GCS Named a U.S. Dept. of Ed. Green Ribbon School District

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that Goshen Community Schools in Goshen, IN is among the 2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardees. 

The three Pillars of this award are:

Pillar One: Reducing environmental impact, such as waste, water, energy, greenhouse gases, and transportation, encompassing the areas of school facilities, grounds, and operations;

Pillar Two: Improving health and wellness by promoting a healthy physical environment (including aspects such as air quality, contaminant control, moisture control, acoustics, daylighting, pest management, and thermal comfort) and student and staff wellness practices (such as healthy school food and outdoors physical activity); and

Pillar Three: Offering effective environmental and sustainability education, including civic learning, green careers, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) connections.

Goshen Community Schools was nominated by the Indiana Department of Education, after review of Goshen’s application and qualifications. Highlights of Goshen qualifications for Pillar One include: Implementing an energy conservation program in 2009 with a full-time Energy Educator to lead the program; In 2012 the district received ENERGY STAR leader recognition; Since the inception of its energy conservation initiatives, GCS has achieved a cost avoidance of $4.4 million, representing a 25% savings on energy costs for the district; Two GCS schools have solar panels, Waterford Elementary has 1,173 solar panels, each with 260 watts of capacity for a total system size of 304,980 watts, and Goshen High School has 1,242 solar panels, each with 260 watts of capacity, for a total system size of 322,920 watts; High school students can access the data from the GHS solar array and use the information as part of their curriculum; The district has installed water-bottle filling stations to encourage students to bring their water bottles from home instead of buying bottles of water from the vending machines; Every school in the district has a purposeful recycling program which includes student involvement and education; and, Students and staff members use designated walkways and trails to walk and bike to school.

Goshen highlights for Pillar Two include: The custodial staff using eco-friendly cleaning solutions and microfiber cloths to reduce the use of chemical cleaners; When needed, the grounds crew uses fertilizer that is 2/3 organic; A coordinated school health committee addresses and evaluates ways to improve the health and wellness of students and staff; A health and wellness center for those on the school’s insurance, staffed by a physician, nurse practitioner, nurses, and medical assistants; Wellness screenings and health risk appraisals for all employees in each school/building each year; Free nutritious snacks are available during after-school hours to students in all grades attending any after-school activity; Middle School students planting, tending, and harvesting a community garden sponsored by Goshen Health; IU dental school comes to the elementary schools yearly to check the teeth of 2nd and 3rd graders and offer sealants as needed; Run the Halls, which encourages students to track their time and/or miles in after-school running and walking; and, GCS has used its purchasing power to advocate for healthier lunch options from vendors, showcasing local foods.

Pillar Three highlights include: The opportunities provided to students by local businesses and local government, to work on real-word sustainability problems and search for solutions; Through Greenpower, students have built an electric car; In conjunction with the City of Goshen, GHS students addressed sediment from stormwater runoff as a major cause of pollution in local waterways; GHS students designed prosthetics for a calf born with malformed hooves; At GHS, the development of a super-mileage car and a solar-powered automatic chicken coop door for a local veterinarian; Learning about marine life during the Spring Break Marine Biology trip to the Florida Keys; Participation in a carbon footprint reduction challenge; Partnering with Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College for field trips and study days; Partnering with Northern Indiana Public Service Company to provide every 5th grader with an energy-reduction kit as part of their curriculum; 8th graders partnering with the Elkhart County Soil and Water Conservation District which provides an outdoor learning day at the nearby Environmental Center and River Greenway Trail; and, The optional 8th grade trip to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, where students camp, hike, and explore the great outdoors.

According to GCS Superintendent Dr. Diane Woodworth, “This award is a great honor for GCS!  We are very pleased to receive this. The students and staff deserve the recognition, as much of the drive toward recycling and other environmentally friendly practices are from them. Our Energy Educator, Judy Miller, also deserves much credit as she is always working behind the scenes to keep our momentum going.”

Judy Miller, GCS Energy Educator said, “I’m so pleased that our district has been chosen to receive this coveted DOE Green Ribbon Schools distinction. There were so many components in this application that basically fit into the three required growth pillars of:  reducing environmental impact and costs; improving health and wellness; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education.  If it “takes a village” to raise a child, it certainly takes “a whole corporation” to educate a student.  We are being recognized with this distinction because of this “whole corporation” approach.  Our corporation is enhanced by an active community, our students, the Coordinated School Health Committee, our Green Team, the custodial and maintenance departments, teachers, administrators, school counselors, support staff, and school nutrition staff—all are essential participants in our approach to wellness, and growth as a healthy and sustainable organization.”

Across the country, 35 schools, 14 school districts, and four post-secondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education. Goshen Community Schools was among the 14 school districts recognized across the nation and was the only honoree in the State of Indiana.

The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states. The selectees include 25 public schools, including three magnet schools and two charter schools, as well as 10 nonpublic schools. Thirty-six percent of the 2019 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body.

The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here. A report with highlights on the 53 honorees can be found here. More information on the federal recognition award can be found here. Resources for all schools to move toward the three Pillars can be found here.

A huge THANK YOU to all members of the GCS community who help to make GCS an efficient, healthy, more sustainable place!