In September, I opened the pilot year of the Green Ribbon Schools award to recognize the highest performing green and healthy schools in the nation. High standards of nutrition, fitness, and outdoor time for both students and staff are among the qualifying criteria for the award.
The award recognizes exemplary achievement in environmental impact, health and education. The standards and resources that the award relates advance ED and Let's Move! shared aims of fostering health, wellness and productivity; cutting schools' costs, saving jobs; providing a well-rounded education, increasing STEM skills, and ensuring students' college and career preparedness. Among the fitness resources Green Ribbon ties together are the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative and The President's Challenge. The nutrition standards it incorporates include USDA's school garden promotion, Agriculture in the Classroom, and Farm to School initiative.
As President Obama and I have said, green schools are critical to schools' fiscal health and our nation's economy. Through the American Jobs Act, schools and community colleges would receive $30 billion to modernize antiquated buildings and make green improvements that create new jobs, save schools money, and bring them closer to the standards that Green Ribbon Schools recognition award sets. These standards prepare students to participate in the green economy and strengthen the nation's energy security and conserve precious natural resources.
And we know from the First Lady's work that healthy habits, environmental education and green facilities schools are as vital to individual students as they are to their schools and the nation. High standards of nutrition, fitness and facility conditions improve student and staff health, attendance and productivity, and enhance achievement and engagement, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Green schools support our shared objectives of well-rounded education, healthy students and STEM achievement.
At the Department, we want to encourage states and schools to work toward Green Ribbon Schools' three pillars of reduced environmental impact, improved health and environmental literacy. State education officials can participate by nominating schools to ED. School communities can help out by asking their state education authorities to nominate them and applying according to state procedures. And everyone should remember to call on the many resources available in attaining the high standards Green Ribbon Schools sets out in environmental impact, health and education. We all have expertise and resources to offer to this important work: Let's Move!, ED, non-profits, businesses, and federal, state and local health, environmental, energy and safety authorities.
We wish you the best in improving the environmental health, impact and education of your school!
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education