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

Georgia Arabia Mountain High School, Lithonia, GA

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Arabia Mountain High School, Lithonia, GA

Taking state science standards to the next level

This LEED Silver school purchases 60 percent renewable energy and produces solar, wind, biomass, and hydro power on-site. Arabia Mountain is an Environmental Protection Agency air quality monitoring School Flag Program participant and serves only local food. Its partners include organizations such as the Turner Foundation, the Georgia Power Company, the Georgia Clean Air Campaign, the Arabia Mountain Heritage Alliance, IKEA, The Nature Conservancy, the Oxford Institute for Environmental Education, and Arabia Mountain Park. At the 98 percent African American serving magnet school, every student takes Advanced Placement environmental science. Through an Environment as an Integrating Context curriculum, students use projects to formulate hypotheses about the environment, conduct scientific investigations, present their findings to their peers and the local community, and engage in service learning. The school’s academic achievement rates exceed both the county and state, and it graduates 98 percent of students enrolled.

Springdale Park Elementary, Atlanta, GA

A garden tops historic structures

Nestled in the historic Druid Hills, this school is comprised of two restored homes and a newly designed LEED Gold building. The new construction produces 18 percent on-site renewable energy and features a roof-top garden that contains over 100 raised plant beds. The students receive lessons on the school’s many green features from Heery International; attend programming on how to reduce harmful emissions from the Georgia Clean Air Campaign; receive fresh fruit snacks and garden sponsorship from Whole Foods; and enjoy locally harvested produce of the month, a Farm to School Fair and nutrition instructional materials thanks to partnership with Sodexo.

Savannah Country Day School, Savannah, GA

The first National Wildlife Federation Eco School Green Flag Recipient in the nation

Students at this LEED Silver school have donated hundreds of pounds of vegetables from their gardens to a local food bank in addition to ensuring local and organic foods in their own meals. With a butterfly garden, herb garden, fruit garden, brown thumb garden, Monet garden, organic spot, Shakespeare garden, and Pangaea garden, the all on-site harvest was plentiful. The school is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Schoolyard Habitat and is the first National Wildlife Federation Eco School Green Flag recipient in nation. At Savannah Country Day, students learn simple machines by hoisting their science teacher up and down one of the many hundred year old live oaks, Georgia’s state tree.


Ewa Makai Middle School, Ewa Beach

Hawaii’s first green school

At this newly opened LEED Gold school, all cleaning products, furniture, and computers were purchased to green certification standards. 60 percent of school waste is composted, using worms and barrels to produce fertilizer which is used in the school garden. Instead of golf carts, staff employ adult tricycles for deliveries and administrative purposes. Courtyards and common areas are the site of collaborative, environmental, service, and project-based learning. Science classes cover aquaponics, solar cells, solar cars, windmill generators, ecosystems, and robotics. Paperless classrooms make wide use of iPads, PowerPoints, email, e-books, and laptops. Students give tours of their new school, deepening their understanding of its green features and practicing public speaking. Staff attend free, bi-weekly Zumba classes to stay fit.

Hawaii Preparatory Academy, Kamuela, HI

Modeling a Living Building for schools across the nation

With support from a local donor, the Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab was constructed as a sustainable classroom prototype according to LEED Platinum standards. It became the first school ever to meet the Living Building Challenge, which requires net zero energy, water, and waste use, as well as stringent materials requirements. The school produces one quarter of its energy consumption on-site and purchases one third renewable energy. All furniture is certified to green standards. The school serves mainly organic and local foods. Students engage in two hours of physical education a day, four days a week. Students have created a system to monitor energy use and conservation in their school buildings. They also have worked with a local hotel to gauge energy “footprints,” saving the hotel utility expenses through operational changes and conservation. The school hosts an annual national Student Sustainability Conference. A sustainability education coordinator helps to integrate this learning into science, history, and English. All faculty and staff attend a one-week intensive sustainability course. They use local scientific and natural resources, such as nearby observatories and labs, to provide real-life curricula and programs for students. The curriculum links to each of the four major environmental challenges students will have to face in 21st century: energy, food, water, and culture. Students spend over 200 minutes a week in science classes.


Academy for Global Citizenship, Chicago, IL

Teaching health and nutrition to students and school community

Academy for Global Citizenship features a comprehensive nutrition education program that spans in-cafeteria education, in-class lessons and daily sustainability and wellness classes. All teachers participate in sustainability professional development. Students learn about food systems, animals, and the environment by caring for three schoolyard chickens. Kitchen staff is trained and heavily involved in educating about the school’s innovative all-organic, from-scratch, and increasingly local breakfast and lunch program. After breakfast, students begin the day with 12 to 15 minutes of yoga.  The school offers reasonably priced local produce shares, and free health, wellness, and cooking workshops to the school community. Since the school is located in an industrial area, it uses field trips to farms, wetlands, nature preserves, and campsites to expose students to nature. Students meet with local farmers to choose what they grow in the schoolyard garden. Throughout the harvest process, the school runs workshops with parents to show what students have done in garden and to teach them how to grow at home, no matter the space available to them. At least 10 home gardens have come out of this effort. The school facilitated a mother enrolling in Chicago Conservation Corps, who then led workshops for other parents on green cleaning supplies in the home, and helped two unemployed mothers start a green-cleaning business. The school has encouraged carpooling by mapping where students live and sharing data (with parental consent), as well as by establishing a walking school bus that enables safe walking and bike riding to school. It purchases only renewable wind energy, and reduced dumpster collection from once a week to once every other week.

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