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Kent's Millennium Elementary School awarded for 'green' practices
As they began a tour of Millennium Elementary School, an official from the Washington's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction said that "if at some point someone sees a recycling bin, I can get rid of this."
Considering the Kent School District received the U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon School Award, that shouldn't be too difficult.
School district officials used Millennium Elementary to show off its sustainability practices, including a commitment to ecological education and green practices. Delegates from the Department of Education, as well as the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Education and Environmental Protection Agency, were present for the tour.
The Green Ribbon School Award is given to schools and districts that demonstrate environmental consciousness in its construction and resource use, and transferring those ideas to student health and education.
Inspiring other schools to adopt green policies, said Andrea Falkner with the Department of Education, was the goal of the award and subsequent tours. By raising publicity, the Department of Education and Department of Ecology hope to inspire other schools apply for the award.
Falkner, the Green Ribbon program's director, said that the DOE doesn't have a lot of money to fund sustainable buildings for schools.
"It's mostly at the state and local level," she said. "We have to use our pulpit to raise awareness about outstanding schools."
She explained that even though there isn't any grant money awarded for a Green Ribbon, the school or district can use the award and recognition to leverage funds from other grants and organizations.
The crowd – dressed in blazers, blouses and business suits – looked slightly unusual as it made its way through the school's nature path to the water retention basin. The nature path was installed and improved on by local Eagle Scout projects, and the retention basin holds 1.2 million gallons of water, which it uses to irrigate the school's lower playing field.
"The trail just kind of provides its own little science lab," said Principal Carla Janes, who discussed how the nature path and pond enhance learning. While most grades at Millennium don't have a comprehensive curriculum in ecology and sustainability, the school's environmental efforts are useful for teaching fifth-graders about environmentalism.
Delegates continued their tour of the facility, listening to talking points from Beth Gilbertson, the district's Environmental Services Supervisor. She emphasized the number of different ways in which the school operated off the grid, such as exterior brickwork designed to shunt water to reclamation areas or the subterranean geothermal pumps used to heat and cool the building.
Gilbertson stressed that it's important to incorporate different aspects of the community with a Green Ribbon School, such as Eagle Scout projects that improve ecology at a school or partnering with the city to get elementary school students to plant trees. Sustainability also goes into high school curriculum, by teaching students about how ecology factors into their daily lives and the environment they live in.
This will be the second year the Department of Education has bestowed Green Ribbon Awards since its inception in 2012. To be recognized as a Green Ribbon School, a school must meet three goals to reduce its environmental impact, improve the health of its students and staff and incorporate these practices in its curriculum.
Margo Young, visiting from the Environmental Protection Agency's branch in Seattle, said the whole school impressed her.
"It's not every day you see a school with its own water retention basin," she said.