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Green Schools

How green is your school? Schools can protect natural resources, reduce consumption, affect energy usage and cost, turn their school campus into a learning laboratory, and even grow food for lunch! Getting started is easy. Discover how green your school already is, and imagine what it can do to improve. Look at ways others schools are greening their campuses, curriculum, and community. You will learn many ways to impact your school’s carbon footprint and get ideas to reduce energy use, use earth-friendly chemicals, implement renewable energy, perhaps add a green roof, rain gardens, and create urban agriculture gardens. Schools that adopt “green and healthy” practices experience educational, environmental and economic gains.

Start greening your school!

Activity 1 form a green team!

Greening your school begins with people. Some schools form conservation clubs; others form global action clubs. You should write a brief (a description) of what you would like to do to green your school. Take a picture of your school and print an aerial view of your school campus. Insert those pictures on your “Green Our School Proposal”. Print several copies. Share them with your friends and your teachers; once you have at least five people (students and at least one teacher) who are interested in helping change the school, make an appointment with your principal or other administrative person. After getting your administration involved, invite your building/maintenance staff, food services staff, other teachers, and more students. A school board member, the school nurse, office staff, business manager, and a member of the PTA or PTO also are good team members to have. Getting everyone involved is key!

Make a green team.

Establish an email roster for your group.

Set a schedule of meetings.

Get started going Green!

Activity 2 assess your school

Now that you have a group of people interested and committed in greening your school, the next step is doing the work. Take a look at the resources listed on page c. Check out Earth Day’s Green Schools site. At your first meeting decide on chairs for each of the assessment areas. Then create a time schedule for the assessments to get organized, take place, and come to conclusions.

Take the following assessments:

Energy

Water

Waste and Recycling

Indoor Air Quality

Chemical Section

Integrated Pest Management

Transportation

Community Involvement Section

Facilities and Grounds

Discover what changes your school has already made and what it could do to improve in each of the areas. Explore possible grants to support the change.

Activity 3 interview the faculty

After assessing how green your school is, create your own assessment to see how your teachers are bringing “Green Curriculum” into your school. Look at different themes associated with green schools, and find out from your teachers how they are doing their part to bring about change to your school.

Activity 4 create a green action and implementation plan

Once the assessments have been made and the areas that can be improved are listed, come up with a project (or list of projects) that addresses an issue with your school. Is the environment a priority across the curriculum? If not, make a list of environmental topics that you want to know about and share them with your teachers. Are chemicals being used to clean your school? Make a list of nontoxic cleaners and share them with your facilities team. Does your school have recycling bins? If not, request them from the administration. How much paper does your school use? Make a list of ways that the school could use less paper. Does your school campus have only grass lawns? Suggest areas for rain gardens; help to get the materials and plants donated, and create them one week when the weather is nice. Is your lunch mostly processed food? Build an agriculture garden for your school and grow your lunch! Are too many people driving to school when they could just as easily walk? Is your school in a remote area, far from public utilities? Apply for a grant to add solar panels for your roof! The more you address your school’s specific needs, the more meaningful your action will be! Getting the community involved is a great way to make sure your actions continue to bring about change.

Create your own blog to post your green school process!

Activity 5 Plan an outdoor classroom

Green Schools are schools that make the environment a priority across their curriculum. Today green schools are learning laboratories of environmental best practices in water management, energy reduction, food production, and connecting students to learning outside the classroom. Imagine having an out door classroom for every subject you have in a school day. Where would it be on the school campus? What activities would take place? Would it be quiet with places to sit and read and write? Or would it be active with places to run and jump and explore? Would it have plants to tend or paths to hike? Using Google Earth, print out an aerial view of your school and school grounds. Make a list of your school subjects. For each subject think of the activities you do to learn about that subject. Make a set of flash cards that each name learning activities such as reading, writing, sketching, photographing, analyzing, dissecting, measuring, testing,etc. Next, make a set of flash cards that list or picture natural elements such as sun, shade, sky, flowers, plants, bushes, trees, paths, soil, rocks, insects, animals and water. Next make a set of cards that show a gateway, different types of seating (natural logs or rocks to metal or wood or stone steps or benches). Make a matrix of showing subjects, activities, natural amenities. Sketch plans for outdoor classrooms around your school campus and position them on your school plan print out. For each plan, draw a section through the outdoor classroom. Get the outdoor classroom conversation started!

Review

  1. Day lighting in classrooms can reduce energy costs and improve student performance.

  2. Name 5 important principles to creating a green school.

  3. If you had the chance to ask the builder of your school three questions about the design and materials used, what would they be?

  4. Now that you have taken action for your school, what would you like to see in the community, to implement further change in your neighborhood?

  5. Using renewable energy sources can offset energy costs on a school campus.

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