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 Earth Day Network Program credited with Cincinnati School Board Decision to Build Green Schools

June 5, 2006 (Washington, DC) Earth Day Network’s National Civic Education Project is being credited as a major contributor to the recent decision to build green schools in Cincinnati, confirming that this groundbreaking program could create the most civically active and environmentally aware generation in the history of the United States.

The National Civic Education Project (CEP) was created by Earth Day Network to empower young people to exercise their rights and uphold their responsibilities as citizens as they address environmental health issues affecting their communities.  CEP students are instilled with the skills, pride and passion required to engage their political leaders at all levels, which speaks to the very heart of the democratic process. 

“In its first year, the Civic Education Project created a new generation of civically active and educated students, who helped convince the Cincinnati School Board to create healthier schools throughout the city.  Earth Day Network is creating environmental democracy, and a new green movement.  That is our vision, said Kathleen Rogers, EDN president.  “This is only the first step in Cincinnati and we’re already expanding to other cities because every city in the United States holds unique environmental challenges that can act as a civic education experience for students.”

During the May 8th meeting of the Cincinnati Board of Education, the Director of the Facilities Branch for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) presented high performance design guidelines, which clarify the Board’s decision to use the best practices of green building design in partnership with the Cincinnati chapter of U.S. Green Building Council.  These guidelines will now be included in the CPS Building Standards, with the goal of building and operating sustainable high performance school facilities that are environmentally and fiscally responsible, healthy places to learn and work that promote student achievement.

A local green building advocacy group, The Alliance for Leadership and Interconnection (ALLY), gives credit to Earth Day Network’s Civic Education Project for this towering achievement.  “I believe that this year’s Earth Day Network Green School Civic Education Project provided the nudge for Cincinnati Public Schools to announce that they are going to go green with the rest of the schools being built and renovated,” said Ginny Frazier, executive director of ALLY.

Earth Day Network chose four schools in Cincinnati and one in Washington, D.C. for the first year of the Civic Education Project, 2005-2006, because each city faces significant environmental problems and educational obstacles and is home to a large number of minority and low-income students.  In Cincinnati, more than 76% of students are of a minority race and approximately 2/3 of all students receive free or reduced lunches.  

In Cincinnati, five teachers participated: John Dean and Shelby Louden at Aiken College and Career High School, Penelope Greenler at Winton Montessori, Kamlesh Jindal at Bond Hill Academy, and Erin Morris with the Cincinnati Park Board.  These teachers and their students focused on green schools because Cincinnati is engaged in a $1 billion school refurbishment program. 

• Penelope Greenler and her students at Winton Montessori worked to create a design of their school as a green building.  She and her students attended planning meetings of the Alliance for Leadership and Interconnection to learn how to create support for building green schools and met with architects who helped them design a model of what they hope will be the new Winton Montessori. 

• At Bond Hill Academy, Kamlesh Jindal and her students created a civic outreach program around the politics of recycling.  They designed and implemented a model recycling program at their school and then reached out to community leaders and city officials to expand their idea while relating it to the green building theme by studying how green construction utilizes recycled materials. 

• Erin Morris, from the Cincinnati Park Board, works with students after school.  She and her students studied how the exterior of a green school can be designed to act as a learning environment.  They worked with city officials to create potential designs of the exterior landscape of a green school so that it has demonstrable environmental benefits. 

• John Dean and Shelby Louden, at Aiken College and Career High School worked with his students to build community support for green schools.  They attended community meetings and conducted a campaign to create awareness of the economic, educational, and environmental benefits of green schools.  The goal is to gain support not just from local politicians, but from the community at large. 

During the Cincinnati School Board’s May 22nd meeting, the teachers and students who participated in the Civic Education Project each presented the results of their green schools projects and enthusiastically urged board members to consider the full range of benefits green schools provide, including an increase in class attendance and academic performance.  

“Participating in the Civic Education Project has helped me see the impact of green and high performance school environments on our students.” said Penelope Greenler.  “Our children deserve to have schools that are healthy and that enhance their education. They should not be learning in spite of their school environment with poor lighting, inadequate ventilation, too much noise, and not enough space.”

About Earth Day Network:
Earth Day Network was founded by the organizers of the first Earth Day in 1970 and promotes environmental citizenship and year round progressive action worldwide.  Earth Day Network’s global network reaches more than 12,000 organizations in 174 countries and hundreds of thousands of educators around the world.  Earth Day is celebrated by more than half a billion people each year making it the largest secular holiday in the world. April 22, 2006 marked the 36th anniversary of Earth Day.



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