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RSF borrower named Green Ribbon School

On Earth Day, the U.S. Department of Education announced the 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and RSF borrower Urban Prairie Waldorf School was one of the 36 schools named!

Schools were honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.

“This year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees have raised the bar for sustainability, healthy and safe school environments, and hands-on learning experiences that connect students of all ages to the world around them,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “As we recover from a pandemic that highlighted the need to modernize school infrastructure, improve ventilation, and create versatile indoor and outdoor learning spaces, we have an opportunity to invest in sustainable practices that enhance student learning, health, and well-being.”

Urban Prairie Waldorf School (UPWS), located in Chicago, Illinois, is an independent school that serves infants through eighth grade. Over half of UPWS families qualify for the variable tuition program. The curriculum incorporates nature experiences, outdoor movement-based learning, excursions throughout the city, and learning by doing.

UPWS’s formal environmental sustainability efforts began with the adoption of the school’s Sustainability Charter in 2019. The charter built on UPWS’s prior sustainability efforts and focused new efforts on reducing the environmental impact and costs of the school’s 70-year-old facility. UPWS contracted an energy assessment and retrofitted its lighting in early 2021, leading to a 63% average monthly reduction in electricity consumption compared to the previous year. UPWS also installed a demonstration solar array in late 2021, providing a context for students to study real-world math concepts.

UPWS has developed its campus into a green schoolyard, where students play, plant, harvest, tend to animals, and learn. This included transforming an unshaded asphalt lot with natural climbing structures, a large sand area, a goat habitat, raised earthen berms, and hügelkultur-inspired mounds. All of this provides learning benefits, such as opportunities to explore, get muddy, and conduct experiments in nature, as well as environmental benefits, including reduced stormwater runoff and potable water irrigation needs.

UPWS students receive at least an hour of outdoor play each day. Middle schoolers go on regular walking expeditions, sometimes up to 10 miles in a day, with the city as their classroom. Families pack minimal-waste lunches, and about 25% of families participate in a weekly regeneratively farmed produce delivery program. Every class starts the day in games, movement (yoga, folk dancing, poems with movement, developmental exercises) before the teacher brings students to seated learning.

Read more about the 2022 Green Ribbon Schools here.

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