Acting Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin will visit Acton, Mass., on Thursday, paying tribute to the Acton Public Schools and Acton-Boxborough Regional School District as a 2013 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Awardee.
The Acton districts were saluted for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics, STEM and green career pathways. (See below for a description of the Acton program.)
Yudin will begin his visit by observing at 2 p.m. an Advanced Placement Environmental Science class at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. That will be followed at 2:20 p.m. with a tour of the school, while accompanied by students from the Resource Force program and Recycling Club. Yudin will end the visit with a discussion/reception in an outdoor classroom where he will hear from Superintendent of Schools Stephen Mills and other district and school officials about their efforts which led to the Green Ribbon honor.
Yudin heads the Education Department's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, which includes programs aimed at improving results and outcomes for the nation's infants, toddlers, children and adults with disabilities.
Recognized in 2013
Partnering to shape the world
Like humans and their environment, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District and Acton Public Schools partner to shape the world we live in. The districts’ combined 5,424 students in preschool through 12th grade prove that environmental consciousness is not limited by age. Beginning in preschool, Acton-Boxborough and Acton teach children life science by studying schoolyard animals and hosting nature walks; by high school, students take AP Environmental Science in which sustainability provides the context for the exploration of growth, energy, resource use, agriculture, waste, pollution, and climate change. Immersed in environmental study from an early age, 98 percent of high school students who took the AP Environmental Science exam scored a 3 or higher in 2012.
District wide events promote student interaction with and protection of their environment. Middle and high school students, for example, attend a biennial “reverse science fair.” Led by volunteers, the fair provides information about STEM programs, green technology, and eco-friendly innovations. High school students also work with their sixth-grade counterparts to host an annual Energy Fair through which younger participants learn about energy and conservation through interaction and activities.
To support the comprehensive environmental education of its students, Acton-Boxborough and Acton partnered to create and maintain sustainable school facilities. Renewing their emphasis on behavioral changes in students, faculty, and staff, the districts reduced their electricity consumption by 18 percent and overall energy consumption by 22 percent in just three years. Upgrades to lighting, HVAC, and walk-in coolers and freezers have contributed to the school’s reduced footprint, which is benchmarked in EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The districts have earned ENERGY STAR certification for four schools and committed to purchasing 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.
The districts’ buses run on ultra-low sulfur diesel and equipped with a shut-off mechanism that enforces no idling beyond five minutes. The district participates in Safe Routes to School and facilitate an active Walking School Bus at two of its elementary schools.
The districts are home to four gardens, which provide vegetables to the cafeteria and learning experiences to students. All elementary schools participate in the USDA’s HealthierUS Schools Challenge, with one school earning the Silver level. Acton-Boxborough and Acton are active participants in the annual Massachusetts Harvest Week, during which time students husk locally-grown corn that then appears on the cafeteria menu.
Nutritional education at Acton-Boxborough and Acton isn’t limited by time of year: during the summer months, a cafeteria manager hosts a local cooking class. Instruction begins at the farmer’s market, where students are provided with a list of items they’ll need for the week’s class. Armed with local produce, student chefs return to the high school to create delicious, nutritious recipes to share with their families and friends.