by TaLeiza Calloway
Kennedy Community School is among more than 70 schools recently named as U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools. The announcement came earlier this week.
Minnesota is among 29 states and Washington, D.C. with schools receiving the first-ever awards. Other state schools honored include North Shore Community School in Duluth and Garlough Environmental Magnet School in West St. Paul.
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools is a federal recognition program that opened in September 2011. Honored schools exercise a comprehensive approach to creating “green” environments.through reducing environmental impact, promoting health and ensuring a high-quality environmental and outdoor education to prepare students with the 21st century skills and sustainability concepts needed in the growing global economy.
Diane Moeller, principal for Kennedy Community School, said both students and faculty are very proud of the recognition. She admits she was doubtful herself as the application process was extensive but was all smiles this week as she reflected on the national award.
“We’re pretty proud,” Moeller said.”We’re proud of our building no doubt, but what goes on inside the building with the kids – that’s nice to get that recognition. You feel like you’re impacting the future.”
The school responded to an e-mail calling for applicants to the awards. Moeller said they had to apply with the state first. About 16 schools applied to the state, and from that pool about seven applications were sent to the federal level. The application involved gathering information from a lot of people, including the architect and building engineer.
Green Ribbon Schools focus on three pillars: environmental impact, health and performance and student education about sustainability. The school submitted the building aspects, such as geothermal and solar lighting. About 87 percent of materials used in the building are recyclable. As for performance, when the school was built, it was built on an east-west axis to allow for northern and southern lighting. Natural light enhances mental health, Moeller said. Other health areas include displacement ventilation with low-velocity air that rises and takes out impurities, thus increasing air quality in classrooms.
The third aspect of the application was about how to get students more literate in sustainability. That is the area Moeller said she believes the school has a lot of strength.
“The staff has done a great job of taking what we have and teaching about it,” Moeller said. “Our kids can tell you about our green features. They can tell you about the wind turbine, they can tell you about the solar tubes we have in the ceiling that bring in light.”
While Kennedy students can discuss various environmental elements of their school, they are also making the outdoors their classroom when possible. Moeller said the school built a reading garden and has plans to add a nature trail to its neighboring prairie. The school recently received a three-year grant for $5,000 for outdoor education from the Minnesota Department of Education. Additional funding includes a $5,000 grant from Recycle Bank last year for the nature trail. It also received an additional $3,500 grant from the state to train staff on how to incorporate outdoor education into the curriculum.
The award is an affirmation of their hard work, but Moeller said she hopes the awareness can help other schools in the process. Next fall, the U.S. Department of Education is expected to hold a ceremony to present a flag or banner that will identify the school as a Green Ribbon School.
The 78 awarded schools were named winners from among nearly 100 nominees submitted by 30 state education agencies, the District of Columbia and the Bureau of Indian Education. More than 350 schools completed applications to their state education agencies. Among the list of winners are 66 public schools, including eight charters, and 12 private schools comprised of 43 elementary, 31 middle and 26 high schools with about 50 percent of them representing high-poverty schools.