Michigan Green Schools Program is fun, encourages students to explore their inner “green”

Statewide K-12 Michigan Green Schools Program for public and private schools cultivates the next generation of environmental stewards.

What started out in 2005 as a grassroots initiative at Hartland High School in Livingston County, the Michigan Green Schools program is a statewide program that encourages K-12 students in public and private schools to participate in environmentally friendly activities. As a result of the local activities in Livingston County, Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed Public Act 146 into law on May 22, 2006 which formally established the program.

Schools are eligible to receive the Green Schools designation if the school submits an application documenting school activities completed from categories described in the legislation. All counties participating in the program adhere to the same basic principals in the state law, however, there may be county-specific requirements.

As part of the Michigan Green Schools Program, schools earn points that are used to achieve various environmental stewardship designation levels. Activities, which are pre-approved via the on-line application process, are organized into specific categories related to recycling, energy and environmental protection. There are also two categories in which schools can use their creativity to earn points by coming up with their own set of customized activities. Depending on the number of activities a school completes, a school can achieve three different designations: Green (10 points), Emerald (15 points) or Evergreen (20 points).

Recently, Michigan State University Extension staff in District #11 were invited to lead trainings for Green Schools Programs in Oakland,Macomb and Wayne counties. A variety of curricula, hands-on activities and resources were presented on the topics of water, community food systems, energy and school gardening. Around 250 teachers/parent volunteers/school officials participated in these hands-on trainings. Possible activities that could be used to earn points included coordinating a school-wide recycling program or waste-free lunch program, implementing a school energy-saving program, participating in activities that promote the health of the Great Lakes watershed such as a local watershed festival or Earth Day event and create a pollinator or vegetable garden.

MSU Extension received generous funding from the Michigan Water Environment Association to defray the cost of going paperless, thus making it possible to provide all training materials to participants on a flash drive. Though many resources were discussed or referenced, the following are a few key resources schools can consult as they are working toward Green School status:

  • Water: Michigan Sea Grant. Dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of the Great Lakes and coastal resources, including a diversity of teacher resources, school programs and professional development opportunities for educators.
  • Energy: National Energy Education Development Project  (NEED). K-12 energy education program with a curriculum that conforms to the National Science Education Standards.
  • School Gardening: MSU Gardening in Michigan. Compilation of gardening resources at MSU.
  • Community Food Systems: Michigan Good Food Charter. Resources for engaging youth in community food and institutional food purchasing to incorporate local foods into school lunch programs.

At first glance, it may seem that becoming a Michigan Green School is a lot of work. However, taking the time early on to research and plan activities more than pays off later when participants receive their Michigan Green Schools flag to officially proclaim their status as a Michigan Green School. Participating in the K-12 Michigan Green Schools Program for public and private schools is a great way to cultivate the next generation of Environmental Stewards.

For more information about the Michigan Green Schools Program in your county, including program guidelines, activity ideas, resources, and training opportunities, visit the statewide Michigan Green Schools Program website.

Note that various counties may have slightly different requirements, so be sure to check with the Green Schools Coordinator in your county. Alternate activities to the ones listed are possible but must be approved by the County Michigan Green School Coordinator by December 1, 2012. Applications are handles through an electronic submission process and are due March 1, 2013.

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