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Wisconsin's Green & Healthy Schools program promotes environmental stewardship.

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9 Action Steps that Build Rural School Sustainability

Madison, Wisconsin

January 31, 2017

The Rural Schools Collaborative believes environmental stewardship plays an important role in our rural areas and schools. We also believe that rural schools are uniquely positioned to incorporate the environment into the classroom. Green & Healthy Schools Wisconsin, a collaboration between the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, stresses the importance of creating healthier environments for students by encouraging schools to commit to sustainability and increasing environmental literacy.

Green & Healthy Schools Wisconsin provides recognition and resources to Wisconsin schools that are working to reduce their environmental impact, which in turn improves health and wellness and increases environmental and sustainability literacy. They aim to help schools receive the US Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition. The ED-GRS “aims to inspire schools, districts, and institutions of higher education to strive for 21st century excellence by highlighting exemplary practices and resources that all can employ.”

Green & Healthy Schools Wisconsin identifies nine areas on which schools should focus their sustainability initiatives: Community, Energy, Environmental Health, Environmental & Sustainability, Health & Wellness, Recycling & Waste Management, School Site, Transportation, and Water. Included below are suggested ideas for action in the nine focus areas, from Growing a Green & Healthy School: A Guide for Schools.

Suggested Action Steps:

Community: Districts could create strategic partnerships with local businesses and organizations that provide ongoing support to schools and provide students extra-curricular learning experiences like internships in areas related to sustainability. They can also establish student-centered "Green Teams," which engage people throughout the community or take on specific sustainability projects.

Energy: Educators should integrate energy education into the curriculum school-wide. Schools and districts could generate or use renewable energy from on-site sources at school. Science classes that focus on renewable energy can be highlighted in the community.

Environmental Health: Schools and school organizations could incorporate information and updates on the use of healthier or "greener" cleaning materials into newsletters, school announcements, and other outreach material.

Environmental & Sustainability: Allow common planning time for teachers to develop school wide, cross curricular units or projects that use the environment as a context for learning. Provide resources for staff and faculty to attend environmentally related conferences.

Health & Wellness: Review your district’s wellness policy and consider adopting one specific to your school – be sure to share with the community. Allow your student council or student service organization to plan and conduct a community health fair that brings folks together.

Recycling & Waste Management: Host an electronic recycling drive for the community. Create student-led recycling program at your school.

School site: Create a permanent outdoor classroom. Establish an annual tree-planting event. Collaborate with a church or nonprofit to develop a school garden that provides fresh and healthy food to the local food pantry.

Transportation: Work with your local utility to install a solar charging station for electric vehicles. Encourage students to walk or bike to schools-this promotes energy savings and healthy lifestyles.

Water: Have students prepare diagrams, posters, or interpretive signs showing the differences on school grounds before and after putting in a rain garden installation, redirecting storm water, or other water projects.

Please view this wonderful video on Wisconsin's Highland School, a proud participant in Wisconsin's Green & Healthy School program.

Kids of Highland from Don Ford on Vimeo.

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