School District Sustainability and Engaging Students in Environmental Action
FCPS Named 2017 Certified Green School Division by VSBAFairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has been recognized as a Certified Green School Division by the Virginia School Boards Association for 2017. The district also earned platinum certification for accumulating green points for environmental policies and practices.
Get2Green websiteThis website was designed to share energy and recycling data, resources for implementing projects in schools and at home, and general information about the green initiatives underway in FCPS.
We have expanded our comprehensive education and sustainability program into a systemic collaboration driven by students, staff, businesses and the greater community through a variety of initiatives. We have aligned these initiatives with the Strategic Plan called ‘Ignite’ in both Goal 1 Student Success, Goal 3 Caring Culture and Goal 4 Resource Stewardship. To facilitate meeting our goals, we have created a comprehensive new Get2Green website with interactive data dashboards that highlight FCPS energy, recycling and Eco-School USA data in a way that encourages student and teacher engagement and competition amongst students, faculty, and staff. The dashboards included on the website are an interactive web tool that enables the user to view resource use at all schools. You can easily choose to view information by individual location or as a district as a whole. The website also includes resources to help you be a good environmental steward at school and at home.
Access the Get2Green Dashboard site.
Through creation of our Sustainability Team and our stakeholder group, we are working across departments and schools to provide new and innovative programs, expand student involvement and provide greater community outreach. As a direct result, we have created competitive programs for division-wide awareness campaigns, provided annual student internships with authentic sustainability experiences and through our Get2Green program have over 160 of our schools voluntarily engaged in student driven stewardship activities such as recycling, building wildlife habitat, conserving energy and growing their own food. We have an active group of Get2Green principals that foster the growth of environmental education and environmental literacy in their schools, assist in the development of district-wide initiatives and help other administrators understand how to be leaders in this program.
As Get2Green works to implement the Portrait of a Graduate, it is closely aligned with other initiatives such as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math), Project Based Learning and Service Learning to create tools for interdisciplinary learning. Using the environment as a context for learning, students have opportunities to use their content knowledge and Portrait of a Graduate skills to positively impact their environment.
FCPS will build our sustainable global future and foster a green culture by successfully engaging in best practices around environmental stewardship and teaching and learning for preK-12.
Our mission is to promote student learning and action using the environment as a foundation. We will be model environmental stewards by investing in green infrastructure and resources, utilizing interdisciplinary environmental curriculum, and fostering community partnerships.
We are partnered with the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Eco-Schools USA program to assist schools with a framework for student action. Many of our schools have reached award levels, 12 of them with Green Flag status and 4 with double green flags. We have more green flags than any other school district in the US. FCPS makes up more than 20% of the national total with only 52 other schools achieving green flag status. All Green Flag Eco-Schools must work on the reduction of energy use and at least 2 other topic areas. Centreville Elementary School was named one of the top 10 NWF green schools in the US in 2015. Visit the Get2Green site to learn more about Eco-Schools USA.
Recycling and Polystyrene-Free Cafeterias
Starting in autumn 2016, FCPS will no longer use polystyrene products in the cafeteria. The pink styrofoam trays will be replaced with new recyclable cardboard trays. This initiative is part of the FCPS goal to increase recycling as a district. At the beginning of the 2016 school year, about 20% of the waste produced in FCPS was recycled. The polystyrene-free cafeteria initiative will help direct more of our waste stream from trash to recycling. Visit the Get2Green site to learn more about the FCPS Recycling Program.
Last year, 151 schools earned ENERGY STAR certification the most of any school district in the nation. This accomplishment played a key role in Washington D.C. achieving the EPA’s #1 city for ENERGY STAR certified buildings… ahead of San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Through Get2Green, FCPS has experienced an 11% reduction of greenhouse gases; a value in excess of 42,000 metric tons of CO2e. This is equal to more than 1 million tree seedlings that would have to be grown for ten years or over 9,000 cars not being driven for one year. These results are primarily achieved through Get2Green’s energy conservation program, Eco School work and partnering with companies such as Cenergistic.
Since 2014, FCPS has realized more than $10 million in energy savings as a result of Get2Green’s partnership with energy conservation companies like Cenergistic. FCPS anticipates more than $95 million dollars in energy savings by the year 2025.
Additionally, our facilities organization is setting an example for students and the community by investing 1/3 of every project dollar into increasing energy efficiency and sustainability efforts (Geo-thermal, rain water cistern, LED lighting, variable refrigerant flow mechanical systems, water source heat pumps, bio-filtera, solar hot water heaters, highly reflective roofing, pervious pavers, etc.)
