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Orange County

Zellwood Elementary wins national Green Ribbon designation

Three OCPS schools put on the US Department of Education's list


The U.S. Department of Education announced today that Orange County Public School's Dommerich, Sally Ride, and Zellwood elementary schools were among only 42 schools across the country to receive the 2024 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools designation. The honorees were named from a pool of candidates from 24 states.

Melissa Byrd, the District 7 OCPS Board member who represents Zellwood, was pleased with the school's national recognition.

“Principal Grimando and her staff have done an excellent job demonstrating what innovative wellness and sustainability education can look like at the elementary level," Byrd said. "They are a shining star in our district, and I could not be more proud!" 

The Dommerich Elementary School culture teaches behaviors that help promote a sustainable culture in students and the local community. The Garden/Eco Club offers lessons on wastedownload.jpg reduction, habitat, and energy conservation efforts that lead to school wide projects. Throughout the year, classes visit the school garden and outdoor spaces, which feature a blend of annual fruits and vegetables and plants for local pollinator species. Students at all grade levels participate in interactive lessons such as bird habitat building, water usage tracking, solar oven construction, and Mangrove ecosystems, all designed to instill a passion for conservation. The school uses energy-efficient equipment, LED lighting, classroom energy monitors, and low-flow water fixtures that integrate students’ lessons into the classrooms. Material reuse and conservation efforts are evident across the school: classrooms have recycle bins, display “upcycled” decorations, students replenish reusable water bottles at filling stations, diners participate in composting their cafeteria food waste, and families can donate clothing and shoes at a station in the parking lot.Picture2.png

At Sally Ride Elementary School, students lead on efforts indoors and out, including energy conservation, waste management, and a living schoolyard. The school features energy-efficient light fixtures and low-flow water fixtures. Students monitor the use of energy and water through a weekly audit. Students engage in labs about green energy, constructing sundials and solar cars, ovens, and dehydrators. They create newsletters, signage, and monitor progress of their sustainability programs. They participate in summer camps with environmental education themes. The grounds feature rainwater barrels, birdhouses, a fountain, a sundial, a bug hotel, a butterfly farm, a giant chess board, hydroponics gardens, herb beds, vegetable beds, flower beds, and a student-designed and -installed irrigation system. In the cafeteria, students use both a share table and the district’s pilot food waste composting program. Sally Ride students learn about healthy nutrition from their garden and, every Friday, may take home healthy food donated by the Blessings in a Backpack program.Picture1.png

Zellwood Elementary School, collaborates with other schools to advance sustainability initiatives is standard practice. Zellwood’s Environmental Committee meets monthly to plan sustainability-related activities. Teachers are encouraged to take professional training on the Everglades, bird counting, and waste management programs. Two campus beautification days, an Earth Day Expo, Literacy Night, and Family Fun Night incorporate environmental issues. Students educate each other and parents about hydroponic and soil gardening, the importance of energy and water reduction, and recycling. They also conduct energy and waste audits. The school grounds feature native plant and vegetable gardens, outdoor learning space, and fitness trails, with classrooms and several sustainability-themed clubs caring for the gardens. P.E. classes include yoga and mindfulness, and the school celebrates walk and bike to school day. Students learn about invasive species, habitat loss, endangered species, and water quality and engage in citizen science documenting birds.

The designation recognizes a school, district, or postsecondary institutions commitment to sustainable practices, such as innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure an effective, sustainable education. School designees will attend the ED-GRS 2024 Ceremony the week of July 8 in Washington, D.C.

Orange County, OCPS, Orange County Public Schools, Washington DC, US Department of Education, Green Ribbon Designation, Zellwood Elementary, What is a Green Ribbon Designation?


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