Obama Administration Honors 78 Schools for Educating ‘Tomorrow’s Environmental Leaders’

Penny Starr | April 24, 2012 | 10:01am EDT
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First graders at Stoddert Elementary School in Washington, D.C., listen to Education Secretary Arne Duncan designate Stoddert as a Green Ribbon School for its environmentally friendly practices on Monday, April 23, 2012. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration on Monday recognized 78 schools across the nation for their efforts to promote a “green” environment – and train budding environmental activists for “jobs of the future.”

"Science, environmental and outdoor education play a central role in providing children with a well-rounded education, helping prepare them for the jobs of the future," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. He schools that focus on the environment can help students build “real-world skillsets.”

Duncan – along with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley -- announced the federal government’s first-ever Green Ribbon awards at Stoddert Elementary School in the District of Columbia.

Stoddart  was one of the 78 schools honored – out of the 98 nominated.

"These Green Ribbon School award winners are taking outstanding steps to educate tomorrow's environmental leaders, and demonstrating how sustainability and environmental awareness make sense for the health of our students and our country," Sutley said.

EPA Administrator Jackson said Green Ribbon Schools are “opening up environmental education opportunities for students and helping prepare students to succeed in the emerging green economy."

Duncan told students that the 78 schools (79 percent of those nominated) are “examples of high achievement that all schools can follow.”

“So we have almost 100,000 schools in the country – 100,000 schools, and you guys are one of only 78 – we’re announcing 78 (for) this first annual Green Ribbon (competition),” Duncan said.

By taking a “green approach,” the 78 schools are reducing utility bills, creating “healthy and productive” classrooms – and preparing students to “thrive in the 21st century economy,” Sutley said.

The 78 winners include 66 public schools and 12 private schools. Most (43) are elementary schools, 31 are middle schools, and 26 are high schools. Around half of the schools are located in high poverty areas, the administration said.

To be honored, a school must create a ‘green’ environment by “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,” a news release said.

Stoddert Elementary, located in an affluent Washington neighborhood, was recognized for using geothermal heating and having a garden.  No monetary prize is attached to the Green Ribbon School designation.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announces the first-ever Green Ribbon School Award at Stoddert Elementary School in Washington, D.C., on April 23, 2012. Green Ribbon Schools embrace environmentalism in various ways, such as using alternative energy and growing gardens on campus. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

In a Monday blog post, Duncan noted that many of the 78 Green Ribbon Schools are buying renewable energy or generating it on school premises. Some schools have installed "green" roofs, rain gardens, rain barrels, vegetable gardens -- and some are using buses that run on discarded cooking oil or other alternative fuels.

Students in some of the winning schools are "outside climbing ropes, kayaking, orienteering and learning in their outdoor classrooms. They’re reading ‘on the green,’ conducting GPS mapping studies of creeks, performing water quality testing, creating and maintaining trails, tapping maple trees, reconstructing wetlands and going on wilderness adventures," Duncan wrote.

Many of the schools are using "certified green cleaning products" to protect children's health; and some have posted "no idling" signs in parking lots, Duncan wrote.

"Today’s winners are also providing a comprehensive environmental education that is essential to help students become good citizens, prepared for life and work in the 21stcentury global economy."

Duncan concluded that “All our children deserve green schools, as all our students deserve a healthy, sustainable and prosperous future.”

In his Earth Day proclamation, issued by the White House on Friday, President Barack Obama said the Green Ribbon awards are designed “to encourage more schools to pursue sustainability, foster health and wellness, and integrate environmental literacy into the curriculum.”

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