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Congratulations Millbrook Magnet Elementary Environmental Connections!


The U.S. Department of Education announced that Millbrook Magnet Elementary Environmental Connections in Raleigh, N.C. is among the 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award honorees.  


Millbrook Magnet Elementary (MECME) was nominated by the NC Department of Public Instruction. The school’s mission is to "develop environmentally-minded citizens who will change the world." MECME students are immersed in nature-based learning, with daily instruction delivered through the lens of environmental science. Millbrook's program offers authentic, hands-on opportunities to investigate and connect with local and global issues outside the school's walls. 


The school installed rain, pollinator, and edible gardens as part of an outdoor learning lab. Students use these spaces to learn about irrigation, food cultivation, stormwater runoff, impermeable surfaces, and other horticulture, sustainability, and ecology topics. 


Over 95 percent of MECME’s landscaping features native plants and other vegetation adapted to the local climate and annual rainfall, minimizing the need for an external irrigation system. 


A rain garden was installed to help reduce the stormwater runoff that was flooding areas of the campus and curb erosion. 


School grounds have been certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Wildlife Habitat. To be recognized, MECME demonstrated that the campus offers food and water availability, cover, places to raise young, as well as exhibiting other sustainable practices. 


MECME’s waste and consumption reduction efforts are led by a student team, the Green Bees, which conducted a waste audit. Students weighed the categories of glass, metal, plastics, paper, cardboard, food, and other types of waste. These data were then compiled and shared with the student body and staff as a means to incite change within the building. The Bees now facilitate a weekly schoolwide recycling program and educate all students about recycling and composting. In addition, their “Every Sheet Counts” initiative has reduced white paper waste by 31 pounds per month. 


MECME is a 1:1 technology school and uses virtual documents whenever possible. 


This year, Green Bees and faculty Eco-Action Team members are working to reduce the school’s carbon footprint through energy conservation. Students conducted a schoolwide energy audit in February and designed an action plan to reduce MECME’s energy consumption. By implementing energy conservation measures and installing energy efficient technologies, MECME aims to yield financial savings and reduced environmental impact.  


MECME has separate bus, carpool, and walker locations. Online technology helps to queue up students when their carpool number is called, and at least four cars are loaded at one time. “No Idling” signs are hung in the carpool lanes. 


Each year, fifth grade completes a problem-based learning unit focused on air quality at school. Air quality monitors are placed at various locations around the school campus, including at the carpool lane. Students monitor the air quality throughout the day. North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality representatives talk with the fifth-graders about air quality. Then, students use their research to create public service announcements, brochures, and posters to present to parents to educate them on the air quality at school. The school participates in the EPA’s air quality flag program by which a color flag, corresponding to the quality of air that day, is hung on the school’s flagpole to alert students, staff, and community members of the air quality each day. 


MECME partners with the Raleigh InterFaith Food Shuttle to use the food garden space in the most efficient and integrative way possible. The InterFaith Food Shuttle has placed a Food Corps volunteer at the school two full days per week, co-teaching garden curriculum, maintaining garden space with student help, and monitoring the cafeteria and composting. Furthermore, MECME currently harvests three indoor tower gardens.


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. Forty-five percent of the 2020 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body.   


The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found online: