Two schools in the Oregon School District were recognized in May by the U.S. Department of Education as Green Ribbon Schools, an award given for reducing environmental impact, improving health and wellness of staff and students, and increasing environmental literacy. The only Wisconsin school district to have all of its schools recognized by the top three awards for health in the state: Driven to Better Health, Alliance for the Healthier Generation, and the Wisconsin School Health Award, it is no surprise Brooklyn Elementary School and Oregon Middle School were bestowed this honor.
Brooklyn Elementary School
At this small school in rural Dane County, the school garden serves as a cornerstone of Brooklyn Elementary School’s culture. Filled with lettuce, kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, marigolds and more, the garden has become so much more than a class project, allowing all students to experience hands-on learning while improving their knowledge of health and wellness.
In addition to the garden, students and the community are encouraged to lead healthy and active lives through events such as the Walk or Wheel challenge, bike rodeo, Seuss on the Loose Movement Day, Beat the Winter Blues Fest, and Move-a-Thon. The school organizes monthly challenges such as a fruit and veggie challenge, a healthy recipe contest, and the “Race to Lambeau” walking path challenge.
The school also has a number of initiatives to reduce environmental impact. The 3rd and 4th-grade Student Green Team helps with classroom presentations, contests, and waste audits. They participate in TerraCycle, recycle milk cartons, and have eliminated the use of plastic straws. Two water bottle filling stations and motion sensing sinks further reduce plastic and water waste. The school installed solar panels and has reduced electricity use.
The science curriculum intentionally integrates teaching environmental responsibility and examining environmental impact and costs throughout all grade levels.
Oregon Middle School
For the past fifteen years, Oregon Middle School has been implementing their green and healthy initiatives for which they have received numerous awards, recognitions, and grants. Growing and eating food from their own gardens is important for OMS. The school has a greenhouse and a hoop house to involve students in the process of growing the food that supplies their cafeteria with fresh produce about ten months of the year.
In the cafeteria, the school utilizes composting and recycling, complete with waste sorting bins. Outside, the school uses drip line garden watering. They have native landscaping, enjoy a prairie and forest, along with a food garden and fruit tree orchard. The garden provides produce for summer school gardening/cooking programs and donations to the local food pantry.
At OMS, teachers of multiple courses collaborate to advance environmental literacy and sustainability. Students use outdoor classrooms in the prairie, forest, and food garden for many of these classes. 7th-grade students work on the restoration and expansion of the school forest and have planted over 3,000 trees in the past three years.
The initiatives for both schools reduce environmental impact and costs, improve health and wellness, and increase environmental and sustainability literacy, supporting the belief that healthy kids and a healthy environment provide a foundation for academic achievement.
Looking for resources to make your school greener and healthier?
- Green & Healthy Schools Wisconsin
- DPI Environmental Education webpage
- Check out the extensive list of grants at EEinWisconsin.org
Subscriber Submission: Written by Victoria Rydberg