Obama Administration to Honor ‘Green’ Schools That Teach ‘Environmental Literacy’

Penny Starr | May 16, 2011 | 5:07pm EDT
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Education Secretary Arne Duncan and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announce Green Ribbon Schools project. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Education)

(CNSNews.com) – Next year on Earth Day, the Obama administration plans to announce which U.S. schools have been selected as “Green Ribbon Schools,” a designation that will “honor” schools for “creating healthy and sustainable learning environments” and for “teaching environmental literacy.”

The Green Ribbon Schools program was announced in late April, but details on how schools will be picked or what the honor entails have not been released.

Jo Ann Webb, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education, told CNSNews.com that the program is still under development.

“The criteria have not been developed yet,” Webb said. “The plan is for the U.S. Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Council for Environmental Quality to develop the criteria this spring and summer and to issue the call for applications early this fall.

Webb said the program would recognize schools for “engaging students on environmental issues and producing environmentally literate students; increasing energy efficiency and using renewable energy technologies; and creating healthy learning environments by addressing environmental issues in the schools.”

Webb said approximately 50 Green Ribbon schools could be named on Earth Day 2012. In announcing the program, Obama administration officials touted the importance of environmentalism as part of a good education.

“Preparing our children to be good environmental citizens is some of the most important work any of us can do,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said when he announced the new program last month. “It’s work that will serve future generations and quite literally sustain our world.”

“Each day, we ask students across the nation to demonstrate excellence, integrity and leadership in the classroom, and in return, the federal government must do the same,” said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

“The Green Ribbon Schools program will recognize healthy learning spaces that promote environmental literacy and prepare our leaders of tomorrow to win a clean energy future.”

What is meant by “environmental literacy” varies, depending on the source, but in general, it includes a belief that human actions are contributing to climate change.

In announcing the Green Ribbon Schools program, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that schools taking part in the program "will help kids connect what they’re learning in science class with the world around them, allowing them to envision solutions to tomorrow’s challenges while living healthier lives today.

“By making green living a part of everyday learning, Green Ribbon Schools will prepare our children to win the future by leading our global green energy economy,” Jackson said.

'Energy literacy'

The Education Department and EPA aren't the only federal agencies reaching out to young people.

Separately, the U.S. Energy Department -- in its 2011 Strategic Plan -- says it intends to "promote energy literacy" to achieve the Obama administration's national energy goals.

"Because today’s young generation are tomorrow’s world leaders, we will champion outreach through competitions, project-based learning, interactive gaming, and social media," the report says on page 21.

The Energy Department says its energy literacy effort will aim for a "modest understanding of energy sources, generation, use and conservation strategies" to allow "informed decisions on topics from home energy use to international energy policy."

The Energy Department plans to "leverage relationships with academic institutions" and other public/private groups "to improve awareness and understanding of energy issues."

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