Green Apple Day of Service 2016: Highlights video and slideshow

Published on: 
Friday, December 9, 2016
Emma Arnold

In the weeks since this year’s Green Apple Day of Service, the global community has continued to impress us with photos, videos and stories of their amazing events. We heard from so many of you through Twitter, Facebook, email and our project captain survey, and it was all too good not to share.

Here at the Center for Green Schools, we put together a short video and photo slide deck highlighting the success of this year’s Green Apple Day of Service. We hope that you will take this video and photos to your community. Show a few slides at your organization’s holiday party, share the video with your school or district’s leadership or even make something of your own. Your hard work deserves to be celebrated!

Watch our 2016 Green Apple Day of Service celebration video:

Check out photos and social media highlights in our 2016 highlights slideshow.

Even though we are wrapping up this year’s Day of Service, we know your tremendous work continues year-round. Keep sharing your stories with us through FacebookTwitterInstagram or via email; we love to hear what you are up to.

Have you not yet received your participation certificate? Tell us a little bit about your event and we will send one your way!

Green Apple Day of Service 2016 a global success

Published on: 
Friday, October 21, 2016
Emma Arnold

For the past five years, we at the Center For Green Schools™ at USGBC® have looked forward to September as the month when parents, students, teachers and volunteers inspire us with stories and celebrations of the incredible work they do to foster healthy and safe learning environments that sustain our world.

This year’s event was better than ever. 2016’s Green Apple Day of Service was a tremendous success, with volunteers mobilizing across the globe. Here in the U.S., projects included a sensory garden installation and LED lighting retrofit to support special-needs students in Miami and a schoolyard cleanup in Hartford that brought companies and communities together. And we’ve heard about impactful events taking place around the world, from Bogota to Bangalore, Croatia to Saudi Arabia.

Here at the Center For Green Schools headquarters in Washington, D.C., we participated in a few projects around town. On Wednesday, Sept. 21, we lent a hand at Joyful Food Market at Drew Elementary in Northeast D.C. Run by Martha’s Table, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide access to education, healthy food and family support, the Joyful Food Market program offers no-cost, fresh and healthy produce for students and their families at pop-up grocery markets in schools. Later in the week, we went over to Seaton Elementary to help clean up the school grounds and spruce up the gardens. We also taught three Learning Lab lessons to more than 100 students about the value of freshwater and the “Five Rs". We even snuck in a water-themed dance party!

In addition, Learning Lab hosted live online lessons with college sustainability champions and a celebrity chef. Teachers were invited to attend virtual sessions presented by sustainability leaders via Learning Lab Live, our partnership with Nepris. Classrooms across the country received advice from a professional chef about healthy cafeteria choices, and college students recommended strategies for implementing green projects on school campuses.

So that’s what we are up to! Now how about you? Tell us how your event went. After we hear back from you, we will send along a Project Captain certificate of thanks and access to one free registration for the online Green Classroom Professional Certificate course. Of course, we always love hearing (and seeing) more. Share your stories, photos and videos on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or email them to us.

The Tower Companies enhances outdoor classroom for Green Apple Day of Service

Published on: 
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Giuliana Kunkel

Nestled between Sligo Creek Elementary School and Silver Spring International Middle School in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a shared outdoor classroom courtyard that encourages teachers and students to move out of a traditional indoor classroom setting and take a hands-on approach to their studies.

It has become a learning laboratory where teachers turn discussions about cooperation and responsibility into lessons and where students observe the natural environment through wildlife habitat, weather observation, native plantings and harvesting their own food. After visiting the school’s shared campus, this was the space where The Tower Companies knew they could have the most impact for their company-wide volunteering event for Green Apple Day of Service.

The team met with the principals and staff of both schools and learned that the outdoor classroom is underutilized by students, partly because teachers were not sure how to use the space and didn’t have the resources. So Tower’s team of sustainability professionals, engineers, contractors and designers came together to brainstorm ways to enhance the natural classroom space for the students and staff. The team’s goal was to help foster an environment that aided in learning and connection, given that the mission of the outdoor classroom movement nicely aligns with Tower’s vision to develop buildings and spaces that inspire and create positive social change. 

“Since my father started the family business almost 70 years ago, we have enjoyed engaging in and contributing to the local community through employee volunteerism and philanthropy,” said Jeffrey Abramson, partner at The Tower Companies. “To align with this commitment, we are proud to offer paid time off to employees interested in giving back to the community, and this year, I’m excited to see our entire Tower Team volunteering together to create an even bigger impact for our local schools.”

Tower has been participating in Green Apple Day of Service since the event's inception five years ago, by partnering with local schools that are located in the same or nearby districts where they own and manage residential properties. This year was the biggest effort from the team, with 100 percent participation from Tower employees and significant contributions from seven industry partners to donate an astounding 400-plus on-site volunteer hours.

The team also worked to build a new shed and bench, construct two new vegetable gardens, upgrade an 800-square-foot rain garden and conservative landscaping, stain and repair 20 benches and tables, install two welcome signs and make new planters with herbs.

This year, Tower was fortunate to have Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker join in the fun and thank the entire Tower staff and partners for their contributions. Hucker stressed the importance of creating an engaged learning environment for the future of the children in the Montgomery County. 

