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Dutch Fork Elementary Receives National Award for Environmental Curriculum and Sustainability Practices

2019 Green Ribbon School Award

From left to right: Stuart Levenbach (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), Keith Frost (DHEC), Christina Melton (Lexington-Richland School District 5), Amy Umberger (Dutch Fork Elementary), Julius Scott (Dutch Fork Elementary), Stacy Washington (S.C. Energy Office), Frank Brogan (U.S. Department of Education). 

Oct. 1, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Dutch Fork Elementary School Academy of Environmental Sciences in Richland County is the first South Carolina school to be recognized nationally by the U.S. Department of Education for environmental, sustainability, and conservation practices.

Dutch Fork Elementary was named a 2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School at an award ceremony Sept. 25 in Washington, D.C. Andrea Falken, Director of the National Green Ribbon Schools program, presented Amy Umberger and Julius Scott from Dutch Fork Elementary with the Green Ribbon award. This award commends the school for its efforts to incorporate “green” practices in its curriculum and day-to-day operations. Dutch Fork Elementary was recognized along with 25 other schools, 14 school districts, and 4 post-secondary institutions across the country.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), in a partnership with the S.C. Department of Education, the S.C. Energy Office and a variety of state and local partners, nominated Dutch Fork Elementary School for this national award.

“We’re extremely proud of Dutch Fork Elementary, not only for winning this national award, but for the school’s efforts to help ensure the next generation of South Carolinians is learning how to care for the natural environment and health of its own communities,” said Myra Reece, DHEC’s Director of Environmental Affairs. “Dutch Fork Elementary has done an excellent job in teaching students about environmental sustainability and health as well as finding tangible ways to practice that knowledge.”

To meet the qualifications for a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award, nominees needed to demonstrate innovative efforts to reduce environmental impacts and utility costs; improve the health and wellness of students and staff; and develop effective, hands-on learning experiences in sustainability and conservation practices.

Some of Dutch Fork Elementary School’s initiatives that led to its national recognition include: 

  • Participating in DHEC’s Breathe Better (B2) program to reduce vehicle idling and improve air quality around the school
  • Developing a schoolwide recycling program
  • Using energy consciously by utilizing efficient lighting and cooling systems
  • Participating in water conservation by collecting water in rain barrels for use in school gardens
  • Establishing a food waste to compost program and share tables to divert food waste from local landfills
  • Establishing a comprehensive approach to nutrition and fitness through gardening and cooking classes
  • Creating an interpretive nature trail behind the school
  • Maintaining morning fitness clubs for students
  • Providing environmental and sustainability education that incorporates STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways for students
  • Keeping an Indoor Observation Beehive to understand the important roles of pollinators
  • Participating in DNR’s “Trout in the Classroom” by raising trout from egg to fingerling stage to restore habitats in local rivers

“Dutch Fork Elementary is both humbled and grateful for being recognized as a Green Ribbon School,” said Julius B. Scott, Dutch Fork Elementary School Principal. “We are committed to developing students who care about the world we live in. Our students take on the identity of environmental scientists and use the language and tools of the discipline. This stance allows learning at our school to reflect learning in the real world."

The intent of the national Green Ribbon Schools program is to inspire schoolsto strive for 21st-century excellence by highlighting promising school sustainability practices, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Each spring, the department announces the newest schools to meet the program’s standards.

Information about the South Carolina Green Ribbon School Program, including the application submitted for Dutch Fork Elementary School, can be found at Additional information about the federal Green Ribbon Schools program is available at



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