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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Green and Healthy Schools: Wisconsin Embraces a Life-Changing Program

Jul 25, 2011 11:19PM ● By Kathleen Kiefaber

Butterfly garden created by children at Meadowbrook Elementary, Waukesha

Since 2004, the Green and Healthy Schools (GHS) program has been improving the health of Wisconsin students and schools. A partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Public Instruction, the GHS initiative guides students, teachers and parents through a three-step program, designed to improve the health, safety and environment of their school and community. Public and private elementary, middle and high schools across the state are demonstrating their commitment by voluntarily enrolling in the web-based, self-paced initiative that has certified 32 of the 136 participating schools to date.

To qualify as a Green and Healthy School, schools complete a process of evaluating and making changes to their environment,

Children composting in the school yard
Children composting in the school yard
activities and facilities, based upon 10 topic areas. All participating schools must address the energy, waste reduction and recycling, water and healthy lifestyles topics, and then choose two of the following for additional focus: transportation; mercury and chemicals; school grounds and facilities; indoor air quality; integrated pest management; and community involvement.

The healthy lifestyles topic was added in 2010 as a way for schools to focus specifically on nutrition, physical activity and encouraging time outdoors. As part of the topic, students complete a personal healthy lifestyles assessment and teachers use their responses to encourage individual goal-setting and gather ideas for action at the school level. Under this topic, current GHS schools have developed initiatives that include stocking vending machines with healthier options, planting organic vegetable gardens, reducing the amount of chemicals used on school properties; and kick-starting programs that allow more kids to walk to school, among others.

Healthy, sustainable schools create an environment in which students can become active, informed participants in their school, home and community. The GHS program helps students achieve their full academic potential and supports them in developing lifelong healthy behaviors.

Kathleen Kiefaber is a recycling communications specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. For more information about the GHS program, call 608-267-7622, email [email protected] or visit

Recycling at Meadowbrook Elementary, Waukesha
Recycling at Meadowbrook Elementary, Waukesha

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