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Plans Unveiled for Federal 'Green Ribbon Schools' Program

Move over, Blue Ribbon Schools program. A new competition is coming to town.

The U.S. Department of Education has unveiled details of plans to recognize Green Ribbon Schools that have done exemplary work in promoting environmental literacy as well as developing environmentally sensitive practices.

The program was developed by the Education Department with support and advice from the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Up to 50 awards will be made in 2012, with plans over five years to expand that figure to 200 annual awards.

"Our goal is to encourage all of our nation's schools and communities to work towards a future where school facilities have no adverse environmental impact, have a positive effect on students' health, and enable students to become environmentally literate citizens who are well prepared for the 21st century economy," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a press release issued yesterday.

In the first year, each state can put forward as many as four nominations for an award. Final decisions on winners will be made by the Education Department with assistance from the EPA.

The criteria for nominees fall into three categories: environmental impact and energy efficiency, healthy school environments, and environmental and sustainability education.

Since this is the Curriculum Matters blog, I'll elaborate only on the third, though you can find more details about the overall process here.

Department materials say the environmental education category includes consideration of:

• Interdisciplinary learning about the key relationships between dynamic environmental, energy and human systems;

• Use of the environment and sustainability to develop STEM content knowledge and thinking skills to prepare graduates for the 21st century, technology-driven economy; and

• Development of civic engagement knowledge and skills, and students' application of these to address sustainability and environmental issues in their community.

The new program is winning praise from environmental advocates.

"This is a great milestone in the young history of the green schools movement," Jim Elder, the director of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy, said in a press release. "I am especially delighted that, through the Green Ribbon Schools award, the Department of Education has set a clear expectation: every student who graduates from a green school should be environmentally literate."

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