Districts & Schools

Welcome to the Districts & Schools Page where you can learn about the role of Districts and Schools, which districts and schools have joined, and what steps to take.

About Districts & Schools: Institutional Participation

Districts and Schools can earn the designation of a “GreenStep District” or a “GreenStep School” by forming a green team, developing and signing a resolution to participate and completing projects that earn Best Practice Actions (BPAs) which build toward recognition levels called “steps.” For charter and private schools which aren't part of public school districts, a similar governing body can play the district role in the GreenStep Schools program. 

GreenStep School District

This category represents the School District as a whole. For school districts that choose to participate, there would be a GreenStep District coordinator identified as the main contact person and person who coordinates the documentation of the participation of the school district. In order for a school district to participate, a GreenStep Schools Resolution must be signed (*See details below). As the district progresses in its green school actions and documents those in the online program, it is eligible for recognition through the program. Some actions may be taken at the district level such as on district buildings, or district policies that affect schools. For actions that are based at individual schools within the district, each school can each have their own account, and those school-based actions will contribute toward the actions of the district. Alternately, for districts who wish to, progress across schools can be documented centrally.

GreenStep School

In addition to district level participation, an individual school may participate in the program. For schools choosing to participate, there would be a GreenStep Schools coordinator identified as the main contact person for the school who coordinates the documentation of the participation of the school in coordination with the district contact. This could be the same person as a district contact. As the school progresses in its green school projects and actions and documents those in the online program, it is eligible for recognition through the program. Actions taken by the school district that affect the operation of the school, can also be counted by the school. 

In order for a school to participate, a Green School Resolution must be passed as part of Step 1. A Green School Resolution by a district with signatures from participating schools, documents the institution’s decision to participate in the program and expresses the commitment of the institution to document their existing green practices and work toward progressing to more green practices over time. 

Independent Participation Mode (Currently under development)

If a district or school has not yet decided to participate in the GreenStep Schools Program, individuals or teams of individuals within a school or district may still complete Projects and Best Practice Actions on their own in the online system. The program will make it clear whether a given best practice is an official action of a school or an individual or small group action, in order to recognize existing approval structures. Independent Participation Mode serves two purposes. First it can be a way for a district or school to build capacity as a stepping stone before committing to institutional participation. Individuals such as a teacher or facility manager may have already completed the work to earn a best practice action or choose to new best practice actions on their own. By demonstrating completion of these best practice actions, a school or district can better see the feasibility of participation, and start out with several accomplishments already documented. Best practices accomplished under independent participation mode can be carried into institutional participation mode.

The second purpose of Independent Participation Mode is for those individuals who want to advance school greening in a school or district context that is not at a point of wanting to commit to the program. These individuals and teams of individuals, acting in a grass roots way, can still make a difference in the lives of youth, the costs of running a school, and its environmental impacts. They can also connect through the program to others in their role across the state and grow professionally in a community of practice. This is true for students also, who can connect with others or other green clubs seeking to make a difference and learn skills for solving multifaceted problems and growing their citizenship and stewardship identity.

Who's Involved?

Map shows locations of interested contacts from Districts, Schools, and Resource Organizations.

Through November, 2022, one or more contacts from the following Districts or Schools have expressed interest:

Through November 2022, one or more contacts at 15 school districts and 36 schools throughout Minnesota have expressed interest in the Interest Form. 
Interest from Contacts at: MN School Districts:La Crescent-Hokah (ISD 300)Minneapolis Public Schools (ISD 1)Moorhead Area Public School (ISD 152) Pequot Lakes Public Schools (ISD 186)Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools (ISD 719)Roseville Area School District (ISD 623)Royalton School District (ISD 485)Saint Paul Public Schools (ISD 625)Shakopee Public Schools (ISD 720)Spring Lake Park Schools (ISD 16)Stillwater Area Public School District (ISD 834)Wayzata Public School District (ISD 284)West St. Paul-Mendota Hts.-Eagan (ISD 197)Wrenshall Public School District (ISD 100)Yellow Medicine East (ISD 2190)
MN Schools:Andover High SchoolBellaire Education CenterCarlton High SchoolCity of Lakes Waldorf SchoolDiscovery Woods MontessoriEisenhower Elementary Forest Lake Area High SchoolGarlough Environmental Magnet SchoolHarbor City International SchoolHeritage E-Stem Magnet SchoolHiawatha Collegiate High SchoolHidden Oaks Middle School Hilltop Primary School International Spanish Language Academy (ISLA) Jie Ming Mandarin Immersion Academy            (a St. Paul Public Immersion School) La Crescent-Hokah Secondary SchoolLittle Canada ElementaryLyndale Community School PTOMendota Elementary SchoolMoreland Arts and Health Sciences Magnet ElementaryNorthern Lights Community SchoolPike Lake ElementaryPine Bend ElementaryPrairie Seeds AcademyRockford Middle School-Center for Environmental StudiesSartell Middle SchoolScandia Elementary School Shakopee West Middle SchoolSaint Francis Xavier Elementary SchoolSt Paul Conservatory for Performing ArtistsSt. Stephens Catholic SchoolSomerset Elementary SchoolThe Blake School, Northrup CampusWestbrook-Walnut Grove SecondaryWilliam M. Kelley SchoolWrenshall High School

Overall Process Steps for Districts and Schools

What is the overall process for a District or School to participate in the MN GreenStep Schools Program?

The first step to participation is for one or more individuals from a school or district to express their interest by signing up on the Interest Form to begin the process of getting support in the program.

Process Summary for Districts and Schools

After signing up as interested, there are 10 main steps as follows in a recommended, but not required order. 

Keep reading after the summary for more detail on each step.

Achieve Step Level 1 Recognition

Joining the Program and Getting Started:

Learn and Grow

Advancing in the Program at your own pace toward Step Level 2-10 Recognition.

3. Document existing accomplishments (can be done initially or over time)

4. Set goals

5. Do it: plan and implement projects and best practices actions

6. Learn from it: evaluate and reflect on the process

7. Share the Project Stories:  Document the process, results and lessons learned to earn Step Level 2-10 Recognition

8. Celebrate recognition and results

9. Monitor and Maintain practices to sustain results

10. Cycle forward: continue the cycle of goal setting, acting, learning, sharing, and celebrating

Process Details

Joining the Program and Getting Started:

1. Create a Green Team

All it takes is for one interested person to gather with others to start a conversation about exploring participation in Minnesota GreenStep Schools. Learn about the program and use it and other resources to help the group identify the benefits it seeks in participation. Consider and express how the goals of the district or school could or would be supported by the program. In establishing an initial team, invite widely, considering who needs to be involved to address the breadth that the best practices represent. For example, include administration, facilities staff, teachers, food service, custodial staff, parents, students,  and members of the community. Creating a Green Team counts as a best practice (0.1) and is one of the two best practices required to achieve GreenStep  level 1 recognition in the program. 

2. Pass a GreenStep Schools Resolution (And Submit for GreenStep level 1 Recognition)

A GreenStep School Resolution by a district or a participation policy at a school documents the institution’s decision to participate and expresses the commitment of the institution to document their existing green school practices and work toward progressing to more green school practices over time. Passing a resolution is also a best practice (0.2) in itself and one of the the two best practices needed for GreenStep level 1 recognition. At the district level this would be an act of the school board. At the school level, it could be signing on to the district resolution at the time it is signed, or it could be a school policy that comes separately after a school board resolution. In any case, the strength of this support is enhanced to the extent a broad array of groups are represented in the document.  A signed copy of the resolution will be uploaded to the program website to publicly document the intent of the institution to participate. As of Pilot Version 1.0, to gain recognition in the program, a school board (or equivalent in charter or private schools) must pass a resolution to participate, and at least one school in the district must sign on to participate. Other schools can be added later.

Once a district with at least one school has created a green team and passed a school board resolution, they can submit a Project Story for GreenStep level 1 Recognition documenting the story and details of how they accomplished these foundational best practices. 

Advancing in the Program at your own pace:

3. Document existing accomplishments

Immediately upon signing up, districts and schools may start to document existing accomplishments of best practice actions in the program if applicable, or they can document those prior accomplishments over time. Many schools have already included some of the best practice actions in their operations. Documenting accomplishments already made or underway is important to show the range of practices and also helps the team start with some successes and inspire and educate others from their experience. If a school has accomplished many green school projects already, they can count that toward their best practices and recognition. Some districts or schools may decide to start on step three before proposing a board resolution. It can be helpful to gain support to identify ways a school or district may already be achieving several goals of the program.

4. Set goals

To set a goal for what to do next, teams review what they’ve already accomplished, look at the list of best practice actions suggested, consider what actions it would take to get to a recognition step (see recognition levels),  and consider what are the most feasible next steps that also align with the benefits they are seeking. Teams may also want to look at what assistance is available from the green school resource organizations. For example, if the county has an organics composting program already, that nearby schools have already adopted, this could remove some of the resource and learning barriers and make this action more appealing.

5. Do it: plan and implement projects and best practices actions

Planning and Implementing a best practice action can range from very simple actions to longer term commitments that involve more than one department and take time and meetings to change policies.  The program can be used to assist teams by pointing them to resources and contacts about a topic. The details of what it takes to plan and implement depend on the action and the particular district or school. Teams may find it helpful to look at other districts or school’s documentation of their actions, lessons learned, and resources used.  There is much flexibility in the program for how to meet many of the best practices, but if a district or school has an idea for an action to support a best practice that is not listed, there is a pathway for using the program to document and recognize a custom action. 

6. Learn from it: evaluate and reflect on the process

After successfully implementing an action, the program will ask the team to document its outcomes and reflect on the process. This is important to build capacity for greening within the school or district as well as to share the benefits achieved and lessons learned with others. For example, implementing a new recycling communications campaign is an action step, but this is more useful to the district or school and to the wider community if it is paired with an evaluation of whether it resulted in desired increase in recycling rates. Likewise, lessons learned, like who needed to be included in the process, or barriers and mistakes that had to be overcome are valuable to those looking to this action as a model and resource to take their own actions. Even failed or stalled attempts to implement an action, can be useful to share if constructive lessons learned are harvested from those efforts. 

7. Share the Project Stories:  Document the process, results, and lessons learned to earn Step Level 2-10 Recognition

The team can use program in different ways. They could decide to pursue a best practice, read the requirements, complete the action, and document it in the program once it is all complete.  Alternately a team could pursue a project with many features and document all the best practice actions it fulfills. In either case, there is a place to optionally list the team members, who may also have their own individual account in the system, or Resource Organizations that are involved in the project.  The requirements for project documentation not only demonstrate that the actions that were taken, but also are intended to be detailed enough to be a helpful model to other schools. Stories of the process and images showing people engaging with the action are encouraged to help build a sense of community and camaraderie around the greening effort. 

8. Celebrate recognition and results

Once a team feels they have completed an action, including reflecting on lessons learned, outcomes achieved, and sharing the story, they can submit the action for review in a Project Story Form. MN GreenStep Schools, is not intended as a rigorous third party certification program, but there will be some level of review to make sure basic documentation is provided and that it meets the intent of the actions associated with the project.  Once reviewed and confirmed, the team is encouraged to use this accomplishment in newsletters, and to celebrate the team’s effort.  

Larger scale recognition occurs when a team completes enough actions in enough categories to be eligible for a new “Step Level” of recognition. For these levels of accomplishment, the district or schools new level will be indicated on the website, and noted in an annual recognition ceremony. 

Upon completion of higher steps, the district or school may wish to submit an application documenting their green progress to the Green Ribbon Schools Program, administered by the Minnesota Department of Education which then forwards recommendations to the federal recognition program. Since MN GreenStep Schools best practices and actions are designed to include the content and breadth of Green Ribbon Schools, the bulk of the work to submit an application to the Green Ribbon recognition program will already be done.  

Likewise, other recognition programs like LEED for Schools will have overlapping categories in many cases. However, teams aiming ultimately at LEED recognition should consult the LEED requirements which may be more rigorous in levels to achieve and specific about what methods to use to demonstrate that achievement. While achieving MN GreenStep Schools recognition will not guarantee success in LEED, it is very likely that achieving credit for an action in LEED will fulfill the requirements of MN GreenStep Schools, with perhaps the exception of the sharing of the story and reflection on lessons learned. 

9. Monitor and Maintain practices to sustain results

Upon the completion of a set of actions or a recognition “Step Level” in the program, teams should monitor and maintain practices to sustain results. First, to maintain and improve upon the actions already taken, teams should consult the results monitoring plan from each best practice and follow through on those maintenance actions as needed. For example, if a school gets a grant to plant a raingarden to help manage stormwater and serve as a resource for outdoor curriculum, is there a plan to maintain the planting? Is there a plan to check in on the degree to which the outdoor space is used and whether it is effective? While an action is considered complete at a point in time, in reality, many school greening actions are not one time efforts. This plan for ongoing monitoring and maintenance should be incorporated into the initial action documentation and can be simple, perhaps an annual review and some conversations, or a volunteer crew. On the other hand, some actions, like the addition of a bike rack, might need little to no maintenance, though it would be valuable to monitor biking outcomes over time, to understand if the action worked or if it needs to be supplemented with other actions to achieve the desired increase in biking rates.  

Monitoring outcomes can also be used for communicating ongoing benefits. This can help a team keep interest and momentum if there is a pause between bigger projects.  And it can sustain a sense of school community pride in green accomplishments while educating about the repeating returns of initial investments of time or money. For example, if a water bottle refilling station was installed to inspire drinking healthy beverages and reduce plastic bottle waste, a green communications team could put in monthly newsletters the tally of how many bottles were saved that month. Or monthly dollars saved from a lighting retrofit could be part of a news update. 

Annual Review: To maintain a current status of recognition in the program, teams will fill out an annual review. This annual review is meant to be as simple as possible, just to confirm that best practices claimed are still in place. Districts and Schools will have an older date stamp on their status in the program if they don't complete the annual review, but no prior credit for status in prior years would be revoked. The intent is to encourage and support schools, while also maintaining a consistency across schools and encouraging active participation in the program.

10. Cycle forward: continue the cycle of goal setting, acting, learning, sharing, and celebrating

After completing, and celebrating successes, regather the team to revisit green school goals, and select new best practice actions to pursue, repeat the process. 

Take the Next Step

Are you ready to express your interest and get support in next steps? 

Are you ready to start the process of joining the program to achieve GreenStep level 1 Recognition?

Do you want to learn about submitting your projects and access the Project Story Form?

Are you ready to advance to GreenStep 2 or higher?

Want to talk with someone or have questions?
> Connect by email to Jonee Kulman Brigham at kulma002@umn.edu

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