NYC Eco-School PS 57 Gets 2013 Green Ribbon Schools Award

On a gloriously sunny Earth Day, cheers erupted in NYC Eco-School PS 57’s large outdoor garden as the Staten Island elementary school found out it had won a 2013 Green Ribbon Schools award.  WNBC-TV was there to capture the excitement. Pre-kindergarteners jumped up and down in their oversized “PS 57 Green Team” t-shirts; congratulations and hugs were showered upon PS 57’s beloved science teacher and sustainability coordinator, Patricia Lockhart, recipient of the 2012 Presidential Innovation for Environmental Educators award, and dedicated architect of PS 57’s sustainability programs for the past 15 years.  PS 57’s Principal Sandra Harrell has been integral to the success of the initiatives by providing her support and encouragement to Lockhart and PS 57’s staff.

PS57’s tiniest Green Team members celebrate Earth Day in the garden.  
PS 57 was one of 64 schools chosen from across the U.S., one of only three schools in New York State, and the only school in New York City to receive federal Green Ribbon Schools status — an honor that will be rewarded with a trip to the White House in June.  In March 2013, PS 57 became the first NYC Eco-School to achieve the coveted Eco-Schools Green Flag award.

PS 57 5th grader in the greenhouse.

NWF’s Eco-Schools USA program is aligned with the USED Green Ribbon Schools program. In 2012, one quarter of all Green Ribbon Schools were also registered Eco-Schools. Eco-Schools USA’s seven step framework and program “Pathways” support all three of the Green Ribbon pillars.  To win both the federal Green Ribbon and the Eco-Schools Green Flag, PS 57’s students and faculty tackled a number of sustainability initiatives, including reducing their building’s energy use by 25%, teaching students about climate change and renewable energy, and creating composting, recycling, gardening, robotics, and ecology programs. The composting and recycling efforts have diverted 30% of the school’s waste and kept more than 10,000 pounds of paper and milk cartons out of landfills.

PS 57 students grow fruits and vegetables for the school’s cafeteria in the garden.  Flowers are grown in the greenhouse, which students built out of 1,500 recycled plastic bottles.  The structure is “lined” with netting so butterflies can be released inside it.

PS 57 Earth Day - boy with wheelbarrow and dirt

On Earth Day, NYC Staten Island Parks Department staff and rangers were on hand to deliver free soil and help PS 57 students plant hundreds of native plugs and grasses donated to the school by American Beauties Native Plants company, an NWF partner. PS 57’s 5th graders transported soil to the garden in wheelbarrows, pre-Kindergarteners dug in the dirt, and 2nd through 5th graders planted in pots and watered. Native grasses were planted in Eibs Pond — a 17-acre wetland park across from the school where students care for trees, conduct summer pond clean-ups, and collect water quality data for the U.S. EPA.

PS 57 Earth Day - boy with ranger and dirtNWF Eco-Schools USA’s award program provides recognition for schools, like PS 57, that are modeling sustainability education. We know that there are many schools out there with fantastic green programs that deserve to be recognized for their achievements. If you are not a registered Eco-School yet, sign up online and begin tracking your progress towards certification on the fun and interactive Eco-Schools dashboard. If you think that your NYC school is, or could be, a Green Flag winner, I want to hear from you!  Please contact me at so we can arrange a tour of your school!

All photos: Emily Fano