Applied Learning: STEM + Computer Science Programs

U.S. DOE Green Ribbon–Green Strides Best Practices Tour – About BCPS and Featured Schools

About BCPS Schedule Panel Attendees

Green Ribbon-Green Strides Best Practices Tour
September 5, 2014
Healthy Schools, High-Achieving Students

BCPS logoBroward County Public Schools, Florida

Preserving the Planet for Posterity through Partnership and Teamwork

Broward County Public Schools (BCPS), the fifth largest school district in the country, with more than 260,000 students and staff, won the Florida Green Schools District Award for the second time in four years.  BCPS is driven by its commitment to environmental stewardship, including the Environmental Stewardship Policy 7014, which spans the entire hierarchy of the district.
BCPS has environmental initiatives at the district level that encompass different departments, such as transportation, facilities and construction, environmental conservation and utility management, information and technology, food and nutrition services, STEM and instructional resources.  Across 307 schools, the district has edible gardens, wildlife habitats, energy initiatives, classroom recycling, and integrated environmental curriculum.
The Energy Tools for Schools plan requires a team-oriented process with direct involvement of staff and students.  Techniques from the program have contributed to a reduction of energy savings each.  BCPS reduced energy costs of more than $34 million, and recently saved more than $11 million in energy costs.  From 2010 to 2013, BCPS has saved 219,649,498 gallons of water through outdoor irrigation evaluations.  During 2013 school year, BCPS saved $323,132 in reduced potable water and energy.  The Broward recycling program collected 1,000 tons of recyclables that were diverted from landfills, with a cost savings of $1,200,000.  This success is a true testament to teamwork throughout the county.
Environmental initiatives at BCPS schools include 54 butterfly gardens and 38 edible schoolyards.  These numbers are increasing, with an additional 220 teachers participating in professional development from Florida Agriculture in the Classroom and an additional 70 teachers participating in professional development in NatureScape and NWF Habitat Stewardship.
Environmental stewardship continues to grow in the district with new initiatives such as Engineering Projects in Community Service, Project Learning Tree, Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE), Learning in Florida Environments, community gardens, and the continuation of the P3 Eco-Challenge.  BCPS was awarded an $11.9 million federal grant to create and expand six elementary magnet schools that specialize in STEM districtwide environmental initiatives.
Schools across the district use Schooldude, a conservation management tool that tracks facility water use, energy usage, and conservation; and EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools.  The district is the first in the country to have achieved NWF District-wide Certification.  There also are 149 NWF certified school yard wildlife habitats in BCPS.  Other partnerships include the Great American Cleanup (21 schools, 3,845 participants, and 1,982 pounds of litter collected spring 2013);  Earth Day and Green Apple Day of Service across the county; the Keep America Beautiful Recycle Bowl national recycling competition; Project Perch, which provides webcam interaction with burrowing owls; and an indoor and outdoor water audit program, in partnership with Broward County Natural Resources Planning and Management Division and the Environmental Education Council of Broward County.
There are 115 active Alliance for a Healthier Generation schools among BCPS.  Each school has a Healthier Generation Team that consists of a variety of staff members from the faculty, administration, clerical staff, and the cafeteria.  Many of the school teams meet bi-weekly to implement and promote health and wellness activities.  The Healthy Schools Program encourages schools to follow the Six Steps to a Healthier School and implement seven different wellness categories to create a framework that sets specifications to make each school healthier.
There are 128 Fuel Up to Play 60 schools in Broward County, each of which supports the Healthier Generation program with healthy eating and physical education.  Fuel Up to Play 60 has a strong emphasis on eating breakfast and exercise.  BCPS won the 2013 US Department of Agriculture Best Practice Award in the category of “Increasing Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables.”
Students, 64 percent of whom are eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch, have applied STEM skills and knowledge to create habitats for local flora and fauna by designing and building garden space and nest boxes for various migrating and native birds.  Recent units published by the STEM and Instructional Resources Department for kindergarten through fifth-grade students have kindergartners designing a sustainable edible garden; first-graders building a butterfly garden optimized for diversity; third-graders using their habitat to design solutions for survival in the wild; and fourth-graders becoming stakeholders investigating and defending their position regarding the hypothetical building of a train through the Everglades.  Additionally, all fourth-graders learn about the historical issues involved in Florida’s treatment of the environment with a unit using the story of the bird feather industry and its decimation of the native bird population.  Many BCPS schools bring green architecture and engineering into many of the environmental initiatives.  Over 60 percent of BCPS schools use their outdoor learning space to teach STEM content, knowledge, and thinking skills.  There are over 50 schools that have transformed their schoolyard into outdoor learning environments.
Through environmental partnerships, BCPS programs have proven successful in encouraging schools to implement their own Go Green plans to reduce environmental impact and cost, all while providing effective sustainability education.
A compilation of our green initiatives within the school are available at and within our facilities and within the Green Ribbon application available at

Featured Broward County Public Schools

Silver Ridge Elementary
This school has made remarkable progress in creating a sustainable environment that supports children learning outdoors and making the world a better place. Classes participate in garden projects year-­round, practice being good stewards of the Earth and citizens of the community. The school participates in a special historical and environmental event every year called Tanakeekee. At this event, they travel as a school onto the neighboring Pine Island Ridge to reenact historical activities that involved the ridge or nearby areas. This adventure follows weeks of study from being live scarecrows, growing citrus, planning and studying endangered plants and trees, to learning about the Everglades. Throughout all grades, children are taught that this preservation area needs their commitment of care. They are taught to “leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but memories”.

