When the U.S. Department of Education begins it 2017 Green Strides Tour on September 19, Cobb County’s Ford Elementary will become a highlight on the itinerary.
Ford Elementary School became a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School in 2013 thanks to its efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs, improve health and wellness, and teach environmental education.
“The annual Green Strides Tour is an opportunity to convene national, state, and local policymakers, legislators, partners, and school communities to listen and learn from our honorees, as well as celebrate their achievements,” noted Andrea Suarez Falken, Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. “These awardees are doing fantastic work that should be shared.”
Ford Elementary School sits on more than 40 acres and uses more than 60 percent of the grounds for environmental education and habitat protection. Built in 1991, Ford Elementary was designed to accommodate 900 students, but within three years needed to educate more than 1700 students. Within its first year, Ford became a National Wildlife Federation Certified Schoolyard Habitat. During the summer of 2013, Ford Elementary underwent its first extensive renovation, which included a new HVAC system with occupancy sensors in each room to more effectively regulate energy usage.
Ford’s lunchroom program includes incentive and recognition activities to educate and promote the importance of making healthy food choices. Educators use outdoor garden classrooms to show students, staff, and community how to grow and harvest crops, as well as demonstrate the life cycle and nutritional value of food.
At least 50 percent of students’ annual physical education at Ford takes place outdoors through funds awarded by the national Fuel Up to Play 60 nutrition and physical fitness program, which includes several after-school physical fitness activities that help support continuous movement. The Ford staff and volunteers wrote the curriculum and best practices, including assisting the The Captain Planet Foundation in co-writing the Learning Garden Curriculum.
Ford teachers also created an integrated social studies, Language Arts, and math curriculum to help develop Victory Gardens and Three Sisters Gardens as an extension of 3rd and 5th grade Georgia Performance Standards.
To celebrate the integration of environmental education and fine arts, Ford holds an annual Evening in the Garden event to highlight the achievements of students. The community is invited to enjoy the night of performing arts, art shows, poetry reading, and creative writing.
Each year, Ford hosts a school-wide Family STEM Night and invites the school’s Partners in Education and representatives from the U. S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Centers for Disease Control, Cobb Energy, and the Marietta/Cobb Water Authority to set up hands-on learning stations to share environmental concepts with their students.
Since receiving the National Green Ribbon award in 2013, the Ford community has continued a quest for excellence, and in 2015, received both Georgia STEM and AdvanED certifications.