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posted: 2/22/2013 5:30 AM

River Trails schools honored for eco-friendly activities

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Two schools in Mount Prospect-based River Trails School District 26 have been named as state finalists for the U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools award, which recognizes schools that make significant efforts in the areas of conservation and environmental awareness.

The Illinois State Board of Education named three schools as finalists this year -- Indian Grove and Euclid elementary schools, both in Mount Prospect, and Prairieview Ogden South Elementary School in central Illinois.

"It's so exciting that two of the three come from our district," said Lyndl Schuster, assistant superintendent for business services in District 26.

In the schools' award applications, district leaders cited a number of recent eco-friendly initiatives at Euclid and Indian Grove that have featured contributions from students, teachers, administrators and the larger District 26 community. The initiatives include occupancy sensors that automatically turn off lights in empty rooms, water-saving appliances in school bathrooms and a commitment to paperless communication at the school and district levels.

The centerpiece of the district's efforts, though, is a community garden that's being constructed in a former playground area next to Euclid school. Schuster said the idea started with a Euclid parent who thought a community garden would be a valuable project. From there, multiple people and groups -- District 26, the River Trails Park District, local builders, parents, teachers and students -- worked together to find and prepare a site.

Students should be able to start planting vegetables in the garden this spring. Plots will also be offered to members of the community.

"We're looking at it as a great way to promote good food choices and nutrition," Schuster said.

The students at Indian Grove and Euclid schools chose a name for the garden together: "El Jardin de los Suenos," or Garden of Dreams. Students at River Trails Middle School, the district's third school, are designing a logo.

"This is very much a districtwide effort," Schuster said. "The middle school is every bit as engaged as the two elementary buildings."

Illinois is one of 39 states submitting lists of nominated schools to the U.S. Department of Education, which is expected to choose the winners in April.

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