Is your Indianapolis school looking to reduce its carbon footprint, create a sustainability curriculum or implement a composting program? If so, fall applications for the Indianapolis Thriving Schools Challenge are now being accepted through Nov. 20.
The Indianapolis Thriving Schools Challenge is a green schools certification program for Marion County K-12 schools.
“The ITSC is a way to celebrate schools that are doing the work to move us towards a more sustainable world. This program creates support and helps solidify schools as the community hubs they are,” explained Tatjana Rebelle, who serves as the program’s resilient schools coordinator.
Schools can reach certification either by demonstrating their existing initiatives or starting new projects.
“For ITSC, our certification is really about the number of projects and how many students are affected, rather than any internal metrics on amounts of CO2 savings,” she explained.
Rebelle encouraged schools to participate in the challenge, noting the importance of sustainability education.
“Education in sustainability engages children and young adults around important topics like environmental stewardship, social responsibility, waste reduction, circular economy, systems thinking, place- and problem-based learning and conservation of resources,” she said.
The certified schools also become a part of a network of schools and community partners. Schools with years of experience become a fountain of information on best practices.
“This network ensures that the projects are sustainable themselves and not just focused on sustainability. Having a spectrum of community organizations helps ensure all schools have a broad range of support moving forward, including having access to speakers that can talk to students on various topics,” she explained.
The program also creates a network of people with the same goals in mind.
“So often, it is a couple of teachers and a few students working on projects,” Rebelle said. “When they become a part of the Indianapolis Thriving Schools program, they join a network of schools across Marion County tackling the same problems. They don't have to go it alone anymore.”
Schools can apply for projects in the following areas: School gardens and outdoor classrooms, zero waste cafeterias, energy and emissions reductions, sustainability-focused curriculum creation and civic engagement.
Preference will be given to schools that can link their projects to the concept of circular economy.
Selected schools will be eligible for up to $5,000 in funding to implement up to three new projects, as well as to improve upon or expand existing projects. A $1,000 stipend is also offered to teachers and staff who lead the implementation of school projects.
Schools can apply during the fall or spring application program. Spring applications will be accepted from March 1 - April 2, 2021. Certification and funding are for a calendar year.
2021 will be the third year for the ITSC. The first two years, Earth Charter Indiana partnered with the Indianapolis Office of Sustainability. Currently, Earth Charter Indiana is leading the program with its continued support.
During its first year, ITSC certified 53 green schools from all corners of Marion County and granted 31 schools funding for 51 unique sustainability projects. In its second year, ITSC certified 29 schools and granted 20 schools for 37 varying projects.
“It is important for us to express that we are aware of the trying times and enormous pressure schools are facing this year when it comes to COVID,” Rebelle said. “This program is not to create more work but assist schools in the work so many of them are already doing. We know that making plans can be daunting in times like this, but that is why we work side by side with schools to tackle whatever issues arise.”