The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award is a federal recognition for schools that have done an excellent job in reducing environmental waste, creating a healthy environment focused on students and staff wellness, and offering effective education on environmental protection and sustainability. This year, the Department selected 27 honorees as 2021 Green Ribbon Schools, including five charter schools.
Here are some highlights for the five charter schools honored as 2021 Green Ribbon Schools:
1. D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School (Washington, D.C.)
DC Bilingual Public Charter School, founded in 2004, offers an immersive bilingual learning environment to all 478 in both English and Spanish to students from PK-3 to 5th grade. After they moved to a new location in 2016, DC Bilingual completed multiple significant renovation projects on the school building and earned a LEED Gold rating.
The school established a department of food and wellness to manage culinary and gardening education and ensure the sustainability of school operation. In 2017, the school’s 7,000-square-foot garden won the Office of the State Superintendent of Education School Garden Award. Culinary and Gardening Education classes and DC Bilingual’s afterschool program provides students with valuable chances to engage in environmental protection activities and raise their awareness of sustainability.
2. Discovery Charter School (Indiana)
Discovery Charter School is a Title I charter school in Porter, Indiana, serving 475 students from K-8th grade. Discovery offers place-based education which strengthens students’ engagement with the local community and environment.
Located next to the Indiana Dunes National Park, Discovery incorporates many outdoor activities and hands-on learning projects into the curriculum. By taking an active role in the interdisciplinary projects and the local environment, students learn to become the stewards of their local community. Discovery demonstrates its dedication to caring for the sustainability of the environment through adopting culture-of-care and sustainability policies and engaging the whole school community to model sustainability.
3. Paramount Brookside School (Indiana)
Paramount Brookside School is a K-8 charter school serving 837 students. Paramount Brookside received the Thriving Schools Challenge Masters Certificate from the City of Indianapolis’ Office of Sustainability for efforts to revitalize the neighborhood and build a model of urban sustainability.
In addition to their energy-saving school building, the school has a working farm on its 5.5-acre site. The school’s extensive environment learning program, Success Through Education Agriculture and Mentoring, offers students the chance to connect the theories with practical activities as well as a summer employment opportunity. Through extracurricular farm activities, recycling, and gardening clubs, Paramount Brookside establishes students’ sense of civic engagement and urban sustainability.
4. New Roots Charter School (New York)
New Roots Charter School was authorized by the State University of New York in 2008, serving a diverse student population in grades 9-12. Because of its integration of civics studies and green technology into the interdisciplinary curriculum, New Roots won Green Schools National Network’s Best of Green Schools Award in 2019.
New Roots incorporates a wide range of outdoor activities for each grade of students. For example, senior students at New Roots participate in self-designed capstone projects in which they address issues related to local environmental sustainability. The student-initiated Cayuga Wetlands Project was awarded a four-year grant to establish a Youth Ecological Restoration Corps with the goal of studying how the local wetlands contribute to Cayuga Lake’s ecosystem.
5. Commonwealth Charter Academy (Pennsylvania)
Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA) is a cyber charter school serving 19,000 students from K-12th grades across Pennsylvania. As a cyber school, CCA addresses sustainability through daily operation practices: no daily bus commute and significantly reduced paper waste since students submit their assignments through an online learning management system are two of the most notable.
One of CCA’s Works Center, AgWorks, is the largest K-12 school-based aquaponic facility in the country. AgWorks grows fresh produce and raises fish and is 100% powered by solar panels. At AgWorks, students can participate both virtually and in-person to learn about clean energy and ways to reduce energy waste.
Congratulations to all the 2021 Green Ribbon Schools!
Yueting (Cynthia) Xu is the coordinator of data and research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.