Earth Week is almost upon us (April 22-26), and the green schools movement continues to grow. Here are the latest activities and some great tips that can help improve the health, resource-efficiency and sustainability learning opportunities in your school from