J.C. Parks Elementary School was recently named one of only two Maryland schools nominated for the U.S. Department of Education’s 2015 Green Ribbon Schools (GRS) Award. Parks was chosen by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) as a national nominee. To be considered for the award, Parks staff had to complete and submit a lengthy application that documented how the school performed in three award areas of consideration: reducing environmental impacts and costs; improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education, incorporating science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, civic skills and green career pathways.
Some of Parks’ accomplishments in the area of environmental education include their status as a Maryland Green School, which was awarded to the school in 2010 by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE). Parks completed the Maryland Green School recertification process last year, which recognizes schools that use their sites to help students understand and act on environmental challenges, and model environmental practices in building and landscape design, and operation and maintenance. Green Schools are also recognized for building and maintaining partnerships with their local community to enhance environmental learning and to design programs to result in a healthier environment.
In May 2014, Parks was awarded the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA Green Flag Award. The award recognizes schools that demonstrate sustainability initiatives, monitor energy efficiency, waste disposal and other environmental impact areas, and support a commitment to incorporating environmental education in to the classroom. Schools must reapply for this designation every two years, and are a permanent Eco-School once it has gained its fourth Green Flag.
Additionally, Parks received $100,000 in grant funding from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation for Education in Nature to support two outdoor classroom locations at the school. Some of the grant was used to restore and cleanup the wetlands outside the school building. The rest of the grant is being used on an outdoor classroom that includes benches, a paved walkway to the outdoor classroom lined with trees, plants indigenous to Maryland and concrete tables for students to use during classroom activities. A variety of learning opportunities are incorporated into the design of each accessible, sustainable and environmentally friendly space.
Parks’ science teacher, Deanna Wheeler, coordinated the application for the school. Applications for U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools were evaluated by a committee comprised of staff from state and national government agencies, state and regional environmental agencies, and private businesses.
In addition to Parks, MSDE nominated Northwest High School in Montgomery County for a school-based award and Howard County Public Schools for the district-level award. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will announce the award recipients on Earth Day, which is April 22.
For more information on the GRS program, visit http://www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools/index.html.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,500 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.