Nearly 400 Kansas Schools to be Recognized as Part of Eco-Schools USA Agreement
Partnership illustrates broader green schools movement in Kansas
Nearly 400 pre-K-12 Kansas schools will be nationally recognized for their achievements in ‘greening’ school buildings and grounds, conserving natural resources and integrating environmental education into their curricula as part of an agreement between the Kansas Association for Conservation & Environmental Education (KACEE), Kansas Green Schools Network, Project Learning Tree GreenSchools! and NWF’s Eco-Schools USA programs.
Participating schools now have access to a wealth of resources, including supplementary hands-on activities and lesson plans, investigative studies and equipment, teacher professional development and grant opportunities to improve their school—indoors and outdoors—and save their school money. This agreement will also help many more schools start on the path to providing a more healthy and safe learning environment for students and staff, as well as grow students’ interest and academic performance in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
“This is a big achievement for Kansas. Our partnership will allow expanded benefits to Kansas Green Schools by providing opportunities for international collaboration with Eco-Schools around the world, and allowing green efforts that Kansas schools have already undertaken to be applied towards awards through PLT’s and Eco-Schools programs,” said Laura Hickey, Senior Director of Eco-Schools USA. “Schools will triple their recognition through our varied, yet complementary, programs, and expand the opportunities to address a number of additional environmental focus areas.”
A Statewide Movement
The news comes just one week before three Kansas schools will learn the results of their nomination for the inaugural US Green Ribbon Schools Awards program, the winners of which will be announced by the U.S. Department of Education on April 23. The Kansas State Department of Education partnered with KACEE to build a state review team to select schools for this honor.
“Kansas schools are really working hard to engage students in making their schools healthier, more sustainable places to learn and work, while engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning opportunities,” said Laura Downey, Executive Director, KACEE “This partnership will allow us to make sure that our Kansas schools have the best tools, resources and networks available. We’re grateful to both Project Learning Tree and the National Wildlife Federation for their willingness to partner with us.”
“We commend KACEE for bringing three green schools programs together in Kansas to provide more teachers in the state easy access to a variety of tools for improving student learning and stewardship,” said Kathy McGlauflin, Director of Project Learning Tree. “For example, all participating schools in Kansas are now eligible to apply for a grant from PLT GreenSchools! for students to design and lead an environmental improvement action project at their school.”
According to Downey, schools like Eisenhower High School, located in Goddard, KS, are already making major strides in greening their schools and their curricula. Led by Ecology teacher Denise Scribner, students at Eisenhower participate in energy, waste and water investigations, gathering data, researching alternatives and developing action plans to reduce waste, energy consumption and water consumption. These audits not only provide students with real-world learning opportunities, but can help the school save money. Eisenhower students are especially proud of the fact that they were directly responsible for recycling over 30,000 plastic bottles, 900 pounds of cans and 20 tons of recycled paper last year, and students and teachers are now bringing in their recycling from home too. This year, students are exploring ways they can do a better job in the school conserving both water and energy. “This collaboration allows us to get the best of all three programs, as well as recognition at the state and national level and all without undue demands on time and paperwork—something teachers already have enough of” noted Scribner.
Years in The Making
The new agreement speaks volumes about the progress of the green schools movement in the time since an Executive Order (PDF) creating the Kansas Coalition for Children in Nature was released in 2009. It stated that “the positive connection Kansas children have with our natural world is critical in ensuring their quality of life” and “environmental education increases student engagement in science, improves student achievement in core subject areas, and increases student awareness about individual actions they can take to restore the health of the natural environment. The resulting Kansans for Children in Nature Plan was endorsed by Governor Sam Brownback in 2012 and outlines a strong role for green schools in achieving the goals of the plan.
The new partnership emphasizes physical elements like natural resource conservation to integrating environmental literacy into curricula by way of in-class and outdoor education. The schools will be provided with resources related to the school sustainability movement and new funding opportunities. Schools already pursuing recognition through the Kansas Green Schools of Excellence program will now be eligible for automatic recognition at the national level through both the Eco-Schools USA and PLT GreenSchools! programs.
How to Become an Eco-School
Through school-based action teams of students, administrators, educators and community volunteers, Eco-Schools combines effective "green" management of the school grounds, facilities and the curriculum.