Green Schools Quest

Annual project-based, student-driven challenge


The Green Schools Quest (GSQ) is an annual project-based challenge to PreK-12 schools to devise and implement no/low cost sustainability projects at their school over a six month period of time with the help of a community volunteer who serves as a Green Mentor. Schools document their impact, such as energy savings or increased biodiversity, during the project and submit their project’s process and impact for judging by an impartial panel at the conclusion. Cash Awards and trophies are presented to winning teams in Elementary, Middle and High School Divisions and five Spotlight Awards are presented across the age divisions. 

2023-2024 Quest Projects & Winners

Sixty-five schools participated in the 2023-2024 Green Schools Quest, each with a Green Mentor. View a sampling of their projects and learn about the Division and Spotlight Award winners!

2024-2025 Focus of the Year

The theme of the 2024-2025 Quest is Biodiversity +
Wellness, and school teams are encouraged to explore
the biodiversity around their schools to determine how
their project could impact the wellness of their
community. Wellness includes a wide variety of potential
topics, including mental or physical health, community
health, environmental justice, or any sustainability-related
wellness initiative.




To participate in the Green Schools Quest, your school must complete the online registration form. Registration opens annually in the Spring for the upcoming school year and closes on Sept 15. Each school forms a team of students to participate. This team can be a club, class, grade level, or the entire school.

Additionally, each school is required to have one faculty, staff, or parent from the school serve as their team’s sponsor. This sponsor works together with the Green Mentor and student team to identify, investigate, and implement the school’s selected project, and submit final results of their work at the conclusion in Mid-March.


GSQ Mentors (Green Mentors) are volunteers from the Missouri Gateway Green Building Council and Missouri Environmental Education Association who have a passion for creating sustainable learning environments and working with schools. Mentors represent a broad range of professions and include architects, engineers, educators, community advocates, project managers, landscape architects, urban planners, sustainability coordinators, retired community members, and more. Green Mentors are paired with a school and commit 2-5 hours/month Oct-March providing guidance, resources, and encouragement as needed to assist students and their team sponsor as they plan and implement their chosen sustainability project.

Program Schedule

August 31 –
Deadline for mentors to register

September 15 – Deadline for schools to register

October through March – Participating schools work with their Green Mentors to engage in six-month-long sustainability projects or monthly sustainability challenges

March 15 – Final Submissions Due

AprilWinners announced at the MGGBC Annual Green Schools Event

MayAwards presented


Cash awards and trophies are presented to winning teams in Elementary, Middle and High School Divisions:

  • 1st place ($400)
  • 2nd place ($300)
  • 3rd place ($200)

Additionally, five Spotlight Awards are presented across the age divisions ($100 each):

  • Rookie of the Year
  • Sustainability Champion
  • Focus of the Year: Biodiversity + Health (2024-2025)
  • Judges’ Choice
  • Innovation

Winners are determined by a panel of judges using this evaluation rubric.

Projects & Impact

Schools have participated since the program launched in 2013.

Student-driven sustainability projects have been implemented and documented.

Students and staff have directly participated in GSQ projects.

2023-2024 Winning Projects


1st Place: City Garden Montessori

City Garden Montessori

The goal of City Garden Montessori School’s Green Schools Quest was to develop and implement a plan to create nature-based play equipment for their playground, which is known as Folsom Field. Fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students have taken the lead in connecting the whole school to this sustainability-focused initiative. Students researched, created prototypes, and surveyed their peers to decide which play equipment to develop with donated and upcycled materials. This was not only a design project, but also a data-driven engineering feat! 


2nd Place: Kingston Elementary

Kingston Elementary

3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at Kingston Elementary created a school garden to supply the cafeteria with fresh fruits and vegetables, while also supporting families in need. Kingston won a grant to build a greenhouse on their campus and purchase gardening equipment. This project fostered social connections and environmental responsibility by embracing principles of interconnectedness and cycles in the rainbow of sustainability. Future plans include expanding initiatives and mentorship continuity to ensure sustained progress.

3rd Place: Principia School


Principia School 
Third grade teachers were tasked with making an economics standard and lesson more engaging to their students. They realized their sustainability work collided with their curricular needs, and they created an economics unit based on bees. Students created an entire beehive business! Sustainability was intentionally placed at the center of their curriculum, and students were given the time and freedom to connect with their broader community, figure out how they would accomplish their goals, and reflect upon the importance of their work.


