Rio School District to receive 2024 Green Ribbon Schools recognition

Rio School District to receive 2024 Green Ribbon Schools recognition

Oxnard California – April 26th, 2024 – The Rio School District has been selected as a 2024 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Awardee. In addition, Rio has earned the 2024 California Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Honoree, Green Achiever designation, the state’s highest recognition for this award. These prestigious awards follow Rio’s 2023 recognition as a California Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Honoree, Silver. 

The Green Ribbon Schools Awards Program celebrates the school district’s excellence in resource efficiency, health and wellness, and environmental and sustainability education. Districts applying for Green Ribbon distinction must demonstrate progress towards goals in three pillars:

  • Pillar 1: Reduce environmental impact and costs
  • Pillar 2: Improve health and wellness of schools, students and staff
  • Pillar 3: Provide effective environmental education, which teaches many disciplines, and is especially good at effectively incorporating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), civic skills, and green career pathways

Rio Schools Executive Director of Education and Innovation, Veronica Raushchenberger, points out that the award reflects a genuine team effort across the district. The application’s lead author and district Science TOSA, Annie Ransom concurs, “Without contributions from all facets of our district – maintenance, teachers, students, site administrators, and support staff we would not have been successful in our application.” Green Ribbon recognition makes visible a core piece of Rio’s identity and the district’s commitment to the “larger U.S. Department of Education (ED) effort to identify and communicate practices that result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness; and reinforces federal efforts to increase energy independence and economic security” (CA Department of Education).

Rio’s commitment to and responsibility for place is evident in its name – Rio, the river, and superintendent Dr. John Puglisi has helped unify the district’s vision by posing the question, “How can we help the river find its way in the next 100 years?” The policies, programs, and classroom practices highlighted in their Green Ribbon application are all attempts to answer this guiding question.

Rio boasts, for example, a farm to home program now in its tenth year of providing locally sourced fruit and vegetables for cafeteria salad bars. Partnerships like those with FoodCorps, a nationally recognized program providing hands-on gardening and food education, support learners and teachers at all nine district sites with events like Family Cook Nights and outdoor learning experiences. A newly acquired, ten-acre farm –The Rio School District’s Regenerative Organic Agricultural Education Center will serve as a model school district-operated regenerative, organic farm producing nutritious fruits and vegetables for school cafeterias, and create educational opportunities for our students to develop essential knowledge, skills, and abilities to build a healthy and resilient environment, food system, and community.

For Rio’s garden and nutrition educator and application co-author Stephanie Segovia, The Farm is a place for the community to gather and learn from one another. Further, it offers up a model for how to live connected to and in harmony with the land. “I see The Farm as a way to honor those who have stewarded the land before us. At The Farm we are able to incorporate standards that students are working on in the classroom and give them a new and exciting perspective,” says Segovia.

Another highlight of Rio’s application is the district’s robust offering of field trips, two per grade level during the 2023-2024 school year. From Rio’s Field Trip web page: “The Rio School District understands that outdoor experiences help students increase their understanding of their natural and human communities, cultivating a sense of place. Through connection to place, students develop stronger environmental attitudes and civic behaviors. In Rio, we understand the value and importance of providing field experiences to all students in the district and have committed to enhancing our educational programs with outdoor learning opportunities.” In a letter highlighting her trip to Harmon Canyon, a Rio fourth grader recounts her learning from the day in some detail. She concludes her thank you by writing, “I learned so many things at this field trip, and I hope future fourth graders are able to experience the same things I did. I would love to go back to Harmon Canyon.”

Clear throughout Rio’s Green Ribbon Application is a profile of a learner as someone more than an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge. Rio students are active creators, advocates shepherding the river along its way with compassion and empathy. Students at Rio Real, for example, presented to the school board and helped eliminate straws and plastic-wrapped utensils in all school cafeterias. This grass-routes advocacy has evolved to include eliminating Styrofoam trays, composting food waste, and utilizing local food through farm-to-school programs. 

Rio’s Green Ribbon designation is affirmation of a philosophy of learning that transcends brick and mortar classrooms, that recognizes each of us is part of something bigger and as such, we all have a responsibility to each other and to this place.

A team of representatives from Rio will travel to Washington DC in July for the official awards ceremony.

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