The United States Green Building Council‘s (USGBC) Center for Green Schools, started by the Georgia Chapter, is behind the transformation of the educational system in this country through the introduction of high performance schools and facilities. It all starts with providing an environment for learning focusing on health, education and the responsible use of funds, which are “the three major concerns that the school system struggles with”, says Laura Turdel Seydel – Chair of the Captain Planet Foundation. The fundamentals are simple and are the typical goals of the Board of Education. But this initiative, which is a coalition between some of the top educational and environmental associations in the country, does this by focusing on where students are learning and that means updating the technology of our schools.
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The infographic throughout this post, courtesy of the Center for Green Schools, summarizes the achievements the coalition has made in 2011. The goal of the organization is “to provide every child in America with a green school”. The video above is just an example of the steps that are being taken to address these goals, and from the looks of it, the faculty, the students and the administration are pleased with the results. Take a look at the video for a glance at what green schools look like.
From the economic standpoint, these high performance schools, though present a high up-front cost for construction, ultimately save $5 million dollars in operating costs over the life-time of the school. The health and educational benefits speak for themselves. These facilities have sustainable strategies comparable to LEED Certification and this provides a healthy environment through natural light, ventilation, thermal comfort and sound-proofing. All of these components help children concentrate, be more attentive and feel more at ease in their environment.
The school building serves as a classroom in itself, giving children a first hand look at technology and ecological systems at work. From passive heating and cooling to rooftop gardens, the building offers hands-on learning experience. As some faculty members in the video have mentioned, the buildings provide students with an excellent introduction to technology, science, physics and environmentalism and makes them more aware of these concepts in their day to days lives from an early age.
The Center for Green Schools is part of the U.S. Green Building Council, which is dedicated to creating and maintaining these new healthy, high performance schools. It offers free consulting to schools in Georgia to provide them with the strategies necessary to create a sustainable environment on par with LEED guidelines. This all makes sense for new schools and makes a profound impact on restructuring the education system, but how will aging buildings be retrofitted to achieve the same standards as these high performance schools? Another organization, Green Schools Initiative, has a list of guidelines and tips. It even provides a list of tips for parents to re-enforce these same concepts at home. A more detailed look at the “Four Pillars of a Green School” provides information for administrators as well. Green Schools Initiative even provides profiles for successful schools following their guidelines.
The organization, located in California, suggests developing an action plan and environmental policy to guide the changes. Their checklist includes toxic free and Green Seal certified cleaners, avoiding pesticides, provide adequate ventilation, eliminate PVC and PC plastic, and be mindful of lead in water and paint. Other operational suggestions include reducing food waste by composting, reusing foodware, reducing paperwaste, using energy efficient lightbulbs, promoting walking and biking to driving, and replacing asphalt playground with landscapes and gardens. Education of the administration and faculty is equally as important in making everyone aware of how best to make these changes and convey them to students.
Charitable organizations such as Project Green Schools, located in Massachusetts have programs and fairs to inform the public of what the organization strives to achieve and how they can help. They types of organizations are appearing all over the country. Even the Alliance to Save Energy Energy has a Green Schools Program with plenty of information and guides, like this Green Schools Road Map.