Pathways Schools: U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

By LeAnne Harvey

Posted April 23, 2020


On April 22nd, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Odyssey Charter School and Ursuline Academy are among the 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award honorees.

In 2016, Ursuline Academy joined the Delaware Pathways to Green Schools (Pathways) program, an initiative led by Green Building United and Energize Delaware, to help fulfill their schools mission to foster global citizens. Since then, they have worked hard to reduce the school’s energy consumption by replacing inefficient lighting with LEDs, installing water bottle filling stations, and providing exceptional sustainability education to students and staff. All that hard work is paying off not only by reduced utility costs and cutting climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions, but also by gaining recognition for Ursuline’s leadership in sustainability.

Meg Kane-Smith, Social Justice and World Religions teacher and Chair of the Green Committee at Ursuline Academy, remarked, “I am thrilled Ursuline has been selected as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School! I feel our school has made concerted efforts to ensure that our students have the understandings and habits for a sustainable environmental future. I am especially proud of our strong energy and consumption and waste efforts, which would not be possible without the help of partner programs like Green Building United's Pathways program and NWF’s Eco-Schools.  I am also happy to have met so many other people working at our area schools who are involved in promoting a greener future for our students.”

A year after Ursuline, Odyssey Charter School joined the Pathways program to foster sustainability initiatives and to reduce energy use in their school. In just three short years, the students and staff at Odyssey constructed outdoor food and pollinator gardens, built a coop to house chickens, planted 27 trees, and implemented an indoor hydroponic garden program. Beyond creating a nature-centered space on campus, the school community has collected and diverted over 2,000 pounds of plastic film, lobbied at Legislative Hall for a plastic bag ban, and reduced energy use by replacing lighting and aging heating systems. While the school has expanded by over 120,000 square feet of classroom space, their efficiency measures have saved the school nearly $4,000 on utility bills each month. 

Under the leadership of Melissa Tracy and the Green Team staff, Odyssey students are learning hands-on about the environment and sustainability. Melissa said, “I am thrilled that Odyssey Charter School has been selected for this prestigious honor. It demonstrates our deep commitment to sustainability in our community, including staff, students, leadership, and parents. It also reflects our sincere effort to mold the next generation of global citizens.”

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.

Delaware also will recognize Indian River School DistrictLas Americas Asprira 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.

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