Thursday, June 3, 2010

Green Your School Guide

What is a Green School?
Green Schools are the most effective agents for enacting significant positive environmental and educational change in schools and communities. School greening is quickly becoming more than a trend; rather, it is now the method of choice for providing healthy, comfortable and productive learning environments while saving energy, resources and money.

A green school improves the health and energy-efficiency of the school facility, ensures science-based environmental and civic education in the classroom, implements healthy food choices into the cafeteria, promotes alternative means of transportation, and expands recreational choices and opportunities for all students.

The benefits of green schools are now well established and range from significant reductions in greenhouse gases to impressive energy cost savings, improved student test scores and higher teacher and student retention, as well as very impressive improvements in children’s health. Studies have demonstrated that green schools greatly reduce student sick days, significantly improve the health of students with diabetes, asthma and other respiratory illnesses, reduce social inequity, enhance student motivation in both the short and long term, and provide an educationally rich setting.

Despite what many people think, green schools cost on average less than 2% more to build than a traditional school, yet the payback often occurs within only a few years due to the energy savings alone. A green school typically utilizes 33% less energy and 32% less water – enough savings to hire two additional full-time teachers.

Ultimately greening America’s schools presents an extraordinary cost-effective opportunity to improve the health and educational settings for all students, increasing school equality and competiveness while reducing long-term health and operational costs.

Categories of a Green School:

Lessons by Subject

Mathematics, Statistics and Economics

Social Studies

Language Arts

Creative and Performing Arts



As defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainable development is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." From office buildings to agriculture, it is important that we do not deplete nature's resources faster than they can be restored. The most urgent issue concerning sustainability is the burning of finite resources such as oil, coal, and natural gas that leads to pollution, deforestation, and climate change. Many opportunities exist for teachers and students to green their school and community, from eliminating toxins in cleaning products to improving air and water quality. The result is a cleaner, safer and more sustainable planet, as well as a more productive and healthy environment for students. The following resources offer opportunities for you and your students to learn about sustainability and get active for a better school, community, and planet.
More video resources on sustainability: EarthScope
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Civics Education

In order to create an informed and responsible citizenry, civics must become an integral part of the educational discourse. Through active civic engagement, students can learn the value of their participation in government and their potential to effect change. Democracies are built upon the assumption that a government must evolve as the needs of its citizens change, but we can only achieve a responsible government if the citizenry is actively demanding these needs. Thus, education and practical experience are essential in realizing this goal. Earth Day Network's Education Department sponsors teachers in cities across the United States as they engage their students in action-oriented civic and environmental education through the National Civic Education Project. This project and the following curricula seek to promote civic and environmental education in the classroom and greater community.
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School greening should expand beyond the property of the school to be a take-home message – literally! How students and staff get to and from school is an essential component of school greening. Well-developed school transportation plans should increase the number of children walking or biking to school, decreasing traffic and emissions. This is also much healthier for the children, discouraging obesity and getting them outdoors. The exhaust from idling school buses and private vehicles contains harmful substances in the form of particle pollution and poses an unnecessary health risk for children, drivers, and the community at large. Compounded with health hazards, idling wastes fuel and adds carbon and pollutants to the atmosphere. For children who are out of walking distance, bus policy should be modified to make the ride as clean and healthy as possible.