Three years ago, students from Dunloggin Middle School went on a field trip (we all remember those, right?) to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. They were learning about the Bay’s ecosystem, and while dredging an oyster reef found only one live oyster. The students were concerned and curious, so, along with a few lucky teachers, they researched Maryland’s oyster harvesting history, and began to understand just how important oysters are to the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Those students, dubbed the Dunloggin Middle School Oyster Gardeners, have since been working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Kentmorr Marina and Dr. Don Meritt from the Horn Point Oyster Hatchery to raise, nourish, and relocate almost 12,000 oysters to the bay. The program grows each year, with more students and more oysters.
It's stories like this that led us to create the annual Best of Green Schools list, a collection of the most inspiring stories that push our movement forward. This year’s list includes businesses and schools, authors and students, community events and elected officials. All have an outsized impact in their schools and communities.
The honorees serve as evidence of how green schools are transforming our education, our educators and our environment. They also demonstrate that no two green schools are alike, and that there’s no “right way” to be or to support a green school. What they share, however, inspires us: they all believe that where we learn matters.
Each year when we select the Best of Green Schools we are privileged to learn from what they’ve done. It’s more than an opportunity for us to pause and reflect, it’s a chance to look forward and plan our next actions. What can we be doing to follow in their footsteps?
For example, looking at what Green Bronx Machine has accomplished—turning an unused school library in the South Bronx into a resource for students, families and teachers—it's clear that repurposing existing space to provide workforce training and community activities can turn the tide of systemic poverty.
The Best of Green Schools represents thought leaders, but recognition is granted for their actions. By taking their hopes and visions for a different world, finding like-minded people and establishing a foothold of support in their communities, the Best of Green Schools shows us that our movement is growing and ready for more.
The desire and ability to transform, collaborate, bring a message to the community, inspire new policy, seize the moment and be leaders for the movement are why we honor these people, organizations and events. We can't wait to see what 2015 has in store.