Driftwood Middle
A 2013 Green Ribbon School, Driftwood Middle Health and Wellness Magnet School (DMS) has earned many accolades for its environmental initiatives for good reasons.  In 2008, DMS started  the energy reduction project called “How Low Can We Go Challenge?”  The intention of this project was to raise awareness and to turn off anything that wasn’t being used, which has resulted in a 23% reduction in greenhouse gas emission. The district adopted the How Low Can You Go Challenge and it was also successful in its pilot year.  The school campus has been landscaped to take advantage of native plants and its water usage has dropped by 38%.  They have a Dumpster Diving Team that picks up paper goods, but the entire school participates in their recycling programs including their Special Needs class. These students pick up all the bottles/cans to be recycled. 45% of the campus‐generated waste is recycled.  Driftwood won the district’s Recycling Rocks Video contest and in 2011 the DMS drama club won the Broward County Award winning Public Broadcasting Announcement Video Contest “Recycle, Reduce, and Reuse” PBA video.  Driftwood was the first school to do artificial burrows for owls funded by Project Perch, Audubon and National Fly-Aways Coalition.  They have butterfly gardens and hammock areas used for environmental education and native species habitats. Driftwood is certified by Broward County Naturescape, National Wildlife, and the North American Butterfly Association.  The Environmental Curriculum is integrated throughout science, social studies, and language arts.  40% of our campus is devoted to ecologically beneficial uses.  Driftwood Middle School won the Florida Green Ribbon School Award in 2012-2013, Tools for School Energy Reduction Initiative, P3 Eco-Challenge School Award and the Green Schools Outstanding Energy Project in 2014.
 Health and fitness plays a large part of student and faculty experience at Driftwood.  The school is committed to having the children engaged in activity to help brain function and development before, during and after school. There are intramural sports before school and running activities such as a Turkey Trot and Jingle Bell Jog for the holidays. Many staff members meet daily to participate in various different wellness activities such as nutrition demonstrations from Whole Foods, Zumba Classes, fitness classes, team sports and team building activities throughout the school year.  There is also a new Healthier Generation Team that consists of a variety of staff members from Physical Education, health, an administrator, cafeteria manager, as well as a clerical representative.  Driftwood is a Polar Showcase School because of our use of the technology in the classroom. We use Pedometers, the Tri-Fit computerized and HeartMath Technology as assessment tools for our students and staff.  DMS also has a Farm-to-School program.  USDA’s Healthier US School Challenge has resulted in 80% increase in use of fresh fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria in the last year.  We now have a healthy vending machine for teachers and students in the cafeteria.

South Plantation High School
As an environmental science magnet program, the school brings the message of conservation to the community and local schools through its Everglades Restoration Ambassadors. Students in the school’s recycling program create recycled paper, plant seeds, and promote waste reduction. South Plantation has also been acknowledged by the President’s Council for Environmental Quality for its energy reduction through the school’s use of a solar array. As many of you know, this school is widely known for its solar car that has won many awards.

New River Marine Science Magnet Middle School
Students at New River will show how they successfully partner with the community to help protect the marine environment. They have helped restore the beach environment by planting over 10,000 sea oats along the Broward County coastline by a grant obtained through Wheelabrator Technologies. Wheelabrator sponsors a yearly symposium to empower students to become better environmental stewards.
This year New River students implemented Project LIFE at Birch State Park.

Project LIFE @ Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
The Learning in Florida’s Environment or LIFE program is a statewide program of the Florida Department of Environmental Projection that brings middle school students out to public conservation lands for science-based environmental education. The goals of the LIFE program include increasing student achievement in science, strengthening teacher capacity for inquiry-based instruction, and preparing students for further studies and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
The LIFE program site in Broward County is a partnership between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, park volunteers, the Broward County Public School District and the Friends of Birch State Park. The program targets sixth and seventh grade students from New River Middle School who participate in three separate field experiences during the school year. Each field experience is aligned to the middle school curriculum and integrates all subjects. Special emphasis is placed on water quality monitoring using the World Water Monitoring Challenge and sea turtle nesting habitat. The project is supported by Friends of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc..
For more information on the Green Ribbon-Green Strides Best Practices Tour, please contact Dr. Lisa Milenkovic, Science Supervisor, at 754-321-2119 or

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