The U.S. Department of Education recognizes schools where staff, students, officials and communities have come together to produce energy efficient, sustainable and healthy school environments and to ensure the sustainability and environmental literacy of graduates.
Each year it award schools who meet these standards and recognize them as Green Ribbon Schools. In 2016, Urban Community School in Cleveland was awarded this prestigious title. Located on the near west side, Urban has many building features that translate into a healthy environment conducive to learning and the conservation of the Earth’s resources.
Urban Community School features natural light in the middle school addition. There are timers on computers that power down devices at night, and lights that turn off when rooms are not occupied. Urban installed ten solar panels, resulting in an 80 percent cost reduction for electricity.
The school encourages carrying reusable water bottles, the middle school wing has refillable water bottle stations, and water fountains throughout the school have filters. Their “Learning Garden” has water retention features and includes many drought- tolerant species native to Ohio. Vegetables from the Learning Garden supplement school lunches, and teachers run a garden club. Recycling is routine throughout the school and composting has begun in the early childhood wing. Other conservation efforts include recycling ink cartridges and purchasing 100 percent recycled paper products.
All students in Urban Community School’s sixth grade go to the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center for a four-day, three-night environmental camp, thanks to support from Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This camp immerses students in watershed and sustainability concepts and issues. Students build knowledge and skills around the topics of water quality, biodiversity, and applying sustainable practices to the design of a building. Students also practice green living by measuring food waste, separating items for compost or recycling, and reusing materials in creative ways. Upon returning from camp, sixth grade students develop and implement a sustainability project. One recent project focused on the pros and cons of various energy sources. Students presented findings to other classes and developed an energy conservation plan for the school to implement. Students encouraged practices such as turning off lights and computer monitors, and analyzed the electricity bill at both the start and end of the project, resulting in a $900 reduction in electricity charges.
Schools interested in receiving recognition as a Green Ribbon School can submit an application for consideration as a state nominee. If your school is selected, you will be asked to complete the second step of the process by providing additional information for the nominee package that will be forwarded to the U.S. Department. Visit www.education.ohio.gov for more information.