The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), in collaboration with the Green Schools National Network (GSNN), announced the 2016 Best of Green School Award recipients. The awards recognize 11 individuals, institutions, projects, and events representing the best environmental efforts in schools across the country and highlight the national leaders and innovators in school sustainability for the year. The awards were announced at the Green Schools Conference and Expo in Pittsburgh.
“This year’s honorees are making huge strides in their schools and communities,” said Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC. “Each recipient is an inspiring example of innovation and passion in pursuit of schools that educate a generation of sustainability natives, students prepared to take the lead in the 21st century. Becoming a green school is a journey, not a destination; through their work, the leaders behind this inspiring work are blazing new trails in this movement to transform all schools into healthy, safe, and inspired places for learning.”
• K-12 School — Environmental Charter Schools (Los Angeles): The Environmental Charter Schools (ECS) aim to create and deliver vibrant and innovative learning opportunities using the environment to engage students and connect them to the wider world. ECS shares its best practices through The Green Ambassador Institute, a professional development program for educators and organizations looking to implement hands-on sustainable education.
• School System — Fayette County Public Schools (Lexington, KY): According to USGBC, the Fayette County Public Schools have embraced the three-pillar model of sustainability to holistically address environmental literacy, building performance and student wellness, and leverages their students’ passion and leadership in all three areas.
• Higher Education Institution — Wings of Hope Environmental Education Program at Florida Gulf Coast University (Fort Myers, FL): The Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) Wings of Hope program seeks to protect the Florida panther and its habitat through environmental education, research, and awareness. The program engages thousands of fourth and fifth grade students in conservation through education and action.
• Policy Maker — Representative Chris Lee (House District 51, Hawaii.): Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee is recognized for sponsoring HB 1509, which mandated that Hawaii’s entire public higher education system operate as net zero by 2035. Hawaii’s energy leadership has been regarded as the most cutting edge energy policy activity in the nation, according to USGBC.
• Collaboration — Space to Grow: Greening Chicago Schoolyards (Chicago): Space to Grow is transforming Chicago schoolyards into safe and accessible spaces for students to play, explore, and learn. The program connects families and communities with their local schools by engaging community members in the schoolyard design process and by providing needed green space in heavily urbanized neighborhoods.
• Transformation — USGBC Louisiana Green Schools Initiative (Baton Rouge, LA.): The Louisiana Green Schools Initiative has invested significant time, energy, and resources to transform school communities and expand the green schools conversation across the state. Through a number of programs, including the Louisiana Green School Challenge, USGBC Louisiana has engaged more than 100 schools, 250 teachers, and 15,000 students over the past three years.
• Student Leadership — Hammond Junior High Magnet School (Hammond, LA.): Through the USGBC Louisiana Green Schools Challenge, the Hammond Junior High Magnet School student Green Club has transformed the school community. In three short years, the club has planted a schoolyard garden, initiated a recycling program, including the negotiation with a local entrepreneur to start a recycling company to service the school, and requested the school board send the green club the school’s energy bills for analysis and performance tracking.
• Moment for the Movement (Tie) –
Green Schools Alliance District Collaborative (Washington): Comprised of 21 U.S. school districts — eight of which are the 12 largest districts in the country — the collaborative’s mission is to leverage its collective knowledge to accelerate the implementation of sustainability principles that incorporate sound environmental, economic, and equitable decisions in schools. Collectively, these districts affect the lives of 3.6 million children and operate more than 550 million sq ft of space. This group is charting a course toward achieving their mission and has gained the support of district leadership.
Research Summit on Childhood Health and School Buildings (Washington): On Nov. 17, 2015, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education, and the Center for Green Schools came together to host the first-ever Research Summit on Childhood Health and School Buildings. The summit brought together leaders for a day of collaboration around the issue of child health and how it is impacted by the environments in where they learn.
• Ambassador — Deborah Moore, Green Schools Initiative (Berkeley, CA): Under Deborah Moore’s leadership, the Green Schools Initiative helped to protect children's health, promoted new funding sources for green schools, and launched the Nature's Voices Project to amplify students' role in the green schools effort.
• Business Leadership — Pauline Souza, WRNS Studio Partner and Director of Sustainability (San Francisco): Pauline Souza has dedicated her more than 30-year career to building and advocating for high-quality sustainable educational environments by working with school administrators, educators, and students to bring sustainable values into the educational community.
“The Best of Green Schools honorees play an essential role in propelling the green schools movement foreword and setting excellent examples of how to create healthy and sustainable schools,” said Jennifer Seydel, Ph. D, executive director of GSNN. “As our movement advances, having such exemplary mentors across the country will help us improve our work and drive our mission.”
This year’s Green Apple Day of Service will take place on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. The annual Green Apple Day of Service brings together thousands of students, teachers, parents, and community leaders from around the world to improve school environments through service projects, education, community events, and more.