1st Place: Brittany Woods Middle School

Brittany Woods Middle School

Two classes and an after school club created a city-wide plan to answer the driving question, “How might we increase biodiversity through education and action at our school and throughout our community?” Truly embracing this year’s Quest theme, the middle school students utilized the immense partnerships throughout University City to create an even more sustainable school and district. They researched biodiversity and realized that some of their gardens did not fully support biodiversity. They made a plan for their school to support native plants and animals and then moved outward to other schools, University City, and the region. Their passionate refrain of “No extinction on our watch” was evident throughout their project!


2nd Place: Maplewood-Richmond Heights Middle School




Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School

Students in two classes devised ways to enhance biodiversity on the Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle and High School campus as well as the surrounding community. They hosted an invasive species removal event, worked with the city to redesign a downtown pocket park, generated a procedure for on-going soil biodiversity monitoring, restored the campus native rain garden, and created a mini lesson on biodiversity for incoming sixth graders.

3rd Place: Marian Middle School


Marian Middle School

Marian Middle School received an aeroponic tower garden, but they struggled to keep up with the harvest, and realized they were producing too much waste. They found sustainable solutions through sharing their produce with the school community and beyond. Marian students and staff developed a partnership with Local Harvest Grocery, where they offered their produce for free in exchange for a photo or recipe of what customers made with the produce. Responses were overwhelming! This gave students ideas for dishes they could make with their produce, and gave them a sense of pride and connectedness with their neighborhood community.


1st Place: Pattonville High School

 Pattonville High School

The goal of Pattonville’s project was to improve Organizational Culture and focus on Physical Place, specifically with diverting waste materials out of the landfill pathway. After researching heavily, student action plans centered around waste diversion and minimization, recycling or reusing all possible materials, composting food waste, and utilizing their resources wisely. Their long-term sustainability awareness goal at Pattonville High School is to have a zero-landfill policy within their school. Students also have plans for a sustainability fashion showcase to demonstrate how clothes can be upcycled into the latest trends.

2nd Place: Central High School (Springfield)

 Central High School

High schoolers in Springfield, Missouri installed a rainwater catchment system on their garden shed.  This was phase one of a three phase plan to collect rainwater from the roofs of the buildings and use the rainwater to augment watering their school gardens. This project provided a solution to a serious problem at their school – the Garden Club of Central High School has seven separate gardens with an incredible number of garden beds that require water. This project will save an estimated 2,000 gallons of water just in phase 1, and over 3,500 gallons of water in phase 2, while still allowing the gardens to flourish and grow essential produce and support local biodiversity.

3rd Place: St. Louis University High School

 Central High School (Springfield)

High school students at SLUH focused intensely on data analytics to improve their indoor air quality. They installed two temperature and humidity sensors to collect baseline data. They also collected data from an occupant satisfaction and transportation survey. The data gathered will help students write maintenance programs for the Building Automation System and help them support the maintenance department in conserving the school’s energy usage. Not only was this a deep dive into data, it also provided the students with the opportunity to impact their own school.

Spotlight Awards

Rookie of the Year: Pershing Elementary

Pershing Elementary created an afterschool program where students have the opportunity to gather with peers from their grade level and pursue sustainability initiatives. At the beginning of the club’s program, students wrote an “I wish” statement about something they wanted to change at school. They then used the engineering process to find a solution. The overall goal of the afterschool club is to ensure a healthier campus for all students through the resolution of some of the identified problems. Kindergarten students were inspired by a visiting eighth grade student, and their current project is removing styrofoam trays from their cafeteria. Second and third graders focused on trash and recycling, while fourth and fifth graders focused on attracting birds to campus. 

Sustainability Champion: Ladue Horton Watkins High School

Students at Ladue High School not only demonstrated the ongoing impact of their previous Green Schools Quest projects and past sustainability efforts, but they also added to these initiatives and started training up the next generation of sustainability experts. Ladue High School students partnered with Ladue middle school and elementary students to help them join the Green Schools Quest for their first year. High school students also designed a native pollinator garden and formed a district sustainability council to present sustainability initiatives to district board members.


