Netherwood Knoll Elementary was one of three Wisconsin schools recognized this spring for “green and healthy” accomplishments.
It became the fourth Oregon School District school to be honored for environmental and health education, and the third to earn a corresponding national designation.
Its “Sugar Maple” status is the highest of four levels of state recognition in the Green and Healthy Schools Wisconsin program, earning it recognition by Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Carolyn Stanford Taylor on May 22, along with Milwaukee’s Schlitz Audubon Nature Preschool and Lincoln Avenue Elementary School.
“In these schools, the whole community works to provide a healthy, supportive learning environment (and) students are also taught to understand current environmental challenges,” Taylor said in a Department of Public Instruction news release. “These are key pieces of ensuring our students graduate ready for the future.”
The school’s “green and healthy” work includes spaces like the outdoor arboretum, student learning on concepts like composting and planting and initiatives on energy, water, recycling and other green topics, according to its profile on the Environmental Education in Wisconsin website.
“What was once an overgrown and little-used courtyard inside our school is now a captivating natural area that draws people of all ages and facilitates learning,” the profile states. “With the renovation of the space, our outdoor classroom now has art gardens, a stream/pond area with koi fish and waterfalls, a climbing structure symbolic of a tree fort that inspires imagination, six different raised vegetable beds, a vertical herb garden, a sand area with tools for building, a dirt digging area and a geology labyrinth/exploration area, among many other intriguing features.”
The website also highlights various community connections that help the school in its environmental work, including with Anderson Farm Park, the Oregon Police Department and a group called Environmentally Concerned Oregon Students, which works with second graders to plant a school forest.
The award wraps up a year full of honors for the Oregon School District, which has made health and environmental education a main focus in recent years.
In September, Oregon High School was awarded a second consecutive Bronze Award in the “America’s Healthiest Schools” award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
Schools earn the distinction by meeting criteria for serving healthier meals and snacks, getting students moving more and offering high-quality health and physical education. OHS was one of only 13 schools in the state honored.
Also that month, Brooklyn Elementary School and Oregon Middle School were honored for being two of just 46 in the country named 2018 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools.
The schools were lauded for their “commitment to sustainable practices” and “leadership in facilities, health, and environmental education,” according to a U.S. Department of Education news release.
OSD superintendent Brian Busler said district officials are “delighted” another school has been recognized by the Green and Healthy Schools Wisconsin program.
“Helping students understand the importance of making healthy choices and practicing making those choices on a daily basis is the foundation for lifelong health and success,” he wrote in an email to the Observer.