Three OCPS elementary schools receive national ‘Green Ribbon’ designation

Three elementary schools in Orange County are among 42 schools nationwide to receive a 2024 Green Ribbon Schools designation from the U.S. Department of Education.

On Friday, Orange County Public Schools announced that Dommerich, Sally Ride, and Zellwood elementary schools received this designation in recognition of their commitment to sustainable practices such as innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improving health and wellness, and ensuring an effective sustainable education. 

The honorees chosen by the U.S. Department of Education to receive the 2024 Green Ribbon Schools designation were named from a pool of candidates representing 24 states. During the selection process, three elementary schools in Orange County stood out to the department.

Dommerich Elementary School (601 N Thistle Lane in Maitland)

OCPS states that the culture at Dommerich Elementary teaches behaviors that help promote a sustainable culture in students in the local community.

Dommerich Elementary School offers a Garden/ECO Club for its students. (Photo: Orange County Public Schools)
Dommerich Elementary School offers a Garden/ECO Club for its students. (Photo: Orange County Public Schools)

The school’s Garden/Eco Club offers lessons on waste reduction, habitat, and energy conservation efforts that lead to school-wide projects. Throughout the school year, classes visit the school garden and outdoor spaces, which feature an assortment of annual fruits and vegetables along with plants for local pollinator species.

Students at all grade levels participate in interactive lessons, such as building bird habitats, tracking water usage, constructing a solar oven, and studying Mangrove ecosystems.

In addition, the school uses energy-efficient equipment, LED lighting, classroom energy monitors, and low-flow water fixtures.

Material reuse and conservation efforts are evident throughout the school. Classrooms have recycle bins and display “upcycled” decorations, students replenish reusable water bottles at filling stations, diners participate in composting their cafeteria food waste, and families can donate clothing and shoes at a station located in the parking lot.

Sally Ride Elementary School (9601 11th Avenue in Orlando)

Students at Sally Ride Elementary focus on energy conservation, waste management, and a living schoolyard, according to OCPS.

Students at Sally Ride Elementary learn about energy conservation. (Photo: Orange County Public Schools)
Sally Ride Elementary teaches its students about energy conservation. (Photo: Orange County Public Schools)

The school features energy-efficient light fixtures and low-flow water fixtures. Each week, students monitor the use of energy and water through an audit.

The students engage in labs about green energy, as well as constructing sundials and solar cars, ovens, and dehydrators.

In addition, students create newsletters, signage, and regularly monitor the progress of their sustainability programs. They also participate in summer camps that feature environmental education themes.

The grounds at the school feature rainwater barrels, birdhouses, a fountain, a sundial, a bug hotel, a butterfly farm, a giant chess board, hydroponics gardens, herb beds, vegetable beds, flower beds, and a irrigation system that was designed and installed by students.

In the cafeteria, students use both a share table and the district’s pilot food waste composting program. They also learn about healthy nutrition from their garden and, every Friday, may take home healthy food donated by the Blessings in a Backpack program.

Zellwood Elementary School (3551 Washington Street in Zellwood)

Zellwood Elementary collaborates with other schools to advance sustainability initiatives, and its Environmental Committee meets monthly to plan sustainability-related activities, according to OCPS.

Teachers are encouraged to undergo professional training on the Everglades, bird counting, and waste management programs.

The school hosts two campus beautification days, an Earth Day Expo, Literacy Night, and Family Fun Night, and these events incorporate various environmental issues.

Students educate each other and parents about hydroponic soil gardening, the importance of energy and water reduction, and recycling. They also conduct energy and waste audits.

The school grounds feature native plant and vegetable gardens, outdoor learning space, and fitness trails, with classrooms and several sustainability-themed clubs caring for the gardens. Physical education classes include yoga and mindfulness, and the school celebrates walk and bike to school day.

Throughout the school year, students learn about invasive species, habitat loss, endangered species, water quality, and engage in citizen science while documenting birds.

Recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C.

During the week of July 8, 2024, designees from Dommerich, Sally Ride, and Zellwood elementary schools will attend the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools 2024 Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

For more information, visit the Orange County Public Schools website or follow them on Facebook.

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