U.S. Secretary of Education Names Urban Prairie Waldorf School 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that Urban Prairie Waldorf School in Chicago, IL, is one of three schools in Illinois among the 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award honorees. 

Urban Prairie Waldorf School was nominated by the Illinois Green Alliance. The award recognizes Urban Prairie’s work in the “three pillars,” including reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and offering effective environmental and sustainability education. Highlights include:

  • Energy footprint reduction. Urban Prairie’s recent solar pilot and lighting retrofits, substantially reducing our school’s energy footprint
  • Sustainability infused curriculum. Our school-wide infusion of nature and ecological awareness into our instruction and curriculum, including urban farming and our goats
  • Physical health focus. Our commitment to physical health among students, with plenty of outdoor free playtime as well as carbon-reducing walking / public transportation “expeditions” in the upper grades, which uses the city as our classroom
  • Social emotional health focus. Our school-wide focus on restorative justice / DEIJ, including our work in innovating the Waldorf curriculum to build societal awareness and sense of social responsibility among our students and graduates

“Urban Prairie has prioritized incremental, doable projects to advance our sustainability work, year over year,” says Head of School Sharla Paul. “At just 159 students, we are small but mighty! And now we are so proud to stand among a select group of schools across the US who together prioritize sustainability in the face of the climate crisis. This work is about our children’s future.”

“Urban Prairie showed great effort and told numerous stories of sustainability activities by their students, staff and within your community,” says Liz Wimmer, Illinois Green Alliance program manager. “We encourage all Illinois schools to expand on their vision and mission to increase sustainability. Urban Prairie is setting the pace toward the Illinois Green Alliance’s goal, ‘Every student in a Green School in this generation.’”

Urban Prairie Waldorf School is a vibrant community of educators and families passionate about Waldorf education, the environment, and responsible global citizenship. Founded in 2009, Urban Prairie Waldorf School is a not-for-profit, independent pre-k through eighth-grade school located just west of downtown on the near west side of Chicago, situated between the Illinois Medical District, Little Italy, and Pilsen neighborhoods. 

Across the country, 27 schools, five districts, and four postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education. The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 19 states. 

The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here. A report with highlights on the 36 honorees can be found here. More information on the federal recognition award can be found here. Resources for all schools to move toward the three Pillars can be found here.  

A Note on the Award Name for Communications

ED’s award is called “U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools” and has “District Sustainability Award” and “Postsecondary Sustainability Award” categories, in addition to the original school award. It is abbreviated ED-GRS.  “Green Ribbon Schools” without the “U.S. Department of Education” is not ED’s award, but instead is a separate program overseen by another organization. A selected school is a “2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School.” There is no “National,” “Award,” or “Program” in the title.  There is no apostrophe or hyphen after Education.


Sharla Paul

Head of School