The Maryland State Department of Education is conducting a search for the next set of environmentally friendly schools to compete for the title of 2013 National Green Ribbon Schools, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education that recognizes schools' efforts to have students become environmentally literate and conscious.

The state began participating in the federal program last year, and was one of only six states to have all four nominees receive a Green Ribbon, according to the department, who also noted that in 2011 Maryland led the nation in becoming the first state to include environmental literacy as a graduation requirement.

Maryland also boasts 454 “green schools,” and 34 “green centers,” designations bestowed by the Green Schools and Centers Initiative sponsored by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, state officials said.

According to MSDE, the National Green Ribbon program recognizes schools that:

•    Implement energy conservation measures that pave the way for reduced environmental impact, cost savings, and job creation;

•    Undertake environmental and behavioral changes in schools that ensure the health, wellness, and productivity of students, teachers, and staff, and;

•    Promote environmental education that supports students’ strong civic skills, environmental stewardship, and workforce preparedness.

MSDE will submit four nominees, including one private school, and one public school with a 40 percent economically disadvantaged population. Schools have until Dec. 21, 2012 to submit an application to MSDE for consideration. The application can be found here.

The winners will be announced on Earth Day, April 22, 2013.

erica.green@baltsun.com

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