Gwin Elementary School Awarded Eco Schools USA Green Flag For Exceptional 'Green' Achievement

Honor Indicates Commitment to Sustainable Curricula and School Operations

05-16-2013 // Mary Price

Gwin Elementary School in Hoover, Alabama was recognized with the Green Flag by National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program for exceptional achievement in ‘greening’ physical structure and grounds, conserving natural resources and integrating environmental education into curricula.

The school is the first in Alabama and only the 18th in the nation to earn the Green Flag designation.  The award is the highest in the Eco-Schools program, an international network of 42,000 K-12 schools in 53 countries. Gwin is also one of the few schools in the nation to earn the Green Ribbon from the Department of Education and the Project Learning Tree Green School distinction.

These efforts were spearheaded by Gwin Elementary Enrichment teacher Traci Knight Ingleright, a member of the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF), Alabama Environmental Literacy Plan Task Force, board member of Environmental Education Association of Alabama – District 4, sponsor and board member of the National Wild Turkey Federation – Ben Knight Chapter, and member and curriculum consultant for the Legacy Partners in Education.

“We at National Wildlife Federation and Eco-Schools USA are proud of the example set by Gwin Elementary School for the state of Alabama, other schools, and the country at large,” said Laura Hickey, senior director of Eco-Schools USA. “This award demonstrates not only a commitment to sustainability and environmental literacy for students and faculty, but an appreciation that the best, most effective education transcends the classroom and offers a hands-on approach to learning.”

To win the Green Flag, Gwin’s students and faculty tackled a host of sustainability initiatives that began with forming an Eco-Action team; auditing facility energy efficiency, waste disposal and other environmental impact areas; and instituting environmental-themed curricula. These steps evolved into numerous projects and achievements, including:

  • Certified schoolyard habitat/outdoor learning classroom.
  • Smithsonian Institution Global Tree Banding Project System 
  • Tea and Tweets Bird sanctuary 
  • Transportation audit for Gwin Elementary and action plan for improvement
  • Water audit for Gwin Elementary and action plan for improvement 
  • Biodiversity audit for Gwin Elementary and plan for improvement 
  • Kid-friendly apps for students’ use which were collected, tested and designed in-house 
  • Team Indigo – helping to educate others about the Eastern Indigo snake students collaborate with Auburn University field studies and researchers
  • Native plant restoration at Gwin Elementary 
  • Non Native invasive plant study, identification and removal around school grounds
  • Trail Tales – student designed dilemma cards and QR codes for nature trail trees identified and labeled with sign and QR code 
  • Harmony Trails – students recycled old instruments to create wind chimes on trail 
  • Yearly participation in AWF William R. Ireland Sr. Youth Art Contest 
  • Rain garden built to stop erosion problems 
  • First students to participate in EPA flag program in Alabama 
  • Implementing better Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan for Gwin Elementary
  • Pollination station designed and built by students
  • Firefly Watch – citizen science project 

All of these projects were designed to raise environmental and natural awareness, cut waste, increase student engagement and save money for the school.

NWF congratulates the efforts of these students and faculty and their partner certified facilitators, including: Project WILD, Project Learning Tree®, Aquatic WILD, Project Wet, and Flying WILD.

National Wildlife Federation was named the US host for the international Eco-Schools program in 2008. The original Eco-Schools (http://www.eco-schools.org/) program is an international network of 41,000 K-12 schools in 53 countries, started in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) with support by the European Commission. It was named by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) as a model initiative for Education for Sustainable Development in 2003. To learn more about Eco-Schools USA, visit: http://www.nwf.org/eco-schools-usa.aspx.

About Eco-Schools USA:

Eco-Schools USA is a holistic program. It strives to make environmental awareness and action an intrinsic part of the life and culture of a school, including students, teachers, administrative staff, non-teaching staff and parents, as well as the local community. Eco-Schools USA works to extend learning beyond the classroom and develop responsible environmental attitudes and commitments, both at home and in the wider community. Whether you are a teacher, student, administrator or facilities manager, the Eco-Schools USA program can benefit your school and local communities.

About National Wildlife Federation:

National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring people to protect wildlife for our children’s future. NWF focuses its education and policy work on connecting children to nature for a nation of happier, healthier kids. For more information: www.nwf.org.

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