The creation of best practices for the green school movement may be among the most important things we can do to curtail environmental degradation and slow climate change. The green schools movement combines a healthy learning environment, science-based information, and nature focused pedagogy that instills motivation.
Ignorance impedes the widespread adoption of sustainability because the children of today are the adults of tomorrow, it is essential that these kids are given the tools they need to understand and act in a way that contributes to a more sustainable society. To raise a generation of children who understand how to be good stewards of the earth we need a compendium of best practices.
It is up to us to provide the knowledge and the skills to help children grow up to be adults capable of addressing the tragic legacy of what we have done to the earth. We owe our children the kind of education that enables them to manage life in the Anthropocene.
To make our schools green we must cultivate and share best practices in the areas of planning, construction, design, curricula and energy management. These efforts can increase efficiency, save money, and empower our youth to meet the climate and environmental challenges of the 21st century.
These best practices address a wide range of issues from maximizing day-lighting through building orientation to glazes that soak up heat from sun. Such schools also incorporate a number of other green school attributes from low-flow toilet fixtures to evaporative cooling. Once the school is built these institutions serve as learning centers related to energy management and conservation.
This September 2016 TEDx talk video features school designer and education professor Jennifer Seydel as she discusses the value of sustainable schools, eco-eduction and best practices in green schools. She suggests a framework for developing greener schools and school districts.
In some state jurisdictions legislation is helping to buoy the green schools movement. In Colorado, state law demands that any school renovation or construction project that requires more than 20 percent funding must target a USGBC LEED certification.
With an ever growing suite of best practices we are already developing models for green schools.
No green school focused organization has gained more attention in the United States than the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). They have a nationwide network of local chapters that all contribute to the mission of transforming the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. They strive to achieve this mission through education,improving industry guidelines, policy, advocacy, and information and resourcing sharing.
The US government has also contributed to the green schools movement through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which has released energy savings and indoor air quality (IAQ) guidance for schools. This effort includes IAQ tools and best practices. These guidelines give school districts the tools they need to integrate indoor air quality protections into school energy efficiency retrofits and building upgrade projects, thus helping schools implement important energy efficiency upgrades without compromising occupant health. By following the recommendations outlined, school districts can reap the benefits of improved student and staff health and reduced operational costs.
An initiative to integrate green building concepts into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is already providing insightful results.
Building Information Modeling (BIN) provides digital representations of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility. Such systems provide access to detailed information to allow for better building management
The goal of the Collaboration for High Performance Schools (CHPS) initiative is to fundamentally change the design, construction, and operation of schools to protect student and staff health; conserve energy, water, and other natural resources; and reduce waste, pollution, and environmental degradation.
The Golden Bridges school San Francisco, California launched the nation’s first urban farm school this year. It teaches kids how to grow their own food. Connecting people to our food and the land is an important aspect of forging a sustainable society. The program provides preschoolers through 8th graders with an ecology farm curriculum based on Waldorf Education. A new plant-covered living building will house classrooms and act as a gathering space for the community at the farm. The green roof offers a number of benefits including, water retention (absorb storm water runoff to prevent flooding), insulation, sound absorption, and a habitat for pollinators. The plants also provide green space, air filtration and oxygen. The school also has a social justice vision such that children from all walks of life will be able to attend.
The green building movement is gaining steam around the world including developing countries like India. A 2016 green schools initiative in India is currently transforming 1000 church schools into green schools as part of an ambitious partnership between the Church of South India (CSI) and the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in New Delhi.
Students in these schools will study environmental science and learn how they can reduce their impact on the Earth. Prof Mathew Kosy Punnackadu, an environmental scientist, writer, and activist, who initiated the Green Church Movement in India, said, The Green School program moves beyond theories and text books and concentrates on ‘doing’. This program aims to make students more aware of environmental issues through thought-provoking activities. This involves an environment management system, run by students, which audits the consumption of natural resources within the school campuses and helps schools become good environmental managers. CSE will train eco-teachers in each school and provide manuals and other audit tools. There are also plans to train diocesan leaders to head projects in waste management, renewable energy and tree planting.
Make sure to see the article titled, “Comprehensive Green School Information and Resources.” It contains links to over 325 articles covering everything you need to know about sustainable academics, student eco-initiatives, green school buildings, and college rankings as well as a wide range of related information and resources.