As the bitter chill of winter retreats, the vibrancy of spring beckons us outdoors reminding us of the inextricable link between the natural world and our daily lives. In striving to meet the President's challenge to win the future by out-educating the rest of the world, we must cultivate the environmental health of our learning spaces and our students’ understanding of their environment to enable them to meet the challenges of the future. Today, the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality came together to launch the Green Ribbon Schools Program. This program plants the seeds to move toward educational excellence for the future by recognizing schools that are creating healthy and sustainable learning environments - both inside and outside the classroom, teaching environmental literacy, and increasing environmental health by reducing their environmental footprint.
Led by the Department of Education, in close partnership with the EPA and CEQ, the Green Ribbon Schools program will incentivize and reward schools that help to ensure that our students receive an education second to none by improving the health and environmental footprint of nation’s schools. To prepare our children for the clean energy economy of the future, Green Ribbon schools will be those that incorporate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and environmental stewardship into their curricula.
This initiative will also help to reconnect our nation's youth to the environment around them, as part of President Obama's Americas Great Outdoors initiative, by encouraging outdoor learning. In a day when children spend half as much time outside as their parents did, there's no time like the present to leverage the Federal government's leadership to fuel our children’s spirit of adventure and reconnect them with the outdoors. After all, outdoor access and environmental education will better prepare our students to find innovative solutions to tomorrow’s challenges and compete for the jobs of the future.
We want the best for our students, and we all share the responsibility to equip them with tools to accomplish their greatest potential. The Green Ribbon Schools Program is one example of how the Federal Government will work to instill educational and environmental excellence in communities across America. Later this year, the application for the program will be released, and the first group of "Green Ribbon Schools" will be announced next year. By helping to cultivate the seeds of environmental and educational excellence in our nation's schools, we can grow an even brighter future for our nation.
Arne Duncan is Secretary of the Department of Education
Lisa P. Jackson is Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality