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.”

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 Green School 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 Joined?

As Districts and Schools join, they will be listed here, and once enough have joined, they will be shown in an interactive map, linked to their District or School Profile page

Overall Process Steps

What are the Overall Steps for a District or School to Take?

What are the steps to for a district or school to take? There are 10 main recommended steps as follows.

  1. Gather a team
  2. Sign up
  3. Document existing accomplishments
  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 story: document the process, results and lessons learned
  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

1. Gather a 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, - etc. See the prior section on the range of roles of participants to consider the potential for expanding the team beyond school staff.

2. Sign up

Signing a district or school up involves a formal resolution. At the district level this might be an act of the school board, or superintendent. At the school level, it could be a policy that comes from the administration. 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 mentioned earlier, A Green School Resolution by a district or 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. If a school is in a district that has passes a resolution and is participating in GreenStep Schools, it can reference that resolution in place of its own document. An example resolution will be added to the appendix.

The district or school will appear in the program as a step one district or school, once they have

  • Uploaded the signed resolution
  • Identified a GreenStep Schools contact
  • Entered basic reference information such as address, size of district/school, students served, etc.
  • Uploaded one or more image files representing the district or school.

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. 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.

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 story: document the process, results and lessons learned

The team can use program in different ways. They could read the requirements, complete the action, and document it in the program once it is all complete. [Proposed for Future: Or a team can choose to start work on a project and actions in the program and mark its status as “in progress.” This allows a team to share the story of progress on the action with the planning group and the wider public that might be interested.] 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 action was taken, but also are intended to be detailed enough to be a helpful model to others. To be included, are 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. 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 action. Once reviewed, and the action is listed as completed, and the team can choose 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.” 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 nature 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” 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.

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 interested in the program, but not ready to join yet?

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

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

Are you ready to advance to Step 2 or higher?


About the Pilot Version

The pilot version is building basic capabilities. Not all features are active. As the website is developed, anticipate greater functionality. If you have any comments on the website, please contact mngreenstepsch@umn.edu, including the name of the page in the email subject line, and your comment or question in the email body. See the Online Versions Page to track updates.