All Marion County Schools are eligible to apply for certification and project funding through the Indianapolis Thriving Schools Challenge. 

There are two ways to participate in the Challenge:

  1. Apply for Certification ONLY by demonstrating the number of already existing sustainability operations and initiatives at the school. 

  2. Apply for Certification AND Project Funding for the chance to receive up to $5,000 in grant funding for up to 3 sustainability projects, new or existing.

All applications must be submitted online by the deadline of October 6, 2019.

Schools seeking certification must have a dedicated school Champion(s). For schools seeking certification only, this individual will be an educator who cared enough to apply for this designation. For those seeking certification with project funding, this individual (or individuals) will be the driving force behind the project’s planning, implementation, and classroom incorporation. 

Recognition and a stipend of up to $1,000 will be awarded to school champion(s) selected for project funding. The stipend amount will depend on the complexity, duration and classroom incorporation of selected project(s). For projects that have multiple Champions, decisions regarding how to split the stipend is at the discretion of the school.


It was really nice to be recognized for the things we do for students outside of our normal duties and school day – sometimes a little recognition goes a long way.
— CFI School #84, Bike Club

All schools may apply for Thriving Schools Certification, the green schools designation for Marion County. Schools may reach certification in one of two ways: 

  1. Applying for Certification ONLY, by demonstrating current sustainability initiatives. 

  2. Applying for Certification AND Project Funding, using a combination of existing and new sustainability initiatives. 

The number of existing green initiatives and new project proposals will determine the certification level that schools receive. 

  • Certified: 2 existing/new total projects

  • Excelling: 3 existing/new total projects

  • Masters: 4+ existing/new total projects

All participating schools will receive a Thriving School Certification decal to display their achievement on the school front and digital graphics to use in digital documents or the school website. The use of these materials is at the discretion of each school.


All Marion County schools are eligible to apply for up to $5,000 in project funding to support the implementation of up to 3 new projects, as well as to expand, improve upon, or sustain existing sustainability projects. A lack of existing sustainability initiatives does not disqualify schools from applying for project funding. All proposals for project funding must have the support of the school leadership (i.e. principal, head custodian, cafeteria manager). 

It is strongly encouraged that new projects be student-led, increasing the project-based learning benefits. Schools applying for project funding must demonstrate that at least 1 project will provide hands-on, educational opportunities for students. Selected schools must start (or already have) a Green Team or Club, made up of students along with a teacher, administrator, staff member, and/or parent. 

All project funding recipients must commit to participating in the 2020 Eco Science Challenge, taking place at the Indiana State Museum on April 24, 2020. At the minimum, a small group of Green Team students can create a display about their Thriving Schools Challenge project, but preferably an entire class present on a variety of environmental-related subjects. Note that it is not necessary for the funded projects to be completed by the Eco Science Challenge.

Project Guidance

Schools selected for project funding will work with Jim Poyser of Earth Charter Indiana throughout the process of planning and implementing new projects. Jim and his staff will serve as a mentor to Champions who wish to receive support and guidance as they go through the program, whether that be to ask questions, talk about potential partners, community resources available, or anything else that comes up. Earth Charter Indiana has worked in this field for almost a decade - and mentored the 2018 projects from the inaugural year of the challenge.


Schools that receive project funding are encouraged, but not required, to maintain contact with Earth Charter Indiana, particularly during project milestones. Schools receiving project funding must complete two reports - April 1 (can be brief) and June 12, 2020 (the final report). The final report will answer a short series of questions, provide a simple budget and include photos of the project/s. Note that the report you submit may be used as testimonial content for promoting the Thriving Schools Challenge project.

Selection Criteria

It is strongly encouraged that new projects be student-led, increasing project-based learning benefits. Schools applying for project funding must demonstrate that at least 1 project will provide hands-on, educational opportunities for students. 

Due to the alignment of the goals the Thriving Schools Challenge and our primary funders, we will be particularly interested in projects that emphasize energy and/or water savings or projects that illustrate the benefits of circular economy (e.g. cafeteria waste reduction projects). 

Circular Economy: Looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. — Definition courtesy of Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Additional selection criteria used:

  • Environmental conservation

  • Student involvement

  • Educational component

  • Impact to community

  • Ability to sustain into the future

Project Funding