The youngest students in Woodland Elementary District 50 are "Growing up Green," and the practices associated with the effort have received national recognition.
Woodland Primary this week was among 48 schools in the country, and the only one in Illinois, to be named a 2014 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School.
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The award, announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Mike Boots, acting chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, acknowledges the school's comprehensive approach in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, improving health and wellness and providing an environmental education.
"We really tried to make it all schools, all staff, all students involved," said Stacey Anderson, principal of Woodland Primary School, which serves about 700 early childhood and kindergarten students in Gages Lake.
Reduce, reuse and recycle have become part of every school day, and changes have been made to increase student awareness of their environment. The school also has focused on small ways, such as turning off computers or reusing paper, that students, staff and parents can make a difference.
"The primary school has a theme this year of growing up green," said Jennifer Tempest Bova, a spokeswoman for the district.
Woodland Primary, along with Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School and Evanston Skokie District 65, were named Illinois Green School award winners in March. They were nominated for the national award by the Illinois State Board of Education, one of 30 state education agencies to submit applicants.
"There's an emphasis on comprehensive efforts. They're not just talking about reducing water usage," said Mary Fergus, ISBE spokeswoman.
Groundwork for Woodland Primary's recognition began about three years ago as the school prepared an application to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. As part of that program, entities identify and implement green strategies in several categories.
Last fall, the school built in 1948 received the council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Silver certification for an existing building, also a first in Illinois, according to the district.
Besides adopting sustainable practices involving waste management, for example, the process resulted in a change in which the learning environment represents a dedication to environmental goals, Anderson said.
The LEED process spurred the school to further develop a wellness initiative, she added.
Strategies include yoga and belly breathing techniques to help students recognize their feeling and calm themselves to be able to focus. Aerobics and walking challenges have become part of the school culture, and birthday treats have been replaced with books.
Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake was named a Green Ribbon School in 2012.