Have a question?
Here you will find answers to many of the frequently asked questions about the EcoSchools U.S. Program organized in the following categories:
The EcoSchools program is built on two foundational tools, the EcoSchools Framework, used globally by over 70 participating countries, and the EcoSchools U.S. themes, wildlife and biodiversity, climate, and healthy and resilient communities. A successful EcoSchools program utilizes both tools when working toward or maintaining excellence in environment and nature-based educational experiences and practices at the intersections of the environment, economy, and society.
Each year, you collaborate with key members of your school community, including students, teachers, principals, other school staff, district administrators, families, and community members and partners, to create an action plan and apply for certification by completing the actions outlined in the plan. Schools build an Action Team to accomplish each action, and the results of each action are recorded in the online EcoSchools Certification Application (ECA) to earn points. At the end of the school year, your certification application is assessed, and a certification level ranging from Bronze to Green Flag is awarded.
First, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the program: What is Certification?
Once you’re familiar with the program, the next step will be to register on the EcoSchools Certification Application (ECA) platform. See: New users – How to register
Then, you will be able to review the various EcoSchools actions and start curating your plan for the year.
Throughout the school year, schools complete actions in their online application (ECA) and earn points towards their certification. The depth and extent of these completed environmental and nature-based actions will determine the school’s final certification level.
There are four levels of certification a school can achieve: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Green Flag. Any school that creates a plan on the EcoSchools Certification Application but is unable to submit for certification (a minimum of 50 points) will be recognized as a Participant school.
When a school becomes a certified EcoSchool, they receive a digital certification seal that reflects their certification level. This seal can be displayed on a school’s website and social media accounts, in newsletters, in email signatures, and more.
Before you begin implementing any action, make sure to review the following criteria:
Do no harm. Consider if this action may unintentionally hurt other people, animals, or environments. Research best practices and exercises to do with your students that are helpful in determining the root of a problem.
Leave it better than how you found it. For example: pick-up litter, remove invasive species, plant native, pollinator-friendly flowers, and consider consumption behaviors to reduce waste.
Environmental connection. Ensure there is a clear connection to the environment and community. This may include one or more of the following:
Adapted from: Robert B. Gibson (2005) Sustainability assessment: Criteria and process. Earthscan.
Intersectionality, equity, and inclusion. Does this action respect the diverse experiences and identities of people within your school community? In the global community? Would anybody be left behind or be marginalized by this action? Does the action provide dignity and solidarity? Does the action provide for free, prior, and informed consent and respect the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples.
Aligned with EcoSchools U.S.’ organizational values. See here for more information on our mission and values.
When you log in to the EcoSchools Certification Application (ECA), you will be able to explore the action library. Each action is connected to relevant worksheets and resources that can be used to support your EcoSchools program.
Consider connecting with local experts including Indigenous elders and community leaders, environmental organizations, businesses, and your municipality.
Members of your school community may have specialized expertise to support your program; try to connect to families and community members to see how they can assist with different parts of your program.
To engage more teachers and students, consider all the ways the program can be connected to classroom lessons, extra-curricular activities, or individual interests.
Within each EcoSchools action on the ECA, there is an “Curriculum Connections” section. It includes suggestions on how to connect your EcoSchools actions beyond a specific environmental issue to broader topics, questions, or causes (e.g., a community issue, the climate justice movement, reconciliation, etc.). Below, we have provided some additional guidance and resources for extending the learning in your EcoSchools program.
The EcoSchools program is structured around individual actions such as planting a pollinator garden or encouraging active and sustainable transportation to and from school. While each action can be completed on its own, the greatest impact comes from a holistic and equitable approach to learning and action on environmental issues that are relevant to your school and community. EcoSchools encourages all participants to extend the learning of each action by exploring how it might connect to other actions, fulfill community needs, relate to deeper themes of social justice, or otherwise support broader causes. Choosing to connect environment-based learning with state-based required content may be a powerful way to spark student inquiry, encourage personal growth, and foster a sense of stewardship for your school’s social and ecological communities.
Curriculum connections can happen before, during, and after an action. As part of the EcoSchools U.S. Framework, curriculum suggestions will be provided in every action in the ECA.
As an organization, EcoSchools U.S. is constantly striving to learn and unlearn by connecting our work to broader projects of environmental justice, inclusion, and reconciliation – we are with you in the learning journey!
Have a resource or idea that you think we should know about? Please send it our way: email@example.com.
The EcoSchools program is free. All schools are encouraged to implement the program at their own pace. Resources are available to registered schools only. Certification is highly encouraged. EcoSchools not meeting certification requirements will be recognized as Participant schools.
Certification is free for all schools in the U.S.
School applications are assessed based on the information provided through the EcoSchools Certification Application (ECA). To certify, schools must submit a completed application by the final EcoSchools deadline (the first Friday of June).
When a school submits their application, they submit at a particular level (based on the total number of points accumulated).The application is then verified by EcoSchools Assessors based on the data, documentation, and descriptions provided in the application. EcoSchools Assessors may contact applicants directly to verify values. Assessment may also include virtual school visits (see the FAQ for details). Should a school application exceed or not meet the criteria of their submitted certification level, their final certification level may be changed during the assessment process.
During the assessment period, submitted action plans will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Once assessed, schools will be notified by email to view their certification results and any available feedback by logging into the ECA. If schools disagree with their certification results, they may engage in an Appeals process.
