Middlebrook School Named 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School

The folloiwing was subbmitted as a press release:

The U.S. Department of Education announced this week that Middlebrook School is one of 39 total 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award honorees. Middlebrook School was nominated by CT Green LEAF Schools.

“I am just delighted to see Middlebrook honored as a Green Ribbon School,“ said Lauren Feltz, Middlebrook School principal. “Kudos to Heather Priest, Tammy Thornton and their dedicated volunteers who have empowered our students to develop positive habits in stewarding the environment. Springing organically from learning in the Family Consumer Science program at Middlebrook, this program has evolved to touch the daily lives of all Wilton students. This was a teacher-led initiative that has become integral to what we value and who we are at Middlebrook. Congratulations and many thanks to both to Heather Priest for her leadership and to her many colleagues who have made the work sustainable.”

Wilton Go Green has been a proud community partner and advocate for the Zero Waste Schools Initiative and the work Heather Priest and her team have been doing since 2016. Middlebrook School has reached many impressive milestones over the last four years in terms of education and awareness around sustainability, not only for their school but also the community. We look forward to continuing our partnership and supporting not only Wilton Public Schools, but other school districts in our state,” said Thornton, president of Wilton Go Green.

Over the past five years, Middlebrook School has taken its role as a pioneer in the sustainability movement very seriously. Middlebrook’s robust initiatives and programs have become examples of success for neighboring schools and communities and are pleased to have created a wave of sustainability initiatives throughout Fairfield County schools.

Middlebrook School has met the criteria of the Three Pillars of Sustainability laid out by the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program through a ground-up approach that harnessed the power of students, teachers, and staff. The campaign towards sustainability at Middlebrook led to a behavior and policy change for district-wide composting and recycling. What started as an academic challenge turned into new waste stations being set up in every school’s cafeteria throughout the district. We are proud to report that this has resulted in the diversion of nearly 2,000 pounds of food waste per week across the district.

Middlebrook’s teachers are constantly striving to weave elements of sustainability into their classroom. Middlebrook boasts a 3,000 square foot organic garden and 600 square foot greenhouse, which is the foundation of the Family & Consumer Science classes. These classes offer students the unique opportunity to sustainably grow their own food and prepare it in a healthy way. It is clear that whether it is an art project made from recycled materials, research into natural resource decimation in the Amazon rainforest, or the impacts of air quality on health, teachers are embracing the opportunity to design a curriculum that will translate the importance of sustainability on their futures.

To support these initiatives Middlebrook’s Green Team implemented a bi-annual Zero Waste Week, designed to bring attention to school-wide, local, regional, and global environmental issues and maintain the school’s focus on environmental stewardship. High interest, unique activities with kid-appeal include, for example, “pay as you throw,” “pack your lunch raffle,” and “parent zero waste trivia.”

Going green isn’t just a student and teacher-led initiative; the district and town leaders recognized the importance of building for the future, and in spring 2018, Middlebrook School flipped the switch on its newly installed solar panels to start reducing its carbon footprint and save the community money on energy. As of September 2019, the district has captured one million kWh and saved $70,000. In addition, Trout Unlimited, an advocate for Wilton’s Norwalk River Watershed, selected Middlebrook School in 2019 for its Stormwater Project to reduce stormwater runoff at the school’s 110-acre campus in Wilton.

The foundation and execution of its accomplishments are made possible through a diverse, inclusive Green Team and strong community partnerships. Middlebrook has its local environmental non-profit, Wilton Go Green, to thank for much of its success. With the generous financial and volunteer support of WGG, the Zero Waste Schools Initiative has a strong foothold within Middlebrook School as well as other schools in the district.

Leaders at Middlebrook say they believe that the school is a model of sustainability for the entire school district and the greater community, and while they recognize that there is so much more they can do, both short and long term, they are committed to continuing their work along the continuum of success.

Across the country, 39 schools, 11 districts, and five postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.

The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 27 states. The selectees include 28 public schools, including three magnet schools and four charter schools, as well as 11 nonpublic schools; 45% of the 2020 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body.

The Department of Education has included information online, including the list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages; a report with highlights on the 55 honoreesinformation on the federal recognition award; and Resources for all schools to move toward the three Pillars.