Green Schools Trend on Display in Texas

Teachers link what they already teach to Eco-Schools USA pathways (Jennifer Hammonds)
The green schools movement is now a bona fide national trend.

Case in point: the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) voted to include environmental education provisions in an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 2011, marking the first time environmental education has been formally introduced in federal K-12 education policy.

Another example of federal support has come from the Department of Education, as they introduced the prestigious Green Ribbon Schools award in 2011:

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools will recognize schools that save energy, reduce costs, feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces, protect health, foster wellness, and offer environmental education to boost academic achievement and community engagement.

Green school support is not only evident at the federal level, but in the work of many states supporting efforts to green the school community. Here in Texas, for example, the state awards its schools through their Texas Green Ribbon Schools program.

Green Ribbon Schools:

  • promote healthy living for students, parents and staff
  • connect students to nature
  • take steps to create an environmentally-friendly campus, encourage physical activity and cooperative outdoor play, foster healthy habits and use nature as a learning tool
  • create their own vision and plan and improve over time

Locally, the Houston Independent School District (HISD), the largest in Texas and seventh largest in the nation, is setting its sights on a sustainable future for its students and staff by broadly promoting green efforts, providing professional development for its teachers and working with community members like the Katy Prairie Conservancy, Houston’s  Outdoor Education Center and Urban Harvest.

Recently I had the pleasure and privilege to participate in the 5th Annual Houston Environmental Education Summit, sponsored by many wonderful organizations and community partners including NWF, the University of Houston Downtown and the City of Houston.  There, I was thrilled to hear Dr. Gavin Dillingham, Houston’s Energy Manager, share his ‘outdoors in nature’ experiences from childhood and how he now shares the outdoors with his own children. Dr. Dillingham shares NWF’s passion for getting students outside to experience nature as well as Eco-Schools USA‘s passion for greening the school facilities.

He also described HISD’s recent initiative, the Green School Challenge. After providing participating schools with baseline data, they will then work to reduce energy and increase recycling (both energy and recycling are found as sustainable pathways through the Eco-Schools program, and educators were surprised to see the natural links between their curricula and what Eco-Schools USA already offers).

As evidenced by the support of the federal government, national organizations, state programs and local initiatives, the green school movement gets stronger every day as we work to sustain our precious resources for generations of students to come.