Patrick Henry Downtown Academy Recognized as 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School

By Porscha Hayes, Show-Me Green Schools AmeriCorps VISTA

Photo: Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis Public Schools interim superintendent Dr. Nicole Williams join Patrick Henry Downtown Academy students and staff for a celebration of their award on May 3, 2023.

Hear ye! Hear ye! Congratulations are in order for Patrick Henry Downtown Academy and their awe-inspiring recognition as a 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) honoree. You may be wondering, “What is this recognition all about?” And soon you will learn the details of their achievements in all three ED-GRS pillars: environmental impact, health and wellness, and eco-literacy.

Working with many community partners, Patrick Henry paved their road to success with green mortar. Recently, Patrick Henry has made necessary building updates to reduce their environmental impact and costs. The historic school building, having been updated with 100% LED lighting, occupancy sensors, and a brand new HVAC system, boasts lowered emission of greenhouse gas, utility consumption and utility cost. Students and staff conserve water with their use of reusable water bottles and filling stations, daily water consumption tracking, and updated toilets in the restrooms.

To improve health and wellness, students walk to field trips within three miles of the school and have access to AIM zones in the classrooms where they can take a few minutes to focus on their mental or physical health. These AIM zones aid students in getting their recommended seventy minutes of movement throughout the school day. Patrick Henry students also have access to fresh produce from their cafeteria and their garden during and after school hours.

This garden is a key contributor to effective environmental and sustainable education. Students gain a deeper appreciation for the source of their food with numerous opportunities to get their hands dirty and cultivate garden beds. Students are involved in every step of the process, from harvesting to cooking their produce as a class.

On May 3, the Missouri Environmental Education Association and Missouri Gateway Green Building Council in conjunction with the City of St. Louis celebrated Patrick Henry students in their famous zero-waste garden space. St. Louis Public Schools interim superintendent Dr. Nicole Williams participated in a very spirited call-and-response with Patrick Henry students and Mayor Tishaura Jones joined them for the garden festivities, making flower bouquets and observing the smoothie bikes. Students enjoyed a variety of eco-friendly activities such as smoothie biking, flower-printing their own bookmarks, and nature scavenger hunts. Patrick Henry principal Dr. Deborah Rogers awarded a gold star trophy to each student as a symbol of what happens when changes in personal habits and attitudes toward health and sustainable living turn into environmental wealth for the community at large.