The Red Clay Consolidated School District's Conrad Schools of Science and Richardson Park Elementary School, both near Newport, were among the three schools named the state's first Green Ribbon award winners, becoming Delaware's nominees for the national award.
St. Andrew's School, a private boarding school in Middletown, was also among the Green Ribbon winners while Red Clay's Heritage Elementary School in Pike Creek and Baltz Elementary School in Elsmere were recognized as honorable mentions.
The Green Ribbon program recognized schools for exemplary achievement and considerable progress in three areas: 1) reducing environmental impact and costs; 2) improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and 3) providing effective environmental and sustainability education by incorporating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), civic skills and green career pathways.
State education officials recognized the winners Tuesday at a ceremony held at Richardson Park.
"Congratulations to the educators, students, families and communities who are supporting each of these buildings for working to reduce their building's environmental impact while championing student learning," Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said. "Their collaboration has resulted in innovative initiatives that we hope other school communities across the state will learn from and build upon."
In Red Clay, the work includes district-wide energy-efficiency upgrades that will reduce electric use by 28 percent, saving 7,537,061 kWH of electricity and 198,192 Therms of heating fuel annually as well as 10 million gallons of water. The project is the first of its kind in Delaware.
Both Conrad and Richardson Park also have undertaken efforts to reduce paper use and started composting programs. Students sort their lunches into trash, compost and recyclables. All left-over food, napkins, paper products and liquids are composted, significantly reducing the amount of solid waste, according to the schools.
Students are learning about the environment hands-on, too. For example, at Richardson Park Elementary, students plant, water and harvest vegetables in a garden behind the school. Learning Center students stay after school to learn about fly fishing and hiking the Appalachian Trail.
At St. Andrew's, of the school's 2,200 acres, 44 percent is devoted to purely ecologically beneficial uses and much of the rest is farmed in ecologically responsible ways. The school manages a rain garden by the school boathouse, swales by the school tennis court and several naturalized areas next to Noxontown Pond. The storm water runoff from the footprint of the newly constructed field house – which is LEED Gold certified – was reduced 94 percent due to a unique infiltration bed design, the school said.
The school uses environment and sustainability to develop STEM knowledge and thinking skills, too. Students in a mathematics economics class learn how environmental pollution often is treated as an externality and learn about the benefits of carbon emission trading. The biology curriculum is largely based on the environment with studies studying things such as how oak trees proliferate by collecting acorns outside and finding out how many were infested and thus unable to become an oak tree. Environmental science students conduct a year-long independent study of water quality on Noxontown Pond as well as biodiversity studies of plants, insects and birds on campus.
Page 2 of 2 - "Congratulations to the three Delaware Green Ribbon winners and the Department of Education for promoting the Green Schools program," said DNREC Secretary Collin O'Mara. "By working to reduce their environmental footprints, these three schools are outstanding examples of creating a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings."
For more information on each school and its work click here.