Celebrating School Sustainability Achievements and Announcing the Green Strides Tour

Celebrating school sustainability achievements and announcing the green strides tour

By Andrea Suarez Falken, Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program, ED’s Facilities, Health, and Environment liaison, and Director of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award program

Responding to feedback from the 2020 ED-GRS cohort that a recognition award—without a recognition ceremony—doesn’t feel the same, we offered as much in-person recognition as we could for this year’s ED Green Ribbon Schools honorees. On Sept. 28, we recognized 27 schools, three early learning centers, five school districts, five postsecondary institutions, as well as three state education agency officials at a Washington, D.C., ceremony for their efforts to cultivate sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and authentic place-based learning. Prioritizing climate and sustainability in schools and school systems is central to President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda, which includes a $100 billion investment in rebuilding our nation’s public schools to create safe and healthy learning environments for all students.  

While smaller in scope than previous years, honorees were invited to send up to two representatives to accept their plaque and celebrate at a cozy reception with lawmakers and agency officials, thanks to the continued support of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council. Local honoree, D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School, also offered attendees a tour of its garden, commercial kitchen and food lab, and waste management initiatives, noting how these sustainability initiatives and resources are incorporated into the school’s unique science program, taught entirely in Spanish.

With COVID-19 protocols in place, we livestreamed the ceremony so that other representatives and partners could tune in. Did you miss the ceremony? That’s ok! You can watch the recorded livestream on ED’s YouTube page or check out ceremony photos on Flickr.

A group of children standing on a dock

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As part of its marine and environmental sciences program, Wrightsville Beach Elementary School students participate in hands-on learning about their local ecosystem.  

Year-round, ED-GRS and its Green Strides outreach initiative share promising practices and resources in the areas of safe, healthy, and sustainable schools; nutrition and fitness; and environmental education. Each year we visit the school communities of past honorees to highlight their efforts as a part of the annual Green Strides Tour. This year, the Green Strides Tour will head to North Carolina for the first time, with the theme “Green Strides for All: Advancing Sustainable Schools.”

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The Poe Health Center, a Wake County Public School System community partner, hosts a field trip for students to learn about plants, gardening, and healthy eating. Poe Health Center reaches over 21,000 WCPSS students per year. 

All students deserve to attend schools that enhance their health and wellness, prepare them for 21st-century careers, and support a healthy planet. The 2021 Green Strides Tour will highlight how rebuilding schools based in underserved communities with sustainable infrastructure ultimately cuts costs and creates healthier and more productive learning environments for those who have historically lacked them. Modern, educationally appropriate schools and grounds facilitate hands-on learning about sustainability, natural resources, the environment, design, construction, and agriculture—preparing students for lifelong success and even professions not yet imagined.

A group of people digging a hole in the ground

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D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy students explore pond life. 

The 2021 tour will take place October 19-21, with past schools, districts, and postsecondary honorees in the North Carolina areas of Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Wilmington. 

Like the EDGRS ceremony, this year’s Green Strides Tour will look a little different. Attendance will be limited to facilitate social distancing and preregistration will be required. If you would like to attend, please email [email protected] to request an invitation. Past tour attendees have included: 

  • Federal, state, and local governments and agency officials 
  • Neighboring schools and districts  
  • Members of the press 

Learn more about this year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees through the annual Highlights Report. You may also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  

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