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Warwick Valley Middle School and Sanfordville Elementary receive Green Ribbon School awards

on May 30, 2019

Warwick Valley Middle School and Sanfordville Elementary School were recognized with the U.S. Department of Education 2019 Green Ribbon School awards (ED-GRS) on May 22. This honor renders all of Warwick Valley schools as Green Ribbon Schools, and the only schools in New York state to receive the federal Green Ribbon designation. Warwick Valley High School and Park Avenue Elementary School received the same award in 2018.

Across the country, 35 schools, 14 districts, and four postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.

“Our schools embraced the challenges of environmental education five years ago and we have continued to integrate and expand sustainability instruction at all grade-levels,” said Dr. David Leach, Superintendent of Warwick schools. “Our students are growing up with the kind of environmental awareness that encourages personal responsibility for a sustainable future.”

Sanfordville Elementary School was recognized with the ED-GRS award for teaching and implementing green practices that reduce its environmental impact and empowering all students as “green” leaders in the school community. Sanfordville Elementary is also home to the largest solar farm operated by a school district or public agency in the state, producing a minimum of 2.9 kilowatt-hours of power per year. Through the use of a virtual, private network, heating, cooling, and lighting are monitored in every single room and adjusted accordingly for maximum energy efficiency.

The school’s sustainability efforts have the support of a Green Team facilitator, Green Team teacher-leaders and a student Green Cub Club. In the early  years of the District’s sustainability education efforts, Warwick schools also partnered with the  Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation to provide professional learning on weaving environmental themes into classroom activities and project-based learning.

Four students hold reusable lunch containers.

Reusable food containers and water-bottle refill stations have contributed to a 50 percent reduction in waste at Sanfordville Elementary.

Sanfordville’s third- and fourth-grade students in the Green Cub Club lead classroom and cafeteria composting activities. Student partners share their knowledge of composting, water conservation and recycling with all grades, sometimes in the form of public service announcements on video. Initiatives such as the Waste-Free Lunch Day Challenge and the installation of water-bottle refilling stations have resulted in a 50 percent reduction in waste. The school is now planning to host a waste-free day every month.

Instruction in sustainability issues is enhanced by real-world connections through visits to local farms, and Warwick’s Earth Day Festival gives students the opportunity to share their growing knowledge with their community.

Warwick Valley Middle School (WVMS) was honored with the ED-GRS award for its bold strides in reducing environmental impacts and costs at all operational levels, including energy sources, school meals and transportation. A $91,000 grant awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2015 has helped the school develop and implement consequential green practices and honor its commitment to a sustainable future.

A girl in a purple sweatshirt drops a plastic water bottle into a recycle bin in the Middle School cafeteria

Reclycling is made easy in the Middle School cafeteria.

At the instructional level, each eighth-grader is required to participate in 20 full weeks of sustainability education. Classes include energy and the environment, computer science for innovators and makers, and green architecture. Access to, and data from, the solar farm at Sanfordville Elementary offers students real-world learning about such topics as energy usage and net-zero energy usage. An outdoor classroom provides opportunity for science experiments and observation, such as the testing of environmental factors on plant growth, and an appreciation for the natural world. Students also visit historic buildings and learn about sustainable restoration and construction, and spend time at the Greenkill Outdoor Education Center each autumn where they explore water and forest ecology. Technology tools like virtual-reality goggles immerse students in a variety of biomes and environments without ever leaving the classroom.

At the local level, WVMS educators are actively engaged with Sustainable Warwick, a community organization, to help increase public understanding of sustainable living and promote environmental quality. The school’s civic-minded endeavors include cleaning-up local parks, participation in Earth Day environmental projects in the community, and turning sustainability learning into social media campaigns.

Representatives from all 2019 Green Ribbon School will gather in Washington, DC, for the official awards ceremony on September 25.   

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