The Tower Companies’ 2016 projects

  • Welcome signs: Custom-designed welcome signs to help personalize the entrances to the outdoor classroom and encourage more classes to use the space.
  • Edible gardens: Two new raised edible garden beds that hold fall vegetables and multiple new herb garden planters to build upon a curriculum of teaching how to grow one’s own food.
  • Conservation landscape: Upkeep of the 800-square-foot conservation landscape, which included weeding, mulching, planting and edging. This garden is used to prevent stormwater runoff from entering the nearby Sligo Creek and is home to native perennials that host pollinators for students to study. 
  • Benches:  In 2015, Tower planted 30 large native plants to beautify the new stage area in the outdoor classroom and also built 20 benches that convert into tablesso that teachers can create lessons to teach students while in the outdoor classroom. The same benches were stained and repaired this year to preserve them during the changing seasons, so they can be used for years to come.
  • Front entrance beautification: A new shed to hold garden tools and materials for the volunteer parents who maintain the space and to keep the courtyard entrances clean and safe for students and teachers. Four new herb gardens were also made out of recycled wine barrels and placed at the entrances with signage. 

Learn more about Green Apple Day of Service

Green your schoolyard for Green Apple Day of Service and all year long

Published on: 
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Sharon Danks

How can we transform school grounds into rich, outdoor environments for all children? There are many things schools can do on any school ground to improve and enrich students’ daily experiences outdoors and to teach them to be stewards of their local environment.

This coming Saturday, Sept. 24, is the fifth annual celebration of Green Apple Day of Service. On this special day, school across the country—and around the world—will gather their communities to improve their school sites and children’s well-being by creating healthier, safer and more productive learning environments. This year, we encourage school communities to put their energy toward improving their school grounds by holding a schoolyard workday in collaboration with parents, teachers and students.

Making schoolyards a place to explore

A movement to make school grounds greener and connect students to nature is gaining momentum, interweaving the ideas of urban sustainability and ecological design with education, health and community engagement. Green schoolyards bring nature back to cities and suburbs by transforming barren asphalt and ordinary grass into vibrant environments for learning and play, set within rich, local ecosystems that nurture wildlife and the natural processes that underlie and sustain our urban areas. Green schoolyards foster students’ social, physical and intellectual growth by providing settings for collaboration, exploration and wonder.

Tools to get started

Two nonprofit organizations, Green Schoolyards America and the International School Grounds Alliance, partnered this year to create a set of free online resources to help schools get started in enhancing their grounds for outdoor learning, play and ecology. The three publications in this set include a total of 147 outdoor activities for youth ages 3–18, written by 123 collaborating organizations in the United States and 16 other countries.

The guides were written by authors from different geographic regions, but all of the activities are intended for use by all schools. Please see the links below for free digital copies of this school ground Activity Guide set and a combined Table of Contents that connects all three publications. We hope these ideas inspire you to engage in outdoor activities at your own school, wherever you live.

Setting an example in environmental stewardship

Manor Elementary School in Fairfax, California, has been teaching children to take care of their local environment for many years and has applied some ideas from the Activity Guides. Teacher Laura Dax Honda often leads school ground stewardship efforts with collaboration from her colleagues. The school has a Green Team that contributes to the school’s composting and recycling efforts, helps clean up trash on the grounds and conducts energy audits of their school building.

In addition, they set up a 3,000-gallon cistern to capture rainwater for use in their pollinator garden, reducing their need for municipal water in the dry California climate. The school’s beautiful pollinator garden is also an outdoor science laboratory used for wildlife observation, including the study of birds, bees and butterflies. These projects not only teach the idea of stewardship to the students at Manor Elementary, they help the school reduce its impact on the local environment.

Children from Manor School water the school garden. Photo credit: Laura Dax Honda.

Download your own copy of the school ground Activity Guide set to get started with hands-on projects at your local school during Green Apple Day of Service and throughout the year:

Feature image: Students reuse one-gallon jugs, brought from home, as watering cans to distribute water captured from the schoolyard cistern. Photo credit: Laura Dax Honda.

What Green Apple Day of Service means to me: Jennifer Seydel

Published on: 
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Jennifer Seydel

Every movement needs a moment…or two…or three…or many, all across the planet! The Green Apple Day of Service is one of those moments for the green, healthy, sustainable schools movement. I am continually amazed at the capacity for the Center for Green Schools™ at USGBC® to mobilize their volunteers all across the planet to transform classrooms, schools and schoolyards. The growing number of projects completed each year is a reflection of the growing desire to co-create a sustainable future.

One out of every six people—that’s close to 60 million—work, learn and play in our school buildings every year. Unfortunately, many of our schools still operate the way public education was designed in the mid-nineteenth century: preparing students for an industrial society that no longer exists. On Green Apple Day of Service, communities have the chance to create a new vision of what they want their children to learn, where they want their children to learn and how they want their children to learn. 

The diversity of Green Apple projects reflects these hopes and dreams: creating gardens that help children understand how to nurture their bodies, doing cleanup and ecological restoration projects that honor the integral connection between human health and ecological health, replacing old incandescent lights with more energy-efficient LED lights, tearing up asphalt playgrounds and replacing them with outdoor classrooms and natural play areas and transforming classrooms with desks in rows to beautiful learning environments with sustainably forested furniture. All of these projects reflect what we in the green schools movement believe—that each of the 60 million people who spend their days in our public schools deserve to work and learn in a healthy, sustainable place.  

Last year, my husband and I helped build a country sink for the Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Greenhouse at Spring Harbor Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as some garden beds at Brashear High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For us, because we know that transforming every K–12 school does not happen in just one day, Green Apple Day of Service is a year-round event.

Join the fun. Check out and find a school to transform. Make a commitment for this one day…and then decide how you can support their efforts to become a green, healthy and sustainable learning environment year-round! 

Register a project