When Dawn Bauer saw the qualifications to become a Green Ribbon School she didn’t have to look far to see that Superior had all the right stuff.
Outside the window of the elementary building sits a new outdoor school and garden. While down the hall, a resource room is fully stocked with food, hygiene products and clothing for students in need. Vending machines offer healthy food and drink choices, and water fountains contain water bottle filling stations. All of this prompted the administrative assistant to nominate the school.
It was an effort that paid off because last May, the U.S. Department of Education announced the winners of the 2018 Green Ribbon Awards, which included the Superior School District. The Montana Office of Public Instruction chose Superior to be Montana’s nominee in the Green Ribbon program after they submitted a strong application to the Office of Public Instruction.
At the time, Superior School Superintendent Scott Kinney said, “We are proud to receive the award as it reflects the conscious efforts our district is making in promoting eco-stewardship, conservation and the use of renewable resources.”
This award started in 2011 and contains three pillars: One, reducing environmental impact; Two, improving health and wellness by promoting a healthy physical environment; and Three, offering effective environmental and sustainable education.
This last pillar has been a strong piece of Superior’s education — long before the Green Ribbon Award came into being. For 50 years, the sixth-grade class attends Outdoor School at the Savenac Tree Nursery for a week of education, experiments and hands-on learning. It also exemplifies the school’s long-standing commitment toward community and its surroundings.
The conclusion of the proposal stated, “While (Superior) is a tiny school in a rural place, it is making a concerted effort to make a big impact not only on our students, but in the community where we live.”
TWO WEEKS ago, Scott and his wife, Ann, traveled to Washington D.C., on an Amtrak Train to attend the award ceremony held on Sept. 19. There, the couple sat in a room with 57 other Green Ribbon Award winners from across the nation. They listened to keynote speakers, Frank Brogan, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Education Director Louisa Koch; Director of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy James L. Elder; and director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council Anisa Heming.
“Today’s honorees can be proud of what they have accomplished in their local communities,” Brogan said. “They have reduced institutional operating costs and helped conserve our precious natural resources, while engaging students in authentic sustainability learning in safe, healthy and inspiring environments.”
“Our children are the hope and promise for our future and an even better future for generations to come,” Koch said. “The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition awards honor what the students, teachers and staff are doing to make the world a better place.”
“Over the past seven years, U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools have helped to define what it means to be a sustainable school and how to effectively offer environmental education, so it’s my pleasure to celebrate this work annually,” Elder said.
“U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools support students’ development into responsible, compassionate and engaged citizens,” Heming said. “We applaud these outstanding schools, districts and postsecondary institutions for improving educational facilities to promote health and environmental stewardship, and for ensuring students have an opportunity to engage in real-world learning about the natural environment and the world around them. We also commend the U.S. Department of Education’s continued commitment to highlighting these schools’ successes through this program.”
OTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS of Superior School include a playground made out of recycled tires; solar energy; a robust cardboard recycling program; and a strong focus on dietary education and physical fitness.
“We work with partners to turn our beautiful outdoors into a classroom where students learn about growing their own food, composting and forestry and conservation practices. These lessons, along with integrated community service, have played a big role in our school and after-school programs,” their proposal stated.
Kinney said his job is to create opportunity for his staff. “If someone wants to do something, we find a way. We have an advocacy mind set and find the funding, as well as the time or whatever else is needed to achieve our goals,” he said. “Our best resource is our staff. They have such a ‘can do’ spirit and innovative mindset. We are fortunate to have a staff who are challenged and say, ‘What can we do next?’”
This is a one-time only award, meaning Superior will always have the distinction of being the 2018 Green Ribbon Award recipient.
Kinney said it’s a great designation because when they apply for grants, people take their applications a lot more seriously.
“We have proof of concept,” he said.
It also gives him the opportunity to spread the word about the award and encourage other schools to incorporate the three Pillars into their own student instruction.
“We need to get back to educating our kids that there are only a finite number of resources and we need to be good stewards of them,” Kinney said.