The US Department of Education announced last week that Portland Waldorf School in Milwaukie, OR is among the 2017 US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) award honorees.
Portland Waldorf School (PWS) was nominated by the Oregon Department of Education in recognition of the sustainability initiatives taking place through an interdisciplinary environmental education program called the LivingLAB. More than just a garden program, the LivingLAB actively engages the students with a wide variety of sustainability-related projects that are integrated into a long-term site design that is being implemented by students in conjunction with their academic subjects. The school’s intentional work with harvesting the natural water flow on campus, remediating runoff water from its parking lots, promoting biking and public transit, recycling, gardening, composting, and encouraging best practices around reducing waste produced and energy use, including a commitment to change all lightbulbs to LED, qualified PWS as an Oregon Green School in 2016.
The LivingLAB oversees the work of continuous improvement in both environmental and social sustainability practices, which align with the core values of the school and permeate the experience of attending PWS. Daily compost chores, tending to gardens, and regular use of a wood-fired oven for a variety of subject lessons all engage the students directly with on-going activities that model regenerative practices and develop healthy habits. Students are also involved in the design and implementation of the sustainability curriculum, incorporating academic study, volunteerism and community service, and social health to create a program that is relevant to daily life as well as larger contexts such as neighborhood and global issues.
LivingLAB director Kelly Hogan shared news of the ED-GRS award with the PWS community, expressing gratitude for the support the program has received, and adding, “True sustainability efforts do not reach an end point, but rather continually deepen. This award is a beautiful opportunity for us, as a whole community, to deepen our commitment.”
Across the country, 45 schools, nine districts, and nine 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.
The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states and the Department of Defense Department of Education Activity. The selectees include 39 public schools, including five magnet schools and one charter school, as well as six nonpublic schools. Forty-four percent of the 2017 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body and 14 percent are rural. The postsecondary honorees include three career and technical and community colleges.
The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here. A report with highlights on the 63 honorees can be found here. More information on the federal recognition award can be found here. Resources for all schools to move toward the three Pillars can be found here.
Many, many thanks to our amazing LivingLAB Director, Kelly Hogan, for bringing our school to this national stage, and to the LivingLAB Committee, teachers, students, parents, and volunteers who are engaged in deepening our continuing commitment to sustainable practices.