Washington Green Schools Programs
Three year program goals for Washington Green Schools include:
- Increase the number of certified schools to 150 and registered schools to 400
- Create new educational resources that incorporate new strategies (such as online learning) to deepen and broaden engagement of students, teachers, and schools.
- Build a district-level certification program by connecting educational and facilities staff and data.
- Develop a new environmental category focused on school grounds and gardens to address an unmet need in schools.
Organizational goals for Washington Green Schools over the next three years focus on capacity building:
- Develop a human resources plan to meet long-term program goals.
- Increase the number and amount of funding from foundations, agencies, corporations and individuals by 50%.
- Create a business plan that integrates expanded partnerships and potential new revenue streams.
- Forge new partnerships that advance strategic goals.
The cornerstone of the WA Green Schools program is the certification process, for which schools investigate and create solutions to environmental issues on campus. Last year 34 schools certified at Level 1 or above, earning WA Green Schools flags and recognition rewards. Led by Green Teams that include students, teachers, parents, and staff, certifying schools focus on one of five environmental categories: water, energy, waste and recycling, transportation, and healthy school buildings. For example, in 2010 Cascade Middle School in Auburn earned their Level 1 certification when students conducted a waste audit and implemented a new program to compost uneaten food and eliminate disposables in their cafeteria. At Maple Elementary in Seattle, 4th and 5th grade students performed a school water audit, stenciled storm drains, and educated the neighbors about protecting salmon and the Puget Sound for their 2nd level of certification.
In order to supplement and augment the certification process, Washington Green Schools provides training to interested teachers, staff, and parents across the state. Teachers have the opportunity to network with like-minded educators, gain knowledge about implementing WA Green Schools on campus, and plan for engaging their students in the program.
In the fall of 2012, Washington Green Schools held two student summits, one in Seattle and one in Clark County, with students and teachers from a total of 45 schools attending. This day of hands-on activities related to their green team work and student's sharing with one another, is a meaningful part of the Washington Green Schools program. Students and teachers have the opportunity to learn from others challenges and successes, forging new paths in their sustainability work in schools.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Washington Green Schools recently received notice that the organization has been awarded the John Stanford Educational Achievement Award from Forterra. Celebrating students and educators, this award honors the region's commitment to future generations. In addition to this award, Washington Green Schools continues to certify new schools every week, increasing the number of students involved as environmental leaders, giving students context to practice math, science and other subjects, and increasing resource conservation in our school communities.
One area of need for Washington Green Schools is funding to support the implementation of a Green Schools Garden project, which is a joint effort with Seattle Tilth. Many teachers have requested a new certification category specifically focused on outdoor learning, school grounds, and gardening. These educators recognize the importance of gardens in providing hands-on outdoor experiences for students to learn, practice leadership, and give students the chance to connect with nature. The goals are to create and pilot new educational resources that facilitate outdoor learning for students and result in improvements to school grounds, such as beautiful new native plant, food, and rain gardens. Another outcome will be a system for schools to gain support and recognition for their campus gardening efforts.