April 22, 2013 -- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with the Chair of White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley and Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Bob Persiacepe, announced that Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools is among the 14 nationwide honorees of the first ever U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award. Jeffers Pond Elementary is among the 64 second annual U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. The district and Jeffers Pond will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on June 3.
The selected districts and schools are being honored for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics, STEM and green career pathways. Duncan, Persiacepe, and Sutley made the announcement at Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School, in Washington, DC, one of the 2013 honored schools.
“We are honored to be recognized with the Green Ribbon Award, for both our district and Jeffers Pond,” said Superintendent Dr. Sue Ann Gruver. “Environmental education is truly part of our culture district wide from our E-12 curriculum to the way we maintain our buildings and grounds. Our goal is to create environmentally literate students who are aware of our world, who are critical thinkers in all aspects of life and who are stewards of our natural environment.”
PLSAS and Jeffers Pond were nominated by the Minnesota Department of Education. To be considered for the program, a school will have achieved or made considerable progress toward the three pillars established in the program: 1) Energy efficient buildings; 2) Healthy students and school environment; and 3) Environmental literacy of all graduates.
PLSAS has maintained an Energy Star Portfolio since 2007. Five buildings in our district, including Jeffers Pond, received Energy Star certification in 2011 and 2012; 10 of the 11 buildings received Outstanding Achievement in Energy Reduction from the Schools for Energy Efficiency® (SEE) program. Our district has saved more than $554,000 since we implemented the SEE program in January 2010.
Exposure to environmental education and sustainability practices in PLSAS begins in kindergarten and is prevalent through 12th grade. Teachers use our outdoor amphitheater, gardens, bird landings and water resources on our properties to teach interdisciplinary environmental education lessons to all students. Elementary students use a science notebook to record observations and information to support writing, reading and math standards with their science instruction.
Continuous improvement of health and wellness of our students and staff is also a top priority at PLSAS. Our district participated in the USDA’s Healthier US School Challenge when the program originated and we currently participate in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Our district also takes part in a Farm-to-School program to include local fresh food in our meal offerings.
In spring 2012, the PLSAS school board approved the implementation of an E-STEM (Environmental Education, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) focus for all seven of our elementary schools. Through thoughtful professional development for teachers, and continued high quality instruction for students, we intend to remain a leader in K-12 environmental education with a developed E-STEM focus.
Jeffers Pond was 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. Over half of the 2013 honorees serve a student body more than 40 percent of which is eligible for free and reduced price lunch. The list of all selected schools and districts, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here. A report with highlights on the 78 honorees can be found here.
“Today’s honorees are modeling a comprehensive approach to being green,” said Secretary Duncan. “They are demonstrating ways schools can simultaneously cut costs; improve health, performance and equity; and provide an education geared toward the jobs of the future. In fact, the selected districts are saving millions of dollars as a result of their greening efforts. And the great thing is that the resources these honorees are using are available for free to all schools.”
“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.
“EPA is proud to join the Department of Education in recognizing our nation's U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for their remarkable efforts to create healthier learning spaces and educate students on the importance of environmental protection,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools are not only cutting costs thanks to energy-saving practices and use of more efficient technology, but they're also reducing instances of pollution-related illnesses like asthma, a leading cause of student absence. The students who attend these schools are better prepared than ever to become the next generation of environmental stewards and bring about a healthier, more sustainable future.”
More information on the federal recognition award can be found here.