Our interactive website was created in-house as an innovative way to highlight the often overlooked and hidden connections between the impacts of our daily actions to the natural world. This system will be used for learning, teaching, researching and empowering change.
Our entire program is designed to engage students, faculty and the community to reduce FCPS’ carbon footprint and to have each of us understand how our actions have an impact on our environment. FCPS is in a position to reach over 186,000 students. In many cases, Get2Green activities are designed so that students take their stewardship work and learning home and into their communities further magnifying the work FCPS is doing. Students have done home energy audits as part of our 6th grade curriculum, have learned about renewable energy and built wind turbines and competed in and won national Kid Wind competitions, and shared school grown edible food and leftover cafeteria food with local food banks. Stone MS teamed with a local nursery and ran a native plant sale to showcase the importance of using native plants to increase the health of our watershed. In addition, Get2Green staff often presents at National, State and local meetings to share resources and information with other green school professionals. Listed below are some examples of how Get2Green engages Fairfax County’s diverse population to achieve a sustainable future:
- ENERGY STAR Battle of the Buildings – The FCPS Battle of the Buildings is returning! Between January 1 and March 31, 2018, FCPS will be hosting the 2018 Battle of the Buildings. Your school community will work together to save energy through simple energy saving measures such as unplugging devices and shutting off lights. Click here to learn more.
- Urban Wildlife and Habitat Development – FCPS is partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to engage students in planning, constructing, utilizing, and maintaining wildlife habitat on their school grounds to increase overall biodiversity.
- Sustainable Food and Edible Gardening - Get2Green is working with the Fairfax County Food Council Nutrition Literacy Group and the Community Garden Working Group to bring food access to areas of Fairfax County that have been determined as Food Deserts. The Food Council is run by the Fairfax County Department of Health and a consortium of other partners. We are working through this partnership on increasing the gardens at Bailey's Elementary School (both the lower and upper schools) and at increasing the nutrition and healthy snack education opportunities. FCPS has about 65 food gardens at our schools across the county, and Food and Nutrition has programs to support using school grown produce in the cafeteria and to look at sourcing our food from local farms.
- Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience Stewardship – FCPS was the recipient of a NOAA B-Wet grant in 2016. As a result, we are working with 7th grade life science teachers to develop new Project Based Learning materials to be used to engage students in school based or community environmental stewardship projects as they study the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and spend time at a local watershed collecting water quality, biodiversity, land use data and more. These materials will be shared nationally.
- School Environmental Action Showcases - Since 2011, FCPS students have participated in the NoVA Outside School Environmental Action Showcase (SEAS) at George Mason University. At this event, students share the environmental stewardship projects at their schools with the Northern Virginia community, show off their creativity in an eco-art event, compete for the most efficient wind turbine design, and present their ideas for how to improve local watersheds. Local, state, and national government agencies, along with nonprofit organizations and businesses, host interactive, hands-on STEAM activities for students. This unique event allows students to see how the environmental stewardship efforts at their school fit into regional and national efforts to secure a sustainable future.
- Green Schools Alliance District Collaborative - FCPS has been named one of the charter members of the Green Schools Alliance District Collaborative, a group of 21 large U.S. school districts that will combine their collective power to support greener, more efficient solutions to environmental sustainability. The new collaborative will enable its member districts to build and share best practices, leverage their combined purchasing power to increase access to sustainable alternatives, promote market transformation, and influence policy decisions.
FCPS and Community Partners
- National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Eco-Schools USA
- National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Schoolyard Habitats
- Chesapeake Bay Foundation
- Fairfax County Parks and Nature Centers
- Plant Nova Natives
- Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Management
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Patuxent Research Refuge
Belvedere Elementary School Projects
Lanier Middle School Projects
Why is this important?
The term “nature deficit disorder” was coined by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods to describe what happens to young people who become disconnected from their natural world. Louv links this lack of nature to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.
In addition, recent studies have shown that using the environment as an integrating concept has increased student academic achievement and enhanced student problem solving and critical thinking skills. You can read more about this research at the Children and Nature Network.
There are state and national efforts moving forward to promote environmental literacy and green schools such as the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon School program. Get2Green is patterned along the lines of this national effort and is on the way to being a model for Virginia environmental literacy efforts.