Brandywine Springs Elementary first Delaware school to receive national Green Ribbon award

The Red Clay Consolidated School District brought home a prestigious national award this week, in recognition of their efforts to go green.

On Wednesday morning, numerous state and local representatives turned out at Brandywine Springs Elementary in Wilmington to present the district with the US Department of Education’s Green Ribbon award.

The Sanford School of Hockessin was the recipient of the Delaware state Green Ribbon award, while Kirk Middle and Hanby Elementary were the state honorees for the program.

The Green Ribbon award is an outreach initiative that helps to promote best practices and resources and multi-agency, multi-sector collaborations at a variety of levels to “highlight schools, districts, and Institutions of Higher Education exemplary practices and achievements” in their Three Pillar criteria, according to the website.

According to the district, their dedicated energy manager takes a holistic approach to balancing energy savings and reducing its environmental impact.

The manager works with the individual schools – many of which have been federal Energy Star certification – to control energy consumption, with the district’s Energy Excellence program netting the district over $1 million annually in savings.

Brandywine Springs also works with organizations like the Red Clay Valley Association – who has a permanent educator stationed at the school year round – to instill very basic ecological ethics into their students from the very start of their educational experience.

“Composting and recycling efforts have moved from being a program for an initiative to just a way of life,” said Brandywine Springs Principal Stephanie Armstrong. “The district’s vision was to not only impact what is happening in the educational arena, but to impact the way in which we all live, one student at a time.”

Students learn to separate individual elements of their trash at the end of lunch, including the organic-based material that is composted and reused on school grounds.

Superintendent Merv Daugherty said that everyone present at Wednesday’s assembly played some part in reaching Green Ribbon status, adding that the casual atmosphere that he promotes within his administration is paramount to achieving success in the program.

“We all know each other,” he said. “We can basically to do anything we want to do if we decide to collaborate.”

The district’s focus on environmental concerns started roughly four years ago, Daugherty said.

Delaware Department of Education Secretary Mark Murphy said there is no better way to understand the lessons – and the challenges – of environmental science than to do it in a hands-on fashion like the students at Brandywine Springs.

Daugherty said that, in making an effort to work together, the impossible suddenly becomes possible – like when the district came together last summer to build the tallest Lego tower in the world.

That record, he added, was broken only a few days ago by a group in Budapest.

“Took me about five minutes to get over it,” he said. “We’re gonna challenge that record, we think it’s wrong. But we held it for 10 months.”

The Red Clay district was only one of nine districts in total to take home the award. The district will be honored at a special ceremony later this summer in Washington, DC.