Focus of the Year - Biodiversity (Upper Grades): Kirkwood High School

High school students at Kirkwood engineered solutions to bring the outdoors in, increase biodiversity on their campus, and promote student interaction with it. Students identified a problem with their recent construction on campus and they split into groups that  focused on different problems stemming from the construction. There was a group that focused on bringing the outdoors in, another group that focused on supporting the outdoor life that already existed, and a third group that focused on wildlife on campus who had experienced a loss of habitat. The overall school project centered around identifying the school’s biodiversity needs, increasing biodiversity on their campus, and improving student interaction with the many forms of life that made Kirkwood High School their home. 

Focus of the Year - Biodiversity (Lower Grades): Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School

Second graders at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School learned about, raised, and released Monarch butterflies to understand the part they can play in supporting a biodiverse habitat for migrating creatures. Students learned about what Monarchs need along their journey and how planting Milkweed and other flowering food sources is very important. The students found monarch caterpillars in the gardens on their school campus and raised them inside so they could see firsthand what they eat and the process they go through to become adults. Then they tagged and released the butterflies to support their understanding that some Monarchs would migrate to Mexico for the winter. They realized how long the journey for the little butterflies is and how much food they need along their way. They noticed that there are fewer spots for the butterflies to stop and eat and lay eggs which greatly impacts each generation. They decided to apply for free plants to do their part to increase pollinators around their school and will receive those plants in the fall. 

Judges' Choice: Fern Ridge High School

Fern Ridge students took on an incredible number of projects in one year, each one making an impact on a larger community. Students grew food on a tower garden to use in culinary classes and to give to families. They also planted a pollinator garden with 10 trees. Furthermore, students explored recycling, terracycling, “Wellness Wednesdays,”  fundraising money for reforestation in Africa, and sustainable waste management and energy conservation. The amount of work and creativity that went into each project was impressive!

Community Impact: Columbia Elementary

Columbia Elementary championed food justice through hydroponic tower gardens, uniquely integrated into each grade level. From kindergarten to fifth grade, students engaged in hands-on learning experiences, tending to their tower gardens and witnessing the magic of plant growth firsthand. These gardens not only provided fresh produce for school meals but also served as powerful tools for teaching about sustainability, nutrition, and environmental stewardship. The provision of fresh fruits and vegetables to the community and students’ families is an invaluable result of this project because Columbia Elementary is located in a food desert, grocery stores with healthy food options are not accessible to families. By empowering students at every grade level to participate in this food justice effort, Columbia Elementary instilled a sense of responsibility and cultivated future leaders who are committed to creating a more equitable and sustainable food system.

Honorable Mentions

Arcadia Valley High School pursued sustainability from the literal ground up. They realized they needed support from the experts in order to begin their sustainability journey, so they sought out guest speakers and began the quest to educate their student population, their staff members, and their local community. 

Rockwood South Middle School took on an expansion project of an existing school garden, and created a learning garden to educate the entire Fenton community on biodiversity, pollinators, soil health, and native plants.

Crestwood Elementary took on several projects to raise awareness about biodiversity loss and community involvement in the solution. They fundraised and held several events throughout the course of their project, impacting not only their school but also their local community.

Spoede Elementary focused on bird population decline, and created a solution to combat the loss of local birds from their campus construction projects. Students created nesting boxes and feeders out of wood and collected materials from their recycling bins. Students monitored camera footage and they watched in delight as several birds began enjoying their new habitat.

Althoff Catholic High School took a completely different approach to this year’s project and conducted a lighting audit of their school. They analyzed their lighting audit from a cost savings, safety, and design perspective.  They also analyzed solar panels and LED lighting as a potential solution to energy savings. 

GSQ Resources

A handful of key resources for the Green Schools Quest are highlighted here. Visit our Resources page to access the full library of resources that support the entire suite of Show-Me Green Schools programs.

GSQ Welcome Letter

Outlines noteworthy items for 2023-2024 and includes links to resources all on one page you can bookmark and keep handy.

GSQ Program Introduction

Video orientation for schools and mentors.

2024-2025 Focus of the Year: Biodiversity + Health

Each year, a particular theme is designated as the Focus of the Year. Themes are selected to reflect current issues both locally and globally. Schools have the option of following this particular focus to qualify for an additional award. Schools are not penalized if they do not pursue a project related to the Focus of the Year.

