U. S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, 2012

Roadrunner Elementary School, Phoenix, AZ

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Roadrunner Elementary School, Phoenix, AZ

Behavioral changes and retrofits win a coveted corporate gift
Roadrunner is a school with 1970s construction that used behavioral changes and retrofits to reduce energy consumption by 35.2 percent. It improved its ENERGY STAR rating from 48 to 87 in just three years. For these exemplary sustainability efforts, Roadrunner was awarded a new LEED Platinum building called “The Safari” by corporate donors. The school serves over 65 percent Hispanic students and half English language learners. The school partners with DeVry University for teacher STEM training and mentors to students. Other partners include Alliance Bank, Kraft Foods, Armstrong Tile, and Glidden Paint for financial, nutrition, and engineering training, as well as in-kind gifts related to the new construction. The school’s outdoor facilities include a vegetable garden, rain garden, outdoor wildlife habitats, and an outdoor classroom.


Acorn School, Mena, AR

Eco outpost in the Ozarks
Located in rural southwestern Arkansas, Acorn sits on a 15-acre campus that includes a vegetable garden and greenhouse. In the forest adjoining the campus, students discovered an endangered tree species, the Ozark Chinquapin, and worked to build community awareness to protect the species. The school places an emphasis on outdoor, project-based, and hands-on learning, as well as physical fitness and nutrition. The school also has a number of community partnerships that benefit the environmental programming, including a partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that involves student teams that monitor local water quality. This 1928-built school proves that any school can be a green school. It implements all Environmental Protection Agency environmental health recommendations, including integrated pest management practices and contaminant control protocols. Students themselves requested and completed an application to be nominated for ED-GRS from the Arkansas state education agency.

Bureau of Indian Education

Circle of Nations-Wahpeton Indian School, ND

Students help design a state of the art dormitory and preserve their oldest American Indian traditions

Circle of Nations is a boarding school that incorporates Native American gardening and service learning at every grade level. A 2012 Healthier US Challenge Gold Award winner, the school recently installed a native plants medicine wheel garden, and includes a National Wildlife Federation Certified Schoolyard Habitat. Area businesses and national sponsors have donated garden supplies, plants, seeds, equipment, and tools, which included the construction and operation of a kitchen garden onsite. Students were involved closely in designing a new dormitory in meetings with architects. The efficient design and operation of the new building not only has drawn much attention to the school, but it also has saved over $233,000 in only three years of operation. In older buildings on campus, windows, roofing, and other design features also were retrofitted to conserve energy. The school’s Strategic Instruction Model connects nutrition with math, reading, science, physical activity, arts education, culture, parents, and community. It also promotes physical fitness and eating more vegetables and fruit instead of high-calorie, low-nutrition meals or snacks. The school’s partners include the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the National Gardening Association. Students also got involved with their local community by adopting a wounded eagle and an orphan monkey at a local zoo, creating and auctioning artwork to support the adoptions, and inviting the animals to a traditional ceremony.


Longfellow Elementary School, Long Beach, CA

Disseminating green practices to all area schools
Longfellow earned an ENERGY STAR 2011 award with a perfect score of 100. Every Wednesday, the school’s Green team hosts Walk to School Wednesdays for its community members. For those who don’t live close enough to walk the full distance, they are encouraged to drive to a nearby point and walk the remainder of the route with fellow classmates. The school awards prizes that promote sustainable living to classes with the most walkers, such as reusable lunch containers. Not satisfied with greening just one school, Longfellow partnered with a local middle school, forming a green schools coalition to disseminate good practices to other area schools. Longfellow’s community partners include Lowe’s, local public relations firms, the local department of the environment, local businesses and community colleges, and a number of sponsors that helped to fund the school’s garden and tree planting. Every teacher at the school engages in professional development in environmental and sustainability, and 100 percent of physical education takes place outdoors.

Environmental Charter High School, Lawndale, CA

An oasis of STEM learning, environmental stewardship, and civic engagement amid concrete

The Environmental Charter School has a recycling rate of over 85 percent. It is Collaborative for High Performance Schools certified, and working toward its LEED Existing Buildings certification. The school’s environmental philosophy permeates the campus and the curriculum. The school produces more than 2 percent of its energy on-site, powering, among other things, its greenhouse. Students take outdoors overnight trips, and spend 25 percent of their class time outdoors in a recycled-concrete urban outdoor amphitheater, or tending to raised gardens, chicken and rabbit coops, and green walls. Students worked with permaculture experts to create a natural stream that now runs through the center of the urban campus. A group of students successfully presented a proposal to change food vendors to one that supports the school’s mission, with locally grown food, low-waste compostable packaging, and healthier food. In chemistry classes, students made their own biodiesel fuel. A student-run bicycle repair shop encourages students and staff to ride rather than drive. The students also invite their community into their lessons, hosting composting workshops and campus tours, and engaging in projects to restore the L.A. watershed.

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