environmental footprint have yielded significant results with regard to greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, energy usage, and waste generation.
At Immaculata Catholic School, stewardship is a major theme threading through the curriculum. Such stewardship is practiced by taking care of all resources given: through its Green Faith initiative and by teaching its students to become responsible citizens in the world. Students have worked to embrace the needs of the hungry in their community by learning technologies and sustainable methodologies for growing food. Students participate as they study seeds, plants, and irrigation systems in preparation for the school's courtyard garden. The school also focuses on outdoor learning activities, which include music, environmental and solar projects and other general grade-level classwork. The school's Environmental Club is active both on and off campus with recycling efforts, litter clean up, beautification projects, and even bike repair for other community children.
National award recipients will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in September. Additional information on the Green Ribbon Schools Award program is available on the U.S. Department of Education's website or by contacting North Carolina Coordinator Jon Long with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's School Planning section at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here. A report with highlights on the 53 honorees can be found here. More information on the federal recognition award can be found here. Resources for all schools to move toward the three "pillars" of the program can be found here.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.