FGCU’s Wings of Hope has garnered national recognition for “blazing new trails” in environmental education.
The program, which teaches area schoolchildren about wildlife and environmental issues while giving college students hands-on teaching experience, received the 2016 Best of Green Schools award in the higher education category.
Founder and directer Ricky Pires will be honored at a reception at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 14 in the lobby of Seidler Hall.
The awards were presented by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), in collaboration with the Green Schools National Network (GSNN), at the Green Schools Conference and Expo in Pittsburgh. They recognize individuals, institutions, projects and events representing the best environmental efforts in schools across the country and highlight the national leaders and innovators in school sustainability for the year.
“This year’s honorees are making huge strides in their schools and communities,” said Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC. “Each recipient is an inspiring example of innovation and passion in pursuit of schools that educate a generation of sustainability natives, students prepared to take the lead in the 21st century. Becoming a green school is a journey, not a destination; through their work, the leaders behind this inspiring work are blazing new trails in this movement to transform all schools into healthy, safe and inspired places for learning.”
Wings of Hope connects the decline of the Florida panther population and the concept of sustainability with environmental science topics typically taught in the fourth and fifth grades in Florida. More than 4,000 students in those grades are bused to campus each year to participate in the Wings of Hope “Panther Posse Program,” a hands-on interdisciplinary experience that teaches them about the endangered puma, other wildlife and their habitat and water conservation. Reading, writing, science, geography, math and research skills all are enhanced through the exercises they do.
Since its inception in 2000, Wings of Hope has touched the lives of more than 120,000 Southwest Florida students from elementary school to college.
“The Best of Green Schools honorees play an essential role in propelling the green schools movement foreword and setting excellent examples of how to create healthy and sustainable schools,” said Jennifer Seydel, executive director of GSNN. “As our movement advances, having such exemplary mentors across the country will help us improve our work and drive our mission.”
Earlier this year, Wings of Hope won Florida Campus Compact’s Campus Community Partnership Award.