Two Iowa school districts have been honored for their efforts to create campuses and education programs that stress environmentally sound practices.
Des Moines and Starmont were among 78 schools and districts honored nationwide in the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools’ recognition. Des Moines was recognized for saving the district $2.4 million in energy costs since 2007, or the equivalent of 66 first-time teachers. Starmont was honored for its preschool-through-12th grade work to create a sustainable campus and its environmental education efforts.
Sixty-four schools nationwide, including Starmont, were honored for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways. In addition, 14 districts, including Des Moines, were honored for the first-ever District Sustainability Award. This is the second year of the national recognition program.
Both Des Moines and Starmont were nominated by the Iowa Department of Education.
The recognition award is part of a larger U.S. Department of Education effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about practices that are proven to result in improved student engagement, higher academic achievement and graduation rates, and workforce preparedness, as well as a government-wide goal of increasing energy independence and economic security.
“Preparing students for success in the 21st century economy begins in our schools. The schools and districts being honored today are modeling the best practices in reducing environmental impact and cutting costs, creating a healthier learning environment, and providing students with an education geared toward the jobs of the future,” said Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley.
The Starmont Community School District, located in the northeast Iowa city of Arlington, was identified as a champion of vocational agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education noted:
“The entire Starmont campus is an extension of the classroom. Students participate in outdoor activities such as a fall prairie burning and spring reseeding, composting, and on-site gardening. The 17-acre agricultural test plot, green house, and gardens are used for learning experiences. Students engage in service projects such as building benches made from concrete and recycled wood along the campus fitness trail.
“Elective classes for older students focus on green building, recycling, renewable energy, and sustainable consumption. The school partners with the University of Northern Iowa Center for Renewable Energy and Environmental Education and offers a vocational agricultural course that incorporates renewable energy.”
“The school used American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to convert from T-12 to T-8 lighting, equip areas with occupancy sensors, install demand control ventilation, and replace an outdated steam boiler with two energy efficient boilers. School buses run on biodiesel; 100 percent of paper is post-consumer material; and the campus diverts 39 percent of its waste from landfills through its recycling program.
“All students participate in local food taste tests, physical fitness breaks, and interactive cross-age nutrition lessons. Nutrition and fitness is emphasized through the campus’ participation in Fuel Up to Play 60 and through a partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food Initiative, a program that provides educational workshops for teachers and students, an AmeriCorps member to assist with food preparation once a week, and guidance on nutrition and active living policies. Starmont encourages healthy eating by providing fruits and vegetables during lunch and by offering healthy chicken wraps and fruit at concession stands.”
The schools were confirmed from a pool of candidates voluntarily nominated by 32 state education agencies. The list of selectees includes 54 public schools and 10 private schools. The public schools include seven charter, five magnet and four career and technical schools. The schools serve various grade levels, including 40 elementary, 23 middle and 19 high schools are among them, with several schools having various K-12 configurations, from 29 states and the District of Columbia. More than half of the 2013 honorees serve a student body more than 40 percent of which is eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.
The U.S. Department of Education will publish updated competition criteria this summer for the awards’ third year, once again working closely with participating states, collaborating organizations and partner agencies. State education agencies are encouraged to indicate intent to nominate schools in 2014 by Aug. 1, 2013.