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2020-21 PA Pathways to Green Ribbon Schools and U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools Award Application Available


Once again, Pennsylvania has partnered with the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) program to recognize USDE Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awards, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awards.

The ED-GRS program was launched by the U.S. Department of Education to recognize schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education that reduce environmental impact and costs, improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff and provide effective environmental and sustainability education. Combined progress in all three of these areas, known as Pillars, serves as the basis for recognition. 

States may nominate up to five Pre-K-12 schools or districts and one postsecondary institution for the ED-GRS program. USDE then selects and announces awardees nominated by each state in the spring. Eligibility requirements are located on the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools website. 

Pennsylvania’s Pathways to Green Schools Program recognizes schools across the commonwealth as they design, build, and implement environmental literacy and sustainability plans in their school, school district, or postsecondary institution in their quest to achieve ED-GRS recognition. 

This year, in addition to recognizing ED-GRS awardees, PDE is introducing a tiered award system called the “Climbing the Pillars”, which will recognize schools as they progress through the pillars defined within the ED-GRS system. Additional recognition will be offered for eligible schools implementing innovative work within or in recognition of the following initiatives: 

  • Environmental justice; 
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion; 
  • Agriculture education; 
  • Environmental literacy and sustainability plan development;  
  • Systemic environmental literacy and sustainability curriculum integration; and/or 
  • Continued improvement recognition for past ED-GRS awardees (for schools, school districts, or institutes of higher education that have already achieved but would like to continue expanding programs and efforts related to environmental literacy and sustainably.) 

The 2020-21 application for both the ED-GRS program and PA Pathways to Green School  program is now available on the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) website.  All applications must be submitted online to PDE, along with all supplemental materials, by 6:00 PM on Friday, February 5, 2021. Applications submitted by other methods will not be accepted. 

Please be advised schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education that previously received an ED-GRS award are not eligible to be nominated for a second ED-GRS award. However, past awardees may apply for state-level recognition through the PA Pathways to Green Schools as they continue to adapt and nurture their sustainable school culture. School districts also may apply for a district award to recognize work across multiple school buildings. 

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