US Dept of Ed presents three ‘Green Ribbon’ awards in New Hanover County

Three schools received the Green Ribbon Award honoring sustainability and excellence in outdoor education
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 6:03 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - You may have heard of the “blue ribbon award” for schools based on test scores, but US Department of Education leaders were in town Thursday presenting a “green ribbon award” to three area schools.

The green ribbon award is for sustainability, excellence in outdoor education and the commitment to student’s physical and mental wellbeing.

It’s a prestigious national award, with just one other recipient in the entire state outside of the three in New Hanover County.

“At Wrightsville Beach School we have good test scores, we’re always trying to improve our growth, but what we care about the most is kindness, that we’re kind to each other, that we’re kind to ourselves and we’re kind to the natural world around us, and that’s where the green ribbon is all about. said Wrightsville Beach Elementary principal Jackson Norvell. “This US Department of Education distinction means a great deal to us because they value what we value and this is a day to celebrate that. We’re trying to leave it better than we found it.”

National, state and local education leaders toured Wrightsville Beach Elementary’s environmentally efficient building first thing Thursday morning and got a look at their marine program. The dock allows students of all grade levels to track tide and weather data, kayak, and get up close and personal with the wildlife in the marsh around them.

“Anytime you have movement occurring with learning, retention is more likely to occur. We’ve seen opportunities for all kinds of experiential learning at Wrightsville Beach Elementary and here at DC Virgo,” said NC Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt.

DC Virgo has many features that garnered the national award including an action-based learning lab where students can use special equipment to keep their bodies moving while their minds focus on reading or math work. The school’s “restorative room” which allows students to express their feelings and “take 10″ if they need a break.

“The room we saw where students can come to resolve conflict with adults and other students is just incredible [to encourage] focus on students’ mental well-being,” added Truitt.

From tackling pandemic problems like mental health, to localized problems like the food desert in which DC Virgo is located, the school’s assets, like its learning garden filled with fresh vegetables and flowers, or the mycology lab, where students cultivate mushrooms from recycled materials, are winning examples of how to give kids the tools to thrive.

“We have challenges, there’s no question, and the children are not accountable to those challenges and educators are not accountable for those challenges, the community in many ways is not.” said Van Dempsey, dean of UNCW’s Watson College of Education. “And when I say ‘accountable,’ they didn’t create them — they’re trying to learn how to be successful within them.”

The school’s methods for using the natural world to grow young minds will be shared across the country as a shining example of something other districts should consider employing.

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