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Wellesley Public Schools (WPS) is receiving national recognition for its sustainability efforts and has been selected by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2019 Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardee. WPS is one of only 14 school districts in the country to receive this honor.

The District Sustainability Award recognizes the innovative efforts developed by WPS to reduce environmental impacts and costs, improve the health and wellness of students and staff, and deliver effective environmental and sustainability education. The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states.

In early May, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education awarded WPS with a Massachusetts Green Ribbon Schools award and then entered WPS into the pool of candidates for the U.S. Department of Education’s award.

“We’re extremely honored to receive this national attention,” said Dr. David Lussier, WPS Superintendent. “Promoting sustainability is a priority in our schools and our community. This recognition validates all the hard work and effort that many people across Wellesley—Town departments, students, faculty, parents, and local nonprofits—put into making the town greener.”

Some of the energy saving measures adopted by WPS include working to identify and improve the least energy efficient buildings, adopting recycling and food waste diversion programs that encourage behavior to save energy, and developing no idling campaigns and walk/ride to school days to promote alternative means of transportation.

To improve health and wellness, the Town of Wellesley’s Facilities Management Department (FMD) began using “green certified” cleaning products in 2017. Buildings are maintained with an ionized water system (Orbio os3), which uses tap water in almost all cleaning applications and is the cleaning system available with the least carbon footprint, eliminating harsh chemicals and associated off-gassing.

And Wellesley educators have added thoughtful, strategic curricula across the district. Middle school students study earth science and have a global climate change unit as well as an interdisciplinary hydroponic gardening option. Wellesley High School offers an AP Environmental Science course and every other year, the community hosts a STEM Expo (a hands-on science, technology, engineering and math exposition) for students and families.

The District Sustainability Award will be formally presented to WPS during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on September 25, 2019.

In addition to Wellesley Public Schools, Boston Green Academy in Brighton, MA, and Ipswich Middle- High School in Ipswich, MA, are the other two schools in the Commonwealth to receive the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award.

Phyllis Theermann

The Wellesley Public School District and the Wellesley Middle School recently received award recognition for environmental sustainability efforts from the Department of Education, Project Green Schools and the Healthy Schools Campaign.

“Wellesley is a community that cares deeply about the environment and these awards reflect the degree to which that commitment is being operationalized in our school-based practices.  From the innovate ways that our schools are cleaned to the creative ways environmental issues are addressed in our curriculum, I am so pleased that the work of our team and Town partners is being recognized.” said Dr. David Lussier, Superintendent of Wellesley Public Schools.

Recognized by the Department of Education

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recognized Wellesley as a State Finalist in the 2018 Massachusetts Green Ribbon Schools recognition program. Launched by the U.S. Department of Education in 2011, the Green Ribbon Schools recognition program honors schools that are exemplary in reducing environmental impact and costs, improving the health and wellness of students and staff, and delivering effective environmental and sustainability education that incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), civic skills, and green career pathways. The aim of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is to inspire schools, districts and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) to strive for 21st century excellence by highlighting promising practices and resources that all can employ.

The Wellesley Public School (WPS) system was recognized due to its creative and partnership approach to reduce the schools’ ecological footprint and inspiring students to be ecologically minded citizens.  WPS collaborated with many Town departments, students, faculty, parents and local non-profits to combine policies and actions that work to conserve energy, water, reliance on fossil fuels, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while creating initiatives and curriculum to educate global citizens who have an environmentally conscious.  Some of the areas focused on are waste and water reduction, transportation practices, improving health and providing effective environmental education.

As a community, Wellesley students learn environmental responsibility through various waste and energy reduction, and other earth friendly initiatives. This in turn will help create healthy, sustainable, schools and community.

Project Green Schools Award

In addition, Wellesley Middle School Science and IT Teacher Greg Bodkins received an honorable mention award by Project Green Schools. Project Green Schools honors and recognizes Outstanding National Environmental Education & STEM Education efforts led in our Schools & Communities.

“Wellesley Middle School students have helped move the 8th Grade Design and Technology course down paths I had not anticipated at the inception of the new curriculum,” Greg Bodkins, said.  “Students entering the course have technology interests and skills that they can bring to the table. For instance, there were a number of specific parts necessary for construction of our hydroponics systems that were previously unattainable.  Using the school’s 3D printers, students are using basic CAD apps to produce customized files which they subsequently “slice” and print. The parts are then integrated into these self-sustaining systems. Eighth graders are also applying a good deal of the life and earth science concepts they were exposed to in previous Science classes at WMS to help meet the challenge they are posed with at the beginning of the semester,” Bodkins said.

Bodkins worked with the curriculum team to revamp the Design and Technology elective offered to 8th graders. This course bridged the science and IT disciplines and focused on a real life issue rooted in sustainably and the environment.

The goal of the course was within the confines of the school’s greenhouse, design/build a sustainable system to responsibly grow, maintain, market, process and deliver the maximum quantity of high quality food to feed students. “The course enables students to apply a wide variety of design, engineering, and science related concepts to achieving the goals described. Collaborating with the school’s facility department, Bodkins restored the very old, unused greenhouse so that he could open students’ eyes to relevant topics including locality, farming, water and other environmental issues. Simultaneously, this course enables students to learn and use a variety of STEM skills by building the systems.

Project Green School’s mission is to develop the next generation of environmental leaders through education, project-based learning and community service and awarded domestic and international Principals, Teachers, Advisors, Students, Citizens, Schools, School Groups/Club at its annual event at the MA State House.

The Healthy Schools Green Cleaning Award

Finally, the 2018 NATIONAL Grand Winner of the Green Cleaning Award for K-12 Districts Schools was Wellesley, MA. The Wellesley Public Schools were recognized due to the districts innovative programs that protect health and the environment while galvanizing the community around green cleaning.

“The Wellesley Facilities Management Department (FMD) is proud to receive this national recognition for ‘green cleaning’, and fully understand that it would not be possible without the hard work of the men and women of FMD that provide custodial care in our schools every day,” said Joseph F. McDonough, P.E., Facilities Director, Town of Wellesley. “The continued support by the Town and our partnering organizations including the Sustainable Energy Committee, Wellesley Green Schools and WasteWise Wellesley, have allowed the FMD to be at the leading edge of sustainability with initiatives such as our food recovery programs and use of ionized water as our primary cleaning product. This is a Town wide award that we should all take pride in,” McDonough said.

From reducing carbon emissions to boosting test scores, green cleaning comes with a long list of benefits. A well-designed green cleaning program helps students stay healthy and learn; protects the health of custodial staff; increases the lifespan of facilities; preserve the environment and save money.

The Healthy Schools Campaign is a non profit with a mission to ensure that all children have access to healthy school environments where they can learn and thrive.