FAU Pine Jog Transforms Annual Green Schools Celebration

By teresa crane | 6/29/2020

Florida Atlantic University Pine Jog Environmental Education Center took a new approach this year to honor winners of its 2020 Green Schools Awards.  Foregoing a traditional ceremony, the center created a series of more than 30 award videos to showcase the exceptional efforts of local schools that are “going green” as participants in the center’s nationally recognized Green Schools Recognition Program (GSRP).

“In these challenging times, it is especially important to celebrate these schools,” said Ray Coleman, executive director of FAU Pine Jog. “By their example, they are teaching students and families how to grow their own food, conserve household resources, improve their health and well-being, restore neighborhood habitats, and use creativity to solve complex challenges in our natural world. These schools are sowing the seeds for a more resilient, sustainable future for all of us.”

A record 134 public and private schools in Palm Beach and Martin counties earned “Green School” status from FAU Pine Jog this year for their efforts to take a holistic, school-wide approach to environmental stewardship and sustainability. Participants represent 38 percent of all schools, and nearly half of all district-run schools, in Palm Beach and Martin counties.  Coordinated in collaboration with the School District of Palm Beach County (SDPBC) and the Martin County School District (MCSD), the GSRP is funded by FAU Pine Jog, with additional support from the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County and Florida Power & Light.  The program relies on local organizations, agencies and businesses to serve as school mentors, application judges, and award sponsors each year.

Participants had just submitted their green school applications when schools were forced to transition to remote teaching this March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The program’s annual awards ceremony, which draws nearly 400 teachers, students, and school leaders each May, was one of countless milestone events squelched by the virus.  

“We knew we would have to be innovative to celebrate our 2020 awardees,” said Anne Henderson, director of education at FAU Pine Jog. “They had already done such incredible work to green their schools this year.”

Rather than an online ceremony, the center opted to create individual award videos that could serve as an ongoing resource for participants.  Award sponsors enthusiastically pitched in to pre-record their presentations for each of the awardees, and program staff incorporated photos from each school’s application to illustrate their unique initiatives. All award videos (linked below) will remain archived on FAU Pine Jog’s website.

 “These videos showcase the best of our schools’ green accomplishments,” Henderson said. “But they also serve as a toolbox of ideas for other schools. We hope schools will continue to view them and find inspiration for new green initiatives and partnerships, even beyond our two counties.” 

Each award comes with a cash prize, totaling more than $14,500 distributed by FAU Pine Jog to Palm Beach and Martin County schools and individuals for their exceptional green school programs and practices. All cash awards are intended to help local schools continue to grow their green projects next year. 

Top award recipients were H. L. Johnson Elementary School winning first place and $2,000; Palm City Elementary School taking second place and $1,000; and Limestone Creek Elementary School receiving third place and $750.

In addition, Judge’s Choice Awards recognized specific categories. Award sponsors, amount, winning schools and specific categories are as follows:

The Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County (SWA) sponsored four additional awards to recognize facilities and food service personnel for their significant contributions to school sustainability efforts. 

Scott Tomlinson, head custodian at Highland Elementary School, was named Green Facilities Staff Member of the Year and received $500.  Horacio Antonio (Tony) Amaya, head custodian at Boca Raton Community High School, received $250 as the runner-up for this award. The Green Food Service Staff Member of the Year was Stacy Blow Hernacki, cafeteria manager at Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School, who received $500.  Monica Longo, cafeteria manager at Orchard View Elementary School, received $250 as the runner-up in this category.  

Nikolai Dutkewych, an eighth-grader at Palm Beach Day Academy, was named the Green Student of the Year and awarded a $500 scholarship for dedication to greening his school.  Jennifer Makowski, principal of H. L. Johnson Elementary School, was nominated by her school for Green Principal of the Year and was awarded $500. Green Teacher of the Year was awarded to Chelsea Cantwell of Atlantic Community High School who received $500 for her exemplary commitment to green learning. 

To learn more about the Green Schools Recognition Program and awardees, contact Anne Henderson at ahender8@fau.edu or Lauren Butcher at lbutcher2013@fau.edu

Pine Jog Environmental Education Center is a unit of the College of Education at Florida Atlantic University. Established in 1960, Pine Jog is dedicated to developing, researching, and disseminating highly effective educational programs and services that cultivate environmentally literate and engaged citizens.  For more information, contact Pine Jog at 561-686-6600 or visit www.pinejog.fau.edu.