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Brock's Gap Intermediate School: 2014 U.S. Dept of Education Green Ribbon School

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02 May 2014 (BGIS) - Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Mike Boots joined U.S. Secretary of Education (USDE) Arne Duncan to announce that three schools from Alabama are among the 2014 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Awardees. Alabama schools have been awarded national honors each year of the USDE Green Ribbon Schools program.  Hoover City Schools' Brock's Gap Intermediate is among the three honorees for 2014.  

In February, the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) announced the state’s 2014 Green Ribbon Schools. The schools are honored for their approach to creating "green" environments through reducing environmental impact, promoting health, and ensuring a high-quality environmental and outdoor education. The Alabama Green Ribbon Schools have been submitted for the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Program.

“To be selected as a national Green Ribbon School is an honor. We are so proud of the schools that diligently work to provide a healthy environment for our students.” said Dr. Tommy Bice, State Superintendent of Education. Bice continued, “The national awardees are models for all of Alabama’s public schools.”

The selected schools are honored for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs; promote better health; and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways.

The Alabama Green Ribbon Schools are:

  • F. E. Burleson Elementary School, Hartselle City School System
  • Homewood Middle School, Homewood City School System
  • Brock's Gap Intermediate School, Hoover City School System

“Today’s honorees are modeling a comprehensive approach to being green by encompassing facility, wellness and learning into their daily operations,” said Secretary Duncan. Forty-eight schools in the nation were honored for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways. Secretary Duncan also announced a new post-secondary nomination category will be added to the school and district awards for the coming year. 

Last year, Alabama had four national winners:  Munford Middle School and Munford High School, Talladega County School System; Fayetteville High School, Talladega County School System; Harriet W.Gwin Elementary School, Hoover City School System; and the entire Talladega County School System. In 2012, Alabama had two national winners: Munford Elementary School and Winterboro High School, both in the Talladega County School System.

All schools will receive State Board of Education recognition at the May 14th meeting. The national recognition events begin on July 22 and include a reception, with optional walking tours of the National World War II Memorial, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Energy Museum and the U.S. Botanical Garden.

More information on the federal recognition award can be found here.  Resources for all schools to move toward the three Pillars in which the 2014 honorees are exemplary can be found here.

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F. E. Burleson Elementary School (FEB) in Hartselle City Schools is one of six schools in the Hartselle City School System. FEB is a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, a 21st Century Community Learning Center, and a Leader In Me school. The faculty and staff at FEB believe the school should not merely focus on test scores, but should provide opportunities for developing the whole child. Learning experiences in sustainability and recycling, paired with an “experiencing nature” approach to learning, not only emphasizes responsibility for our planet and its resources, but also promotes respect for each other while instilling and fostering leadership potential.

FEB also has an Alabama Certified Outdoor Classroom, providing numerous benefits for learners not found in the typical classroom setting. This hands-on learning environment gives children an intimate glimpse into the natural world around them more so than merely studying it from a book. With help from the Alabama Wildlife Federation, FEB’s Outdoor Classroom became certified in 2010.                                                              

The facility is designed to help children develop a healthy awareness and appreciation of their environment. The classroom includes stations such as a 15’ x 25’ glass greenhouse to promote sustainable gardening; worm composting; bird habitats including feeding areas, watering areas, and nesting boxes; butterfly habitats and attraction areas with host and nectar plants; a Koi pond; a gazebo; an amphitheater with stage; and outdoor musical instruments. One hundred fifty-three (153) geothermal wells at FEB provide energy to heat and cool the school and provide learning opportunities for students to study alternate energy.

Homewood Middle School (HMS) in Homewood City Schools is a unique school with a dedicated population of staff, students, and community members that is working to develop a culture of environmental education and green living practices to match the incredible facility. HMS was the only Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver-certified middle school in the nation in 2008 and the first LEED-certified building in Alabama. There are a number of programs that have grown and continue to grow in recent years that align with the Green Ribbon Pillars.

1) The HMS Recycling Program: In February of 2012, a team of teachers organized a school wide recycling program that taught important skills to students with special needs. The students advertise the recycling program, work to make the program more efficient, and manage the materials that are recycled. The middle and high school recycling programs have effectively worked with local nonprofits to ensure the continuing success of the program.

2) The HMS Community Garden: The goal of the school garden is to equip students to become informed adults capable of making healthy environmental decisions that balance cultural perspectives, the economy, public health and environment. The HMS garden is also home to the only community garden in the city of Homewood. Special education students harvest herbs and vegetables, English language learners do language lessons in the garden and participate in the environmental club, while gifted and general education students study the complexities of planning and maintaining a garden.

3) “The Movement”: “The Movement” promotes healthy lifestyles and provides an opportunity for employees to not only improve fitness for themselves but also model wellness for students. The SOS/FIT employee wellness program started five years ago with Spin classes available for students during school and for school employees after/before school hours. Year two of the SOS/FIT program expanded to include a system wide employee wellness program designed to promote healthier lifestyle choices for employees in the Homewood City School System.

The HMS recycling program, the community garden, and “The Movement” are the highlights of the environmental initiatives that are growing and expanding to become permanent elements of the HMS culture. The Green Ribbon Schools award would validate and recognize the hard work of individuals who are making the city of Homewood a better place.

Brocks Gap Intermediate School (BGIS) in Hoover City Schools is a new school, but its building is all too familiar to many in the community. In an effort to alleviate overcrowding, the city system implemented a building realignment and “recyclabuilding” plan. At the heart of the plan was a new intermediate school that was recycled from the old R. F. Bumpus Middle School. The three-story building sits on 25 acres in the middle of the Lake Cyrus neighborhood and houses over 800 fifth- and six-grade students. Daylighting is an important component of the school’s design. The lunchroom is designed to use natural light to illuminate its space as a way to reduce reliance on electric lighting during daylight hours.

Students conducting online research, creating web sites, maintaining blogs, assembling multimedia presentations, producing videos, using global-positioning-system devices and other nature apps to acquire scientific data, and manipulating various technological equipment to acquire and record knowledge and understanding are just snapshots of what you will see when visiting BGIS.

Administrators and stakeholders realize that simple efficiency measures in the use of technology are needed to save energy, resources and the environment. As existing hardware wears out, BGIS is planning to replace its desktop computers with hand-held personal devices, which function without hard drives with processing done by servers. They use less energy and consequently emit less heat, which, in a room of 30 or more machines, has the effect of lessening air-conditioning costs from kick-on systems.

Despite changing budgets, BGIS has been improving school meals and working to teach students to make healthy choices in school and at home. BGIS is making kid favorites using leaner meats, whole grain ingredients and less sodium or added sugar. All food in Hoover City schools is baked or steamed, never fried. Students are encouraged to try more fresh produce through fruit and vegetable taste tests, Farm to School programs, salad bars, school gardens and kids cooking competitions. All students and grade levels participate in a minimum of 120 minutes of scheduled physical education a week.

See the offical U.S. Department of Education National Green Ribbon application here.

 

 

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