National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Education Director Louisa Koch, Director of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy James L. Elder, and Director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council Anisa Heming joined Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan today to congratulate Lanier Middle School, City of Fairfax School and Fairfax County Public School on their achievements at a ceremony at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C.
Lanier Middle School was nominated by Virginia Department of Education.
Lanier began its efforts to reduce its environmental impact during a renovation, which was completed in 2008. The resulting facility, funded by the City of Fairfax School Board, featured increased insulation, automatic water shut-offs, motion sensor lights, temperature controls in unoccupied areas, tinted windows with low-E glass on sunny exposure and thermally broken frames, high-efficiency lighting ballasts, and an “Economiser” on rooftop units. The school earned an Energy Star certification in 2015 and has saved more than $58,000 on energy costs from its energy conservation program. Lanier is currently phasing in Green Seal cleaning products and training and certifying staff members in green cleaning practices in an effort to further improve indoor air quality.
As a member of the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Eco-Schools USA Program, the school established an eco-team of students, staff members, parents, and community members to focus on environmental issues. Team members encourage energy, water, and paper conservation; recycling; and school grounds enhancement that considers sustainability issues. Lanier was the first school in Virginia and the third school nationally to earn the Green Flag award from the Eco-Schools USA program.
In the classroom, the school encourages digital submissions of work to reduce paper waste and offers online textbooks. The school courtyard was converted into an Outdoor Living Classroom, now an NWF certified wildlife habitat that includes various ecosystems, a vernal pool, a vegetable garden, and a dry bed stream, fully maintained by the eco-team. All grade levels use the Outdoor Living Classroom for learning and environmental stewardship. Seventh graders participate in a Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience, testing the water quality in a local stream, learning about topography, biodiversity, and ecology. They follow up with a school watershed walk to identify runoff, erosion, and positive environmental practices, as well as identifying areas for improvement. Projects have included building a bio-retention cell and rain gardens; installing rain barrels, creating a vernal pool, installing water bottle refilling fountains, implementing a schoolwide recycling program, donating unused cafeteria food to a local food shelter, and installing a hybrid solar panel-wind turbine unit.
Environmental sustainability is also used as a focus for projects in art, Family and Consumer Sciences, physical science, and the school newspaper. In 2006, Lanier became the first middle school in Fairfax County to require all seventh graders to participate in an environmental stewardship project, which became the model for other Fairfax County Public Schools middle schools.
The school supports a number of health and wellness activities, including Walk to School and Bike to School Days, educating students about growing and eating healthy food, teams that participate in fitness activities, and initiatives to support mental health and a positive school climate.
Dr. Phyllis Pajardo, Superintendent of City of Fairfax Schools, said “The City of Fairfax Schools are very proud of the teachers, administrators, and students at Lanier Middle School for this prestigious award which reflects the high level of instruction, dedication, and professionalism the staff has for environmental education and stewardship. I look forward to celebrating with Lanier Middle School in Washington D.C. today and sharing its success with our community throughout the year.”
Ms. Rebecca Baenig, Assistant Superintendent, FCPS Region 5, said that, “Lanier Middle School is truly a lighthouse for all of Fairfax County Public Schools in practices to promote environmental stewardship and sustainability. This distinguished recognition as a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department Education is a result of an ongoing commitment and collaboration between the administration, staff, students, and the greater Lanier Middle School community. We applaud their intentional efforts to provide our students with authentic learning opportunities through which they are growing attributes outlined in our FCPS Portrait of a Graduate: communicator, collaborator, critical and creative thinker, goal-directed and resilient individual, and ethical and global citizen.”
At the event, 46 schools and six districts were honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education. In addition, six colleges and universities were honored with the Postsecondary Sustainability Award. Representatives from honored schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions received sustainably crafted plaques in recognition of their achievements.
The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 25 states and the Department of Defense Department of Education Activity. The selectees include 40 public schools, including two magnet schools and two charter schools, as well as six nonpublic schools. Forty-five percent of the 2018 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body.
View the list of all selected schools and districts and summaries of each of the 58 honorees. More information on the federal recognition award can be found here. Resources for all schools to meet the criteria for the award can be found here.