NC Schools Win U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Awards

Raleigh, NC

Green Ribbon Schools LogoSchools in the Wake and Cumberland county public school districts are among 39 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 Lincoln Heights Environmental Connections Magnet Elementary and Millbrook Environmental Connections Magnet Elementary schools in Wake County and Walker-Spivey Elementary School in Cumberland County.

The Green Ribbon honorees were named from a pool of nominees representing 27 states. The winners include 28 public schools – among them, three magnet schools and four charter schools – as well as 11 non-public schools. Forty-five percent of the 2020 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body.

In addition to the individual schools, 11 districts and five 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 honorees are providing students with lifelong lessons in conservation and efficiency of resources and health and wellness.

Including the winners announced today, 11 North Carolina K-12 schools, two school districts and one university have received the award since it was 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 program is the first comprehensive federal policy for schools related to environment, health and education. The initiative 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 2020 honorees:

Walker-Spivey Elementary School in Cumberland County is a mathematics and science school that embraces environmental conservation and sustainability. Located in the heart of Fayetteville, the school is well positioned to serve the surrounding urban community. Staff has created programs to reduce the school’s environmental impact and cost, to improve student and staff health holistically, and provide sustainability education. All of these programs are implemented in a “work hard, play hard” atmosphere in which Walker-Spivey students thrive. During the past three years, students have planted and nurtured their own sustainable community garden. This is just one of many hands-on activities that promote environmental education, sustainability of food and plant life, as well as awareness in how these resources impact the community. The school’s Green Team leads recycling efforts around the school. Field studies have included trips within the community to learn about the impact of Hurricane Matthew on local habitats.

Millbrook Environmental Connections Magnet Elementary School (MECME) in Wake County became an Environmental Connections school in the 2017-18 school year. The magnet theme “has given our school the ability to connect students daily and authentically to sustainability, environmental issues, and being active stakeholders in reducing our environmental impact in the school and community.” The school’s waste and consumption reduction efforts are led by its Green Bees student team. Beginning in kindergarten, students learn and emulate activities from careers that directly impact the world. Outdoor learning spaces include rain, pollinator, and edible gardens that allow hands-on learning in a variety of areas, including plant growth and storm water management. Environmental and sustainability concepts are integrated throughout the curriculum to include music, arts and physical education. Through this approach, MECME students “become critical thinkers, problem solvers and stewards of the environment, both social and natural, to help make change in our community and be advocates for our future.”

Lincoln Heights Environmental Connections Magnet Elementary School (LHECMES)in Wake County is “creating positive environmental impacts and enabling students to reconnect with the outdoors.” The school vision is that “students will build relationships and engage with their environment to become empowered citizens.” As a result, all students are engaged in hands-on environmental opportunities, such as “citizen science” research that uses trail cameras to track and identify wildlife, monitoring and recording precipitation in the CoCoRaHS network. Students also participate in “Shad in the Classroom,” where American Shad fry are hatched and released into the local watershed. The school engages community partners to develop no-mow zones and plant native wildflowers, reducing carbon emissions. In support of student health and well-being, staff works diligently to promote the sense of community within the school. Across all curriculums, staff incorporates environmental and sustainability concepts in all instruction for the holistic development of each student.

National award recipients will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., tentatively set for Aug. 4. 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

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 55 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.

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