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Shades Mountain Elementary School is Named a 2023 Alabama Green Ribbon School

March 6, 2023

(Hoover, AL) - Shades Mountain Elementary School (SMES) was selected as a recipient of the 2023 Alabama Green Ribbon Schools Award. The award recognizes schools that nurture and promote environmental sustainability education and practices. Alabama State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey congratulated SMES students, faculty, and staff in a letter to the Hoover City Schools District (HCS). 

“Congratulations to you, your faculty, staff, and students for your hard work toward sustainability and environmental education,” said Dr. Mackey. “The work you are doing on and off campus is evident and will have lasting impacts on the health of our population and the environment. Again, I offer my congratulations to all of you at Shades Mountain Elementary School on this achievement and encourage you to continue this important work toward sustainability and environmental education and to embrace your role as an exemplar for others.”

The Green Ribbon Award encompasses three pillars below:

  •  Reducing Environmental Impact and Costs- Water efficiency, waste reduction, reducing greenhouse gasses. 

  •  Improving the Health & Wellness of Students and Staff 

  •  Effective Environmental Education - Incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways.

The first step for SMES toward the Green Ribbon Award began in 2017 with a "Cool Schools" project, which is part of the National Wildlife Federation's Eco-School USA.  Following an informational session led by then Assistant Director of Operations Wes Wilbanks (current HCS director of information technology), students inventoried classrooms to discover ways of reducing energy which, in turn, reduced the school's carbon footprint. Students completed an initial energy audit and partnered with Alabama Power to walk through all areas of the school for a final energy audit to evaluate energy efficiency. Students also conducted audits using the Eco-Schools USA pathways for water, habitat biodiversity, healthy living, healthy schools, and transportation. 

Other environmental education projects at SMES include:

  • A grant for two (2) Brita water-filling stations. This allowed students to use reusable water bottles rather than plastic water bottles. 

  • Girl Scout Troop 746 recycled markers through the Crayola ColorCycle Program.  

  • The SMES Environmental Club wrote the EcoCode for the school and spearheaded the “Trick or Trash” program. 

  • 4th graders led the annual Arbor Day celebration focusing on the importance of trees on campus. 

  • SMES has an Outdoor Classroom and Butterfly Garden, planted and maintained by various grade levels. 

  • All students participate in STEAM and AMSTI science. 

The tasks to complete steps in each of the three pillars of the Green Ribbon Award required a coordinated effort among multiple disciplines: Melinda Bonner, HCS Child Nutrition Program (CNP) director; Cecelia Stone, SMES CNP manager; Pam DeVine and Elisabeth Goodman, school nurses; Paul Brown, physical education teacher; and Brandon Herring and David Hampton, SMES environmental services. The SMES school-wide environmental education efforts are spearheaded by SMES parent Kappi Naftel; Amy Coffee, second-grade teacher and Nature Club sponsor; Marjie Keeney, STEAM teacher; and Nancy McGowan, SMES gifted specialist. McGowan submitted the award nomination.

McGowan said, “Receiving the Green Ribbon Award means that the whole population within the school and the many hands behind the scenes are intentional about a holistic environment where students can thrive. The opportunities for our students to be engaged in environmental education continue to grow each year.”

SMES Principal Kevin Erwin said, “Our school is nestled within a beautiful landscape. There are amazing greenspaces for our students to interact daily with nature up close and personal. I love that our school sees the value in preserving the world around us so that future generations can experience the world that we see each day. There is such a responsibility in ownership. We want our kids to embrace that power.”

The Alabama State Board of Education will recognize SMES as a recipient of the Green Ribbon Award at its meeting on May 11, 2023, at the Gordon Persons Building in Montgomery.