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First South Carolina School honored as U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School for Environmental Initiatives

Dutch Fork Elementary School in Lexington County is the first South Carolina school to be recognized nationally by the U.S. Department of Education for environmentally conscious programming.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), in a partnership with the S.C. Department of Education, the S.C. Energy Office and a variety of state and local partners, nominated Dutch Fork Elementary School to be recognized as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School (ED-GRS). This week, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Dutch Fork Elementary is among the 25 schools, 14 districts, and four postsecondary institutions across the country to meet the qualifications for the program, which included demonstrating innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs; improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and developing effective, hands-on learning experiences in sustainability.

“We all have a mutual interest in seeing schools like Dutch Fork Elementary get the recognition they deserve,” said Rhonda Thompson, Chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Air Quality. “Dutch Fork and other schools around the state are working hard to impart environmental STEM/STEAM content at schools, and we praise their efforts.”

Some of Dutch Fork Elementary School’s key initiatives that led to its national recognition include:
Conscious use of energy by utilizing efficient lighting and cooling systems
Scheduling and participating in water conservation by collecting water in rain buckets for use in school gardens
Establishing a comprehensive approach to nutrition and fitness through its Farm to School program
The creation of a natural trail behind the school
Maintaining a morning fitness club for students
Providing environmental and sustainability education that incorporates STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways for its students
Additionally, students collect and measure plastic bag use, create their own gardens, participate in wildlife observation, research air quality and take part in a schoolwide recycling program.

“Dutch Fork Elementary is both humbled and grateful for being recognized as a Green Ribbon School,” said Julius Scott, Dutch Fork Elementary School Principal. “We are committed to developing students who care about the world we live in. Our students take on the identity of environmental scientists and use the language and tools of the discipline, and this stance allows learning in our school to reflect learning in the real world.”

The intent of being recognized as an ED-GRS is to inspire schools to strive for 21st-century excellence by highlighting promising school sustainability practices, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Each spring, the department announces the newest schools nationwide to meet the program’s standards.

This year’s honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states. The selectees include 25 public schools – among them, three magnet schools and two charter schools – as well as 10 nonpublic schools.

Information about the South Carolina Green Ribbon School Program, including the application submitted for Dutch Fork Elementary School, can be found at  www.scdhec.gov/scgreenribbonschools. Additional information about the federal Green Ribbon Schools program is available at www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools.