Kentucky NEED continues to be seen as the leader in energy education in Kentucky, having successfully completed 16 educator workshops during the fall of 2015, reaching 457 K-12 teachers. We currently have over 75 active student energy teams (SET) across the Commonwealth. Partnering with district energy managers, these students are facilitating activities that produce improved energy behaviors in their schools.
To this end, NEED has been invited to be a founding member of the Kentucky Green Schools Coalition, a new strategic alliance leading educational, environmental and health organizations to advance the vision that all children will attend a green school within a generation. The mission of the coalition is to bring together the Commonwealth’s strongest supporters by creating a statewide infrastructure of green schools that are healthy, high-performing educational institutions (pre-K through post-secondary). The coalition is committed to inspiring the next generation to establish environmentally sustainable, resilient communities and educational institutions while saving energy, resources, and money.
A green school is resource efficient, reducing negative environmental impacts and costs while improving the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff. It engages students of all ages in sustainability and environmental education. Student engagement occurs via a multi-disciplinary and hands-on learning approach, using the entire building and grounds as a living laboratory to complement curricula that facilitates civic engagement, critical thinking, and collaboration skills. Green schools also develop and provide a solid foundation in STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts, agriculture, mathematics) and green career pathways.
The efforts of this coalition will align around the globally accepted three pillars of a green school: 1) reducing environmental impact and cost, 2) improving occupant health and wellness and 3) providing effective environmental education. Kentucky already encourages schools to pursue progress toward these pillars through voluntary participation in the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools Award. In fact, in Kentucky, nine K-12 schools and one university have received this national distinction over the past four years. Home to the nation’s first net zero school, Kentucky also is a national leader in ENERGY STAR designated facilities, with over 300 certified educational institutions.
By working together to encourage the design, construction and operation of healthier educational facilities, this coalition can make an immediate impact on student health and productivity, school budgets, teacher retention and the environment. In that regard, the Kentucky Green Schools Coalition will promote conversations about healthy, high performance educational institutions by:
- Supporting the establishment of a green school in every county by 2030.
- Connecting organizations and establishing synergy around collaborative opportunities to reduce silo, competitive, or duplicative programming; sharing best practices; and leveraging resources.
- Enhancing communication regarding public policy of interest to each organization; educating members regarding legislation, policies, procedures, and their potential impact on each organization.
- Educating local, state, and national leaders – elected and non-elected – about green schools, sustainability, and environmental education.
This alliance will create opportunities to further build our relationship with other organizations in the state and help us to coordinate efforts, generate ideas, develop new resources and tools and take action to support initiatives that promote green schools. Future discussion topics will include opportunities to increase school and district access for free resources that can help save money, improve health and provide experiential learning opportunities that provide Kentucky’s students with skills needed for the 21st century economy.