Participant, Bronze, Silver, and Gold Assessment
Green Flag Assessment
Please see the “What is required for Green Flag Certification?” FAQ for full details.
The Certification Rubric provides additional guidance on the assessment process.
A Green Flag represents the highest level of EcoSchools certification. For schools to certify at the Green Flag level, they must illustrate that their environmental program is well-established and that environmental learning and action is a defining element of school culture. As such, there are additional application criteria for schools to achieve this level of recognition.
The Green Flag Eligibility Questionnaire is one of the additional criteria required for schools to certify at the Green Flag level. For full details on Green Flag certification expectations and criteria, please see this FAQ.
Specifically, schools must satisfactorily complete the Green Flag Eligibility Questionnaire before the last Friday in January. The goal of this questionnaire is to ensure that schools are planning ahead, aware of the expectations of Green Flag schools, and ready to take on this exciting challenge.
Please contact ecoschoolsUS@nwf.org if:
The Green Flag Eligibility Questionnaire includes the following questions:
School visits are required for a portion of certifying EcoSchools each year. School visits are approximately 30 minutes in length and held virtually, unless otherwise stated. Any school may be requested for a visit. However, because the Green Flag is the highest level of certification, Green Flag schools are more regularly visited each year. School visits help EcoSchools assessors verify application details and maintain a rigorous program. They are also an opportunity for schools to get support and ask questions of EcoSchools staff. Selected schools will be contacted in late winter to early spring to schedule a visit and visits take place between May and early June. Please note that if a Green Flag school is contacted for a visit, participation is required to certify at the Green Flag level. Below are a few important notes about visits:
Visits are approximately 30 minutes long.
The EcoSchools assessor will ask a set of standardized questions, and may ask questions to clarify specific details from the school’s application.
The attendance of at least one staff member is required. However, staff and student presence during the school visit is preferred.
Information collected during the school visit will be used in tandem with the school’s application for assessment purposes and to determine a school’s final certification level. Please see the Certification Rubric [PDF upload] to understand how schools are assessed.
Final certification levels will be assigned after a school visit. The assessor cannot provide any information about certification achievement during the visit.
Any school that creates a plan on the EcoSchools Certification Application (ECA), but does not reach a designated certification level (Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Green Flag), will automatically be recognized as a Participant School.
Participant recognition celebrates a school’s effort in taking environmental action and acknowledges a school’s attempt in becoming EcoSchools certified. Schools that are recognized as Participants will be awarded with a digital Participant seal and are valuable members of the EcoSchools U.S. network, but are not considered certified EcoSchools.
EcoSchools U.S. strives to ensure that school applications are assessed based on comparable standards and we work hard to apply the certification requirements and deadlines equitably across the country.
If you would like to appeal the final standing that your school received this year, please fill out the Appeal Request Form. An EcoSchools staff member will contact you within two weeks of receipt, at which time you may be requested to provide further clarification or evidence to support your appeal.
Appeals will be accepted after certification results are released between May and June until the last Friday in October.
When you submit your certification application (between the first Friday in April and the first Friday in June), expect to receive your certification level and results within a few weeks. All schools will be notified directly by EcoSchools via email.
The EcoSchools Certification Application (ECA) platform is where all schools start their EcoSchools applications each year. The application houses environmental, nature-based, and climate change actions with corresponding resources, and provides you the opportunity to curate a unique action plan that can be updated and revised throughout the year.
Key features of the ECA:
My school has never registered for the EcoSchools program. How do we get started?
Go to app.ecoschools.us and click “Register.”
My school has participated in the EcoSchools program in the past but we haven't registered with the new platform yet, how do we get started?
If your school has been active in the program since August 1, 2021, or has ever received a Green Flag, please note that you will have to register in the EcoSchools Certification Application (ECA) platform as a new user.
The registration process will prompt you to select your role, then follow the prompts to continue creating your profile. Please email us at ecoschoolsUS@nwf.org if you need to update any details about your school.
How do I create a plan for my school?
Why are some actions locked in my plan?
There are three locked actions that appear in every school’s plan and will help to form the foundation of a strong EcoSchool. Locked actions have a small orange lock icon in the top right corner.
These actions cannot be removed from your plan. While it is recommended and encouraged that you try to fully implement these actions, you may complete as much, or little, of each of these actions as you choose.
The locked actions include:
How do I add actions to my school's plan?
How do I remove actions from my school's plan?
How can I tell how many points we’ve earned so far?
How do I know what level my school’s plan is eligible for?
Insert screenshot of plan progress
How do I claim points for completing an action?
How do I find out how many points each action is worth?
How do I create a .pdf or print out an action?
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How can I see a snapshot of my school's impact?
[Video coming soon]
What is the difference between staff and student user accounts?
How do I add more staff members to my school account?
How do I add student members to my school account?
How do I manage existing staff and student users on my school account?
Note that to update your role (Staff or Student) or your school details, you must contact EcoSchools staff at EcoSchoolsUS@nwf.org.
The EcoSchools logo and its variations can be found in our Logo Guide.
Logos can only be used by participating schools and approved partners.
As a certified or participating school, you can download and use digital EcoSchools logos on websites and social media to showcase your participation in the EcoSchools program.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details, if required.
Certified EcoSchools can download a digital seal for each year they have been certified: