The University of North Carolina Wilmington, D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, a K-8 year-round public school UNCW opened in July 2018, and Wrightsville Beach Elementary School were named Green Ribbon Schools, UNCW announced.
A program through the U.S. Department of Education, Green Ribbons are given for innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact, utility costs, improve health and wellness, and provide effective sustainability education, according to the Department of Education. Across the county, 40 institutions or school districts were honored this year.
Each year, federal and state education officials visit different schools as part of the annual Green Strides Tour, an outreach initiative of Green Ribbon Schools. For the first time, the tour visited North Carolina. In addition to visiting Wilmington Thursday, representatives made stops in Raleigh and Fayetteville.
“The Green Strides Tour is intended to highlight the value of equitable access to healthy, sustainable, resilient 21st century learning environments and real-world sustainability learning,” U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Director Andrea Suarez Falken said in a statement. “We are honored to have the opportunity to see the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees’ work in North Carolina firsthand – to observe their hands-on environmental learning and efficient, healthy school buildings and to amble through their green schoolyards, all of which bring learning alive for students.”
UNCW is one of five colleges and universities nationwide named a 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee. D.C. Virgo and Wrightsville Beach Elementary are among the 27 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools this year. Wrightsville Beach Elementary has a partnership with the university.
“We could not be prouder of the work that students, staff and faculty at D.C. Virgo have done to merit receiving this Green Ribbon Schools award,” said Van Dempsey, dean of the UNCW Watson College of Education. “The leadership, teacher practices and students’ place-based learning are the foundations to D.C. Virgo’s success in cultivating sustainability, healthy spaces and wellness reflected in this award. And the collaboration between the folks at Virgo, at UNCW and with the community has been outstanding.”
D.C. Virgo’s efforts include a student-led school-wide recycling program, gardening projects, energy-efficient lights, sustainability presentations, and projects with UNCW. Middle-grade teachers have partnered with UNCW’s MarineQuest program to construct programs that focus on ecology, meteorology and biotechnology through the contextual lens of marine science.
“I am extremely proud of the commitment of our teachers, staff, students and partners for their leadership and shared opportunities for collective, authentic learning,” said D.C. Virgo Principal Sabrina Hill-Black.
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said in a statement that UNCW and D.C. Virgo encompass the theme of this year’s tour, “Green Strides for All: Advancing Sustainable Schools.”
“D.C. Virgo’s emphasis on an interdisciplinary STEM education, sustainability and environmental literacy exposes the youngest students to well-rounded, whole-child experiences,” said Truitt. “Students were highly engaged and demonstrated incredible leadership as our tour guides, teaching us about their science program and answering questions.”