Odyssey Charter School, Ursuline Academy named Green Ribbon Schools

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

The U.S. Department of Education today released the names of the 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees, with Delaware’s Odyssey Charter School and the nonpublic Ursuline Academy named Green Ribbon Schools.

Delaware also will recognize Indian River School District, Las Américas ASPIRA Academy charter school, Red Clay Consolidated School District’s William F. Cooke Elementary School and the nonpublic St. Anne's Episcopal School as state winners during a celebration to be scheduled for this fall.

"We're proud of the ways these schools have worked to reduce the environmental impact of their facilities, improve the health and wellness of their students and staff and build strong sustainability education programs into their curriculum," said Secretary of Education Susan Bunting.

In three years, Odyssey implemented several major sustainability initiatives at its urban campus. The charter built an edible garden with 24 raised beds; added a community chicken coop with 10 hens and a rooster; built an outdoor classroom; planted 27 trees; built pollinator and milkweed gardens; and implemented an indoor aeroponic garden program. Every season, as part of its Farm to School Program, K-12 students consume vegetables harvested from the garden. The extra produce is delivered to staff who sign up to receive a free, personally delivered share to their office or classroom. Produce is also shared with the local community, and more than 1,000 pounds of produce have been donated to local distribution and support programs. Furthermore, in 2019, the school purchased an interactive and mobile culinary cart to teach students how to be “food citizens.” High school students in food studies participate in weekly cooking labs, and seventh- and eighth-grade students take an exploratory culinary arts course taught through a Greek lens. Produce from the gardens serve as ingredients for these courses.

In the spring of 2020, high school students will travel to Germany and Switzerland to learn more on innovative sustainability efforts by seeing state-of-the-art models of renewable energy. Faculty and students will bring these experiences back to Odyssey to enhance their learning and course experiences. Finally, Odyssey has already fundraised and secured grant funding to expand its garden program to 40 raised beds to serve students and the broader community. The Green Team will also plant a sensory garden in a common area, and the school is scheduled to add two pygmy goats to complete its urban farm program in spring.

At Ursuline Academy, students in the Lower School have benefitted from an outdoor classroom in which students use raised beds for vegetables and herbs, design and build birdhouses, compost with worms, graph rainfall and maintain a wildlife edible Christmas tree. The outdoor classroom was certified as a Schoolyard Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation in 2019. Students in kindergarten through fifth-grade have taken part in the “Wander and Wonder” program, an innovation program for the Lower School in which students are encouraged to wander outside, learn about a certain topic and then wonder about future questions. Each grade has a different topic to “wander and wonder” about. Third- through sixth-graders participated in an “energy expo” in spring 2019 where they were able to see how energy works, experience alternative forms of energy and learn about energy conservation. The program will be repeated, using high school students to educate the younger grades as they go from station to station during the expo.

Across the country, 39 schools, 11 districts and five postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness and ensure effective sustainability education.

The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 27 states. The selectees include 28 public schools, including three magnet schools and four charter schools, as well as 11 nonpublic schools. Forty-five percent of the 2020 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body.

The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found at bit.ly/2VulM2U. A report with highlights on the 55 honorees is available at bit.ly/2Kp80Ix. More information on the federal recognition award is available at bit.ly/2KmZdHb.