Climate Action

The Learning Climate: Green Ribbon School Awards Ceremony

Today I attended the Green Ribbon School Awards Ceremony where Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, opened up the celebration. His words resonated with the awardees and those in attendance, “[environmental education] helps develop student civic leaders.”

In many cases, students chose to leave school not because the work is difficult, but rather because they get bored with prescribed subjects year after year and eventually school doesn’t seem worth it. Environmental education can change that. It promotes participatory learning and engages students, moving them beyond the classroom and into the outdoors and their communities.

The awards ceremony recognized schools, districts, and institutions of higher education that reduce environmental impact and costs, improve health and wellness, and teach sustainability literacy. Over 50% of the awardees hailed from schools located in low-income communities. Many of the schools have tightening budgets, but they refuse to let that be an excuse for underserving their students. They continue to think creatively about how to instigate environmental education and lower carbon emissions.

We were happy to work with Dorsey High school through their application process. Sadly, the ceremony was the same day as their graduation, so they could not attend. But I still heard them mentioned!

The awarded schools’ initiatives were announced with their award. Butterfly gardens, walking clubs, bike to school days, recycling clubs galore— all were touted. One school even raised chicks— each one with a name and their eggs were sold in the local town with the money donated to a food bank.

This group of amazing schools propels EDN forward to further encourage environmental education at all stages. There are societal changes occurring today. People are recognizing climate change will impact them, even in the developed world. This is no long a problem for future generations. This is problem now. Climate literacy will ensure that our students are ready to make the changes in their lives, communities, and policies to ensure a green and responsible society.

 But still, the picture seems skewed. As I waited in (a very long) line to get into the packed awards ceremony, I listened to a story from a teacher from North Carolina. He told me that it’s considered a misdemeanor to teach climate change in his state. As an educator he has “promised” not to teach his students the truth about climate change. How can governments continue to reject the fact of climate change for their convenience? Doing so will only hinder students to be equipped with the education they need to make decisions that benefit the health of humans and the environment.

But this teacher hasn’t let the threat of a misdemeanor stop him. He used data-driven, experiential learning to allow students to discover climate change on their own.

Johanna Bozuwa, Director of Education