During a special ceremony held on Friday, Sept. 20, Wesley International Academy received the Green Flag Award. It’s the highest level of achievement in the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program. Wesley International is the first in Atlanta Public Schools and the second in the state of Georgia to receive the sustainability honor.
“This is a really special day in Wesley’s history,” said Jason Marshall, Executive Director of Wesley International. “We have accomplished so many things as a school community, but this ranks right at the top of everything that we’ve done in recent years … I can’t think of another thing that’s as important as making sure that the young people that go to Wesley understand how critical, and how crucial, our environment is to our planet.”
Wesley International Academy was presented with the award after following a seven-step framework developed by the National Wildlife Federation. As part of the framework, the school formed an eco-action team, conducted an environmental audit, created an eco-action plan, monitored and evaluated progress, developed a call to action for the entire school, connected learning and action to existing curriculum and involved the community. The school’s eco-action team also completed three pathways to sustainability: energy, schoolyard habitat and consumption of waste. Wesley International is also beginning to focus on the healthy schools and water pathways.
Some of the efforts by students and staff include clearing out the school’s summer garden beds to get them ready for fall and sprucing up Wesley International’s pollinator gardens and outdoor classroom space. Wesley also engaged in a school-wide energy reduction campaign encouraging the turning off of the lights after students and faculty leave classrooms. The school’s recycling efforts were evaluated and Wesley’s eco-action team worked to make improvements. As a result, the school plans to roll out a new recycling process later this month. Wesley is also working to stop the use of plastic forks and straws and purchase a new dishwasher to allow for the washing of metal utensils.
“Earning this award is no small task,” said Marya Fowler, Director of Education Outreach for the National Wildlife Federation. “Not only does this award place Wesley International Academy among the finest green schools in the nation, but Eco Schools is an international program that spans 69 countries. Wesley Academy is connected to and is a leader in this multi-cultural, global, web of sustainability.
Other ceremony speakers included Matt Underwood, Executive Director of the APS Office of Innovation and Mario Cambardella, Director of Urban Agriculture for the City of Atlanta’s Office of Resilience.