Examples of Past GSQ Projects

View video compilations, written summaries, interviews and final project submission materials highlighting past Green Schools Quest participants’ projects.

Project Idea Lists

We have two lists of ways to green your school that can help your team to generate ideas: Project Ideas organized by START Metric and our 101+ Ways to Green Your School.

Green Mentor Checklist

Mentor-oriented checklist of actions for Getting Started and best practices for Ongoing tasks throughout the Quest.

School Lead Checklist

Mentor-oriented checklist of actions for Getting Started and best practices for Ongoing tasks throughout the Quest.

Ways for Mentors to Engage

Each school, project, team, and mentor is unique – so the support that a Green Mentor provides varies. We recommend that the School Lead and Mentor review the ideas listed here and mutually determine the best form of support that the mentor can provide this year.

Evaluation Rubric

Used by the judges when reviewing submissions.

Final Submission Materials

View outline of all materials due March 15 here, including Final Submission Form, 5 minute max digital presentation, 1-2 page written report, self-assessment (optional, worth 5 points), and photo releases.

Photo Releases

A photo release must be submitted for every student that appears in the images included in the monthly submission forms. Two options are available: an Individual Photo Release Form to be signed by each student’s parent/guardian, or a Certificate of School Official Photo Release upon which a school official certifies that the school/district has secured and has on file all appropriate image release and permission agreements and consents from parents/guardians of school children who appear in images shared by the school.

Missouri Green Schools Baseline Self-Assessment

In an effort to encourage holistic integration of school sustainability practices and better connect the Green Schools Quest with it’s sister program, Missouri Green Schools (MGS), the MGS Baseline Self-Assessment has been introduced as a new tool. This assessment takes about 30 minutes to complete and earns schools in the Traditional track 5 points or schools in the Adapted track a bonus raffle entry. The completed self-assessment may be emailed to or directly uploaded into the final submission form. View a PDF here (click here to create an editable copy)

Rainbow of Sustainability

The Rainbow of Sustainability is a framework for integrating sustainability principles into students’ learning and Green Schools Quest projects. It includes seven sustainability principles: Importance of Place, Interconnectedness, Respect for Limits, Systems Thinking, Cycles, Social Justice, Global Citizenship. Green Schools Quest participants earn extra points for integrating at least two principles into their projects, as outlined in the evaluation rubric! Click here to view a presentation on how to apply the Rainbow of Sustainability tool.

Show-Me Green Schools Partner Network

The Show-Me Green Schools Partner Network consists of nonprofit and for-profit organizations and programs that can help a school advance in one or more of the green schools pillars. Learn more about the Partner Network here!  Access a searchable directory of partners and their services here. If you have resources to share, take our partner survey and become part of the Network.


Check out our FAQs below. For additional questions, contact us.

Why participate in the Green Schools Quest?
  • The Green Schools Quest’s structure, resources, community connections and friendly competition (including opportunities to win cash awards and trophies!) support student-driven sustainability action at local schools.
  • Healthier, sustainable learning and teaching environments are created through collaborative work by students, teachers, and Mentors.
  • Schools receive support and guidance from a Green Mentor and connect students to green building careers.
  • School and Mentor participants connect with a network of fellow green schools champions to share resources, learn about best practices, and address challenges in undertaking school sustainability initiatives.
  • Schools earn recognition for green schools work through an annual celebration and opportunities to win cash awards and trophies. 
  • Green Schools Quest projects promote environmental stewardship in our communities, improve learning and teaching environments, encourage students to think creatively about sustainability, conserve our natural resources which can result in lower school operating costs, energize sustainable curriculum in local school systems, and engage the community in helping students to green their schools.
What is the annual timeline of the Green Schools Quest?
  • Spring: School and mentor registration opens.
  • August 31: Mentor registration due.
  • September 15: School registration due.
  • October through mid-March: Participating schools work with their Green Mentors to plan and implement sustainability projects at their schools. Projects are intended to be no or low-cost and must be NEW initiatives or major expansions of existing initiatives.
  • March 15: Final Submission materials due. Submissions are then reviewed by a panel of judges and Division (elementary, middle, high) and Spotlight Award winners are determined.
  • April: Winners are announced at the Annual Green Schools Event.
  • May: Awards are presented to winning schools.
What schools participate in the Green Schools Quest?
Who are the Green Schools Quest mentors?
  • Green Schools Quest Mentors (Green Mentors) are volunteers from the Missouri Gateway Green Building Council and Missouri Environmental Education Association that have sustainability expertise. Schools are matched with Green Mentors to help them identify, investigate, and implement a no- to low-cost sustainability project.
  • Mentors represent a broad range of professions and include architects, engineers, educators, project managers, landscape architects, urban planners, sustainability coordinators, retired community members, and more. 
  • Click here to view the list of 2023-2024 Green Schools Quest participants.
What are the Green Mentor responsibilities?
  • Mentors should have a passion for creating sustainable learning environments and working with schools.
  • Fill out the Mentor Registration Form (Opens in Spring and closes Aug 31 each year.)
  • Participate in a Green Schools Quest Orientation.
  • Commit 2-5 hours of working with your assigned school each month from October through March. Green Mentors interact and communicate with schools by phone, email, video conferencing, and in-person meetings (as health and safety guidelines allow.)
  • Provide guidance, resources, and encouragement as needed to assist students and their team sponsor as they plan and implement their chosen sustainability project.
  • Participate in Mentor Meet-Ups and Connect on the Quest activities if available.
  • Assist with documentation and preparation of final submission.
  • Attend the Annual Green Schools Event if available.
  • Submit two quick, online progress surveys.
  • Be an active member of Missouri Gateway Green Building Council and/or Missouri Environmental Education Association.
How do I become a Green Mentor?
  • Complete the Mentor Registration Form. Once we receive your registration form, our staff will follow-up with additional details and to confirm your participation. Before applying, please review the Green Mentor responsibilities above.
What resources are available for schools and mentors participating in the 2023-2024 Green Schools Quest?
  • Program resources are outlined in the “Resources” section above. The annual Welcome Letter also includes an outline of and links to all of the program resources for participants.
What is included in the final submission for the Green Schools Quest?
  • Green Schools Quest participating schools submit a Final Submission Form which collects basic school/project information and impact stats, a short written report, a 5-minute maximum digital presentation to share results of the project, not limited to photos, drawings, videos or other media. Photo releases are also required. All final submission materials are outlined here.
  • These materials will help us celebrate and highlight your school’s accomplishments at the Annual Green Schools Event, and to determine award winners.
What is the 2023-2024 Focus of the Year?
  • The 2023-2024 theme is Biodiversity. This document introduces the theme and highlights three key areas for taking meaningful climate action: Saving Resources, Transforming Landscapes, and Inspiring Communities.
  • Each year, a “Focus of the Year” theme for the Green Schools Quest is designated as an OPTIONAL area of focus for participants who would like to be considered for the “Focus of the Year” Spotlight Award. Themes are selected to reflect current issues both locally and globally.
  • To be considered for the Focus of the Year award, schools must submit 150 words or less describing how their project relates to current Focus of the Year in their Final Submission materials.
What awards are presented, and how are they determined?
  • Cash awards and trophies are presented to winning teams in Elementary, Middle and High School Divisions: 1st place ($400), 2nd place ($300), 3rd place ($200)
  • Additionally, five Spotlight Awards are presented across the age divisions: Rookie of the Year, Sustainability Champion, Focus of the Year, Judges’ Choice, and Innovation. Spotlight Awardees receive a $100 cash award.
  • Winners are determined by a panel of judges using this evaluation rubric.
What is the Rainbow of Sustainability?
What impact is the Green Schools Quest having?
  • While the immediate impact of these projects may result in energy/water savings, cleaner air, and healthier learning environments, Missouri Gateway Green Building Council hopes that the Green Schools Quest will also strengthen relationships between schools and the community, create a lasting awareness of the importance of green schools, and catalyze a movement that fosters an attitude to appreciate and model sustainable practices.
  • Since the program launched in 2013: 210 schools have participated (many for multiple years), 544 projects have been embarked upon, and more than 364 projects have been completed (final submissions received.) According to schools’ final submission reports, over 32,580,000 students and staff have directly participated and nearly 250,000 additional students, staff and community members have been impacted by the projects.
  • Check out these examples of past GSQ projects for a sampling of videos, written summaries and interviews that showcase Green Schools Quest projects and impacts.
  • Click here to view a map of past school participants.