Green Schools Challenge


**The Green Schools Challenge is on hold for the 2020-21 school year due to COVID-19. See below for information on last year's Challenge!**


 The KPS Green Schools Challenge (GSC) involves completing various activities over the course of the school year that promotes environmental responsibility. The challenges/activities focus on the education and engagement of staff, students and administration. A significant aspect of the GSC entails encouraging and providing ongoing opportunities for students to be actively involved.

The district makes resources available throughout the school year to help schools complete the activities. Recognition and incentives are built into the program.

The GSC runs from September - April. In May, awards and incentives we announced.

2019 - 2020 Program Overview 

The Green Schools Challenge (GSC) program continues in 2019-2020 as a behavior-based energy conservation and sustainability program. As in previous years, the GSC is a voluntary program that is designed to provide guidance, resources, and support to KPS Green Team Champions. It includes monthly “challenges” (i.e., activities) and provides ample opportunity for student involvement. This year’s subject areas take a broader look at sustainability by incorporating topics such as crane migration and river life in addition to renewable energy.

The 2019-2020 program offers monthly topics with example activities, along with plenty of flexibility throughout the year for Green Teams to design their own activities. The activities are intended to engage administrators, staff, and students. Activities can be discussions in the classroom, after-school activities, or hands-on projects. The district encourages schools to use the program's flexibility to complete activities that work best for their school. The Guidance Documents provide activity suggestions and resources and a link to the Activity Reporting Form.


Monthly Themes and Guidance Documents 

The Green Schools Initiative provides a guidance document that includes activity examples/suggestions and resources for each semester. However, schools are NOT required to complete the activities suggested. Schools are encouraged to complete activities that work best for their school. 


 In the past, people grew or gathered food from their local area. Today, food is often shipped across the country or even world before it arrives at its destination for consumption. Not only does this result in greater energy usage (from trucks and planes), but it also makes the food less fresh. Since Nebraska is a farming state, it is actually fairly easy to buy local foods, or you can even grow them in your backyard or a community garden! 




 Rivers are a great example of the way that we are connected to our environment; we use them for transportation, fishing, as water sources, etc., and there are broad ecosystems living within these bodies of water. A discussion about rivers opens up greater conversations about the link between sustainability and the recent flooding in Nebraska, as well as about human interaction with the environment, water quality, river health, and invasive species.


 Between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply in the U.S. is thrown away, leading to the decay of enormous amounts of organic matter in landfills—a process that releases harmful gases, like methane, into the atmosphere. Composting is one way to combat food waste and reduce methane emissions, as organic materials are broken down into nutrient-rich soil that can be returned to the earth to grow more food. What’s more, the composting process releases no harmful emissions. It’s an important component of waste diversion, and it involves a lot of biology, chemistry, and physics in addition to sustainability. Composting is an exciting learning opportunity because it involves things like worms, decomposing food, dirt, and poop! We encourage you to use this month for students to roll up their sleeves and learn composting hands-on.


 As one of the fundamental aspects of “going green,” recycling is likely something students know of and have participated in. However, there is more to recycling than many people realize. For December, we recommend bringing out lesser-known elements of recycling, such as electronics and textiles recycling, that can help shed light on the possibilities out there for diverting waste from landfills. Electronic waste, or e-waste, represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals over 70% of overall toxic waste. It’s an important type of recycling because the decomposition of electronics in landfills produces dangerous gases and is an immense waste of resources. Cell phones and other electronics contain precious metals, like gold and silver, that are thrown away in large amounts; this is unnecessary and can be avoided by increasing awareness and education. The December activities focus not only on these specific kinds of recycling, but on the basics too. It’s important for students to know what can and can’t be recycled, how to avoid contaminating recyclables with garbage, what kinds of new products can be made with recycled materials, and the big picture of why recycling is important in the first place. These activities provide a fun, interactive way of learning about recycling—just in time for the large amounts of waste produced during the holiday season.


 Wind and solar are two of the fastest-growing sources of energy in the United States, and renewable energy in general has incredible potential to power homes, businesses, schools, and even vehicles across the country. Nebraska has some of the greatest opportunity for wind energy in the U.S., making renewable energy an immensely important topic for students diving into sustainability. This month is also about introducing students to lesser-known sources of renewable energy, including hydropower and geothermal. During the summer of 2018, the Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln began building a geothermal system to supply all of the cool air and some of the heat for the entire building. In this eco-friendly and economical system, a liquid solution runs through a series of pipes buried deep underground and connected to the building. When underground, the solution takes on the temperature of the earth – about 55 degrees. When the solution flows to the building, it then either cools the air (in summer), or warms the air (in winter), depending on the outside temperature. In winter, the building’s heating system then only needs to warm from 55 to 70 degrees or so, instead of from, say, 15 to 70 degrees. This results in huge financial savings over time. The system involves more than 25 miles of tunnels to carry the solution. This is an example of innovative renewable energy in the capital of our own state. This month’s activities shed light on the possibilities for alternative, sustainable sources of energy.



