They are two of 78 schools in the country to earn the United States Department of Education’s new Green Ribbon Schools Award. Alabama is now among 29 states and Washington, D.C., that can say they are home to Green Ribbon schools.
MES, WHS and Mill Creek Elementary School in Madison were the only three schools in Alabama to be nominated for the award, which is given to a school that saves energy, reduces costs, features environmentally sustainable learning spaces, protects health, fosters wellness, and offers environmental education to boost academic achievement and community engagement.
“The schools who applied went through a rigorous review process for this award,” said Tommy Bice, state superintendent of education. “I am very proud of the teachers, staff, students and parents that applied to be Alabama’s first Green Ribbon schools. The enthusiasm, hard work and creativity demonstrated by the three awardees provide an excellent environment for a well-rounded education with an emphasis on addressing the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.”
MES is being recognized as the first school in the Southeast modeled after a forest.
With the Talladega National Forest right next door, the school has caught the attention of the USDE for integrating forestry, conservation and environmental education into its curriculum.
“We were very excited,” MES principal Rebecca Robinson said. “We told the children, and the teachers have really worked with them to make sure they know what it means to be green.”
Robinson said MES teachers have been reading a book titled “What It Means To Be Green” in their classrooms to implement the significance of going green.
“We want them all to understand the reason why we’re getting the award,” Robinson said. “We want them to have ownership in their school and realize that they have a special school.”
WHS has been recognized by USDE for its use of science, math and technology applications as problem-solving tools for environmental issues, greenhouse related science, and the value of healthier lifestyles.
“The clincher to be seriously considered was the environmental aspect of the education that we’re trying to deliver to students through projects,” WHS principal Craig Bates said.
He said that through project-based learning, students have learned about their carbon footprints, recycling, and a variety of things that tie into the theme of going green.
Talladega County Schools Superintendent Suzanne Lacey said the nomination came several months ago through the School System’s work with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
She said a total of 10 schools were nominated throughout the state before being whittled down to three.
Lacey said she believes the fact that both winners in the state are from the Talladega County School System speaks to the success of its 21st century learning endeavors, especially during these tough economic times of proration.
“I think it just really supports our work with environmental education both at Munford and Winterboro and our work with energy conservation,” Lacey said.
“What we’ve done with project-based learning has really just gone to support our work with students and hands-on studies with students we are able to implement.”
Representatives from MES and WHS will attend the Green Ribbon Schools ceremony in Washington, D.C., in June.
The State Department of Education will host a recognition ceremony for the Alabama school nominees at its meeting May 10 and a picnic lunch for up to five representatives from each of the nominated schools.
The schools will also receive Project Wild and Project Wet, curriculum and teaching guides, provided by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The Environmental Education Association of Alabama will also provide the registration of one school to its 2013 conference and membership to the organization.
Green Ribbon flags, sponsored by Legacy, Partners in Environmental Education, will also be presented to each of the three schools.
“Students can truly see the value of what they are studying and learning,” Lacey said. “Every year we have provided the craft of teaching and our students have reaped the benefits and that’s why we come to school every day.”
Contact Aziza Jackson at email@example.com.