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March 21, 2018
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State Education Department Announces New York State Nominees for Federal Green Ribbon Schools Program

The State Education Department today nominated two schools for the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) program distinction. The nominees are Park Avenue Elementary School and Warwick Valley High School, both in Warwick, NY.

“These remarkable schools deserve to be recognized for their efforts to decrease their environmental footprint,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “Not only do the students benefit from participating in environmentally sustainable practices at school, they will carry these sustainable practices throughout their lives and contribute to a better future for our planet. I commend and admire these schools that have been nominated for this great honor.”

“This national award inspires schools to strive for excellence by highlighting outstanding efforts to create energy efficient and sustainable school environments,” said Commissioner Elia. “Congratulations to the students, faculty and the Warwick community for investing in environmentally sustainable practices. These schools serve as models to other schools throughout the state to emulate.”

The ED-GRS program recognizes schools where staff, students, officials and communities work together to produce energy efficient, sustainable and healthy school environments and to ensure the sustainability and environmental literacy of graduates. The recognition award is part of a U.S. Department of Education effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about practices proven to result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates and workforce preparedness.

The Green Ribbon Schools recognition award is given to schools that have demonstrated high achievement in all three ED-GRS Pillars:

  1. Reduce environmental impact and costs;
  2. Improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and
  3. Provide effective environmental and sustainability education.

The State Education Department nominated Park Avenue Elementary School for its culture of environmental awareness and sustainability. The school has engaged in many successful initiatives to reduce environmental impacts and costs. For example, the school uses the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, an online tool that allows school officials to measure and track energy and water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions to ensure all classrooms and other building areas are energy-efficient. The district’s recent installation of a 10-acre, 9,000-panel solar array provides sustainable electricity for the schools and a learning opportunity for the students as they track output and usage.

Other environmental education-related initiatives at Park Avenue include teachers’ use of the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) curriculum units on sustainability, which include fun and engaging project-based learning activities for pupils. Students are also able to take their learning outside thanks to the creation of an outdoor classroom that is designed to accommodate a variety of activities, from art projects to science experiments.

The school has even found a way to blend physical activity and learning with the creation of a kinesthetic learning lab, which is based on research showing a strong link between movement and academic performance when occurring simultaneously. The health of the students and the environment together is shown clearly as a priority at Park Avenue.

Warwick Valley High School also fully embraced the philosophies of green living. The student-led Green Team helps make recycling and other green initiatives priority for the school. A partnership with Sustainable Warwick, a local organization committed to protecting the environment, works with students to create and present community hands-on workshops on a variety of sustainability topics.

Students also learn about green building techniques in the school’s Project Lead the Way classes and take advantage of more than 35 environmentally focused field trips a year to further build their knowledge base. Teachers receive training and guidance on integrating sustainability and environmental topics into all content areas and school faculty continually seek out ways to maintain a healthy, positive, and compassionate school climate.

The meals prepared at Warwick Valley High School include organic produce sourced from local farmers, as well as from the school’s greenhouse. Students’ physical and mental health is supported via encouraged participation in outdoor activities such as the on-site ropes course, rock climbing wall and nature walking trails. Indoor air quality and school safety is closely monitored, and the building includes energy-efficient LED lighting and advanced control systems.

The national ED-GRS honorees will be announced in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. this fall.

Visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website for more information about the Green Ribbon Schools Program.