September 7, 2018

Helping young people make a difference in the environment is the goal of the Indianapolis Thriving Schools Challenge, a new initiative from the city of Indianapolis’ Office of Sustainability in partnership with Earth Charter Indiana.

And they’re looking for Marion County K-12 schools — including those throughout the IPS district — to participate.

The challenge is two-fold.

Schools or individual classrooms can choose from a list of pre-approved sustainability projects, which can be found on the Thriving Schools Challenge website. Organizers will also consider existing sustainability projects as long as they fit the challenge categories, including education, buildings and energy, health and food, waste management, transportation and land use, and community engagement.

“We are open to considering any and all projects,” said Cristina Padilla, Office of Sustainability project manager.

Through the challenge, schools have the opportunity to receive a Thriving Schools certification, a green school designation for Marion County at the masters, excelling or certified levels, and up to $5,000 in funding to support the projects. Teachers who champion selected projects can receive a $1,000 stipend.

Throughout the month of September, the Office of Sustainability and Earth Charter Indiana are visiting schools throughout Marion County to educate teachers and students about the challenge.

“Going into schools is a grassroots strategy that we started in August, just talking with folks and hearing about the projects they want to do, and answering as many questions as we can,” said Padilla. “We’ve already had schools calling and emailing us about the challenge.”

Both the Office of Sustainability and Earth Charter Indiana believe that to sustain real environmental change starts by educating and allowing the younger generation to be part of the solution.

“We’ve seen time and time again that kids and young people are some of the loudest voices in fighting against climate change. I think part of the reason why is that they’ve grown up in a world where this is all they know, so it’s intuitive,” said Padilla. “It’s really simple in the minds of kids that (improving the environment) is something we have to tackle head on. So, it doesn’t surprise me at all that they continually show up and speak up for our planet.”

Earth Charter Indiana will provide mentoring and guidance to schools throughout the challenge.

“Earth Charter is already doing such great work in our community in schools and with children, so it was a natural fit for this program that they would help us with outreach and use their experience in project mentoring,” said Padilla. “We don’t just want to give (schools) the money and then leave them on their own. We want to help them by providing mentorship, guidance and support in any way we can.”

Interested in joining the Indianapolis Thriving Schools Challenge? Visit To request approval of existing projects, email

The application deadline is October 5.