 The February topic involves something we all use every day, whether we think about it or not: transportation. Students travel to school by car, bus, bike, or on foot. Some modes of transportation have greater environmental impact than others, and by understanding them, students can make smart decisions about how to incorporate sustainability into their lives. The transportation sector makes up about 30% of energy use in the U.S., and large amounts of energy use can be avoided in many cases through awareness and more conscious decisions. These activity ideas for February will help students understand why certain types of transportation are greener than others by outlining alternative forms of transportation and how they work.


 The migration of the Sandhill cranes and their stop at the Platte River is close to home for Kearney students, but what many don’t realize is how this phenomenon relates to climate change. The migratory patterns of cranes, along with other birds, shifts with the changing climate. Cranes are amazing animals that provide a lot of fun areas of learning. This month’s topic opens up opportunities to discuss everything from migration patterns and crane customs (like their famous dance moves) to endangered species and local habitat conservation.



 Because Arbor Day falls on April 24, and Earth Day is April 22, this month is a great time to talk about both sustainability and trees! Luckily, the two are related. Trees are tied to sustainability in a LOT of ways; they protect against climate change, keep air fresher and reduce pollution, support other living organisms, and provide shade, which can even help reduce energy use. Trees are vital parts of ecosystems, but deforestation and new development has destroyed many trees. Educating students about the benefits of trees is a great way to help reemphasize their importance in the natural as well as built world.





GSC Recognition & Incentive Levels:

Schools achieve these recognition & incentive levels by completing challenges/activities and earning participation points. The recognition & incentive levels consist of the following:

  • Level 1 (Green Performance) - Participation in five activities.
    Receive a framed certificate of recognition and $50 for Green Team Activities next year and $100 for the Principal’s budget.

  • Level 2 (Green Achievement)- Participation in six to nine activities.
    Receive $150 for Green Team activities next year and a small award banner and $200 for the Principal’s budget.

  • Level 3 (Green Excellence) - Participation in ten or more activities.
    Receive $300 for Green Team activities next year and a large award banner and $400 for the Principal’s budget.
    All schools that achieve Level 3 participation are placed into a raffle; the selected school receives $450 to spend on district-approved items. Approved items could entail smart power strips, vending machine energy misers, native landscaping/trees, rain barrels, native plants for classrooms, and indoor/outdoor recycling containers. All items must be approved by the district prior to purchase.

Feedback Form & Tracking

We ask that Green Teams track how many activities are completed at each school each month on this Activity Reporting Form. You may add activities at any time. Points totals will be emailed out around the first of each month. The last day to submit activities for the 2019–2020 school year is Friday, April 24th. 

Submitting photos of your activities also counts as one activity! Please send them via email to

The district will email activity updates to KPS Green Team Champions and Principals each month. 


What is the purpose of the Green Schools Challenge?

The Green Schools Challenge is a program designed to engage schools in resource-responsible behaviors and activities through learning, communication, and behavior change. This program is also intended to help the District meet its sustainability goals. 


Is the Green Schools Challenge mandatory?  


No, the Green Schools Challenge is a completely voluntary program. However, this program is designed to help your school conserve resources and engage staff and students, which has numerous benefits.  


What can my school earn by participating in the Green Schools Challenge?


The Green Schools Challenge has three tiers of recognition and awards. To reach the highest tier, schools need to complete ten or more activities a year. To earn credit, the Activity Reporting Form needs to be filled out.


Who participates in the Green Schools Challenge?


Anyone! Activities can be completed by principals, staff, or students. Many groups can be brought together to complete activities for the GSC.


How can I participate in the Green Schools Challenge?


You can participate in the Green Schools Challenge in a variety of ways. You can join your school's Green Team, complete an activity to earn your school participation points, or help another staff member complete an activity. 


Does the District provide resources to help my school complete activities?  


Yes, the monthly guidance documents provide resources to complete the example activities and overall resources that are helpful. Additionally, participants are offered a membership to the USGBC Learning Lab. If your school would like to use these resources, please contact for your school's membership.


What activities do I need to complete to earn recognition and awards?


You are invited to design activities that work for your group and your school. Monthly guidance documents are provided with suggested activities that you may complete if you wish. Ideally, activities will engage school occupants in resource-efficient behaviors or learn about sustainability issues. If you have any questions about if an activity applies, please contact

Contact us

 For any unanswered questions and/or if you would like to discuss the KPS Green Schools Challenge in further detail, please contact