The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction welcomed U.S. Department of Education staff to Raleigh today, kicking off its annual Green Strides Tour, which this year spotlights North Carolina schools. The three-day visit in North Carolina honors past and present recipients of the Green Ribbon Award, which recognizes schools for their efforts to reduce environmental impact, improve health and wellness and promote effective sustainability education.
Earlier this year, four North Carolina honorees were recognized with this award. NCDPI and USED staff visited three schools in Raleigh today in celebration of the 2021 District Sustainability Award received by the Wake County Public School System.
Following a meet and greet at the North Carolina Education Building, staff traveled to Abbotts Creek Elementary School, led by Principal Paula Trantham, to visit the 2019 Green Ribbon Awardee. U.S Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten, N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt and Wake Superintendent Cathy Moore participated in a student-led tour at Abbotts Creek.
Fourth and fifth grade science ambassadors led the visitors and told how environmental education is woven throughout class curriculum, with a particular focus on highlighting Green STEM initiatives through the lifespan of the monarch butterfly. The tour was highlighted by a cafeteria stop to see the food-waste diversion compost program and the Learning Garden closing the food loop, where students can witness gardens growing from composted food waste. The tour included a visit to the Green STEM classroom, where students shared about the monarch butterfly, and visitors learned about their environmental Citizen Science projects, including the pollinator garden where a music class demonstrated their drum skills.
Turning the focus on Wake County Public Schools’ 2021 District Sustainability Award, the tour continued with Athens Drive High School, led by Principal Stephen Mares. Guests were guided by student leaders through sustainable gardens, an outdoor classroom, and observed an animal science learning lab before concluding with student presentations. Guests experienced firsthand the relevant and timely theme exhibited throughout Athens Drive High School: medical sciences and global health initiatives.
By working with community partners such as the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and NC Electric Cooperative, students develop interdisciplinary and collaborative skills to create a sustainable campus and participate in solar panel initiatives and the agricultural science program. Additional WCPSS guests participated in a panel discussion at lunch, hosted by Athens Drive High School.
Tuesday concluded at Exploris Middle School, led by Director Deborah Brown. A 2014 Green Ribbon Awardee, students led guests on a school tour based on Exploris’ core values: innovation, relationships, curiosity, responsibility, reflection, social empowerment, craftsmanship and connections to nature. Teaching through the core values empowers students to be engaged learners and improve the world around them. Students shared about their experiential projects that allow for community engagement with local wildlife, gardens and civic projects.
The Green Strides tour continues Wednesday in the Sandhills region.
More information on the US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools can be found here. The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be accessed here. To review a report featuring highlights on honorees, click here.
Additional information on the federal recognition award can be found here.