Community Education Environment

Artondale, Evergreen elementaries earn federal recognition as ‘Green Ribbon’ schools

Posted on May 6th, 2024 By:

Two elementary schools in Peninsula School District are the only schools in Washington state to earn recognition this year as green leaders under the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program.

Artondale Elementary School in Gig Harbor and Evergreen Elementary School in Lakebay were among 41 schools, 10 districts, three postsecondary institutions and one early learning center designated Green Ribbon Schools. They were honored for innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and offer effective sustainability education, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Education. Honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 24 states.

A student runs in the outdoor education area of Evergreen Elementary School on Dec. 13, 2022. Christina T Henry

Schools celebrated on Earth Day

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Education administers selection of honorees in Washington state. OSPI representatives congratulated students and staff during celebrations at each school on April 22, Earth Day.

“It is an honor for our schools to receive this recognition for their hard work and achievements statewide and nationally,” Superintendent Krestin Bahr said. “This is the result of teachers, administrators and parents coming together to provide our students with the tools they will need in the future on behalf of our planet.”

Artondale’s achievements

It helps that Artondale and Evergreen have new school buildings, completed in 2021. Their lengthy applications show that school staff and students also go above and beyond in the areas of wellness and effective sustainability education.

Artondale, for example, has gone to a reusable flatware program that reduces waste and saves about $1,800 annually, according to the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools information page, which includes highlights from the 2024 honorees.

“Fitness is at the forefront of students’ daily routine and an important part of staff wellness. Students are outside more than the district mandates and are provided healthy lunches and snacks,” the announcement said.

Artondale students connect to real-world problems. Examples include an annual wind turbine contest and a salmon habitat restoration project.

Sophia Sandquist gives a high five to Ollie the Otter on the first day of classes at the newly constructed Artondale Elementary School building, on Nov. 22,

Sophia Sandquist gives a high five to Ollie the Otter on the first day of classes at the newly constructed Artondale Elementary School building, on Nov. 22, 2021. The new elementary was among just 41 schools in the country honored with a Department of Education Green Ribbon award. Christina T Henry / Gig Harbor Now

Evergreen gets outdoors

At Evergreen, 64 percent of students meet federal guidelines for free or reduced lunch. That is an indicator of low income among a majority of its families.

The school addresses equity in access to high-quality STEM education through its Outdoor Learning Environment, where all grades can engage in outdoor learning, exploration, food cultivation, composting and habitat study. The school hosts an outdoor learning transitional kindergarten program.

Evergreen students raise and release salmon and do native plant restoration, fostering a sense of connection to the environment and civic responsibility. Here, “students not only feel they belong, but also know they are making a difference,” the program’s information page says.

Wellness practices at the school include a counselor and success coach who visits each classroom to teach the character trait of the month, a weekly student yoga group, and a wellness coordinator who meets regularly with staff members on strategies for managing stress.

District awarded in 2022

Evergreen, Pioneer and Swift Water elementary schools, all in Peninsula School District, were named U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools in 2022.

DOE invites award recipients to a ceremony in Washington, D.C. “Other schools in turn can learn from their practices.”

The program hosts a Green Strides School Sustainability Resources Hub with toolkits that all schools can access.

The program dovetails with a recently announced initiative of the Biden administration. The White House on April 26 hosted a Summit for Sustainable and Healthy K-12 School Buildings and Grounds, according to the DOE.

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award does not convey federal funding to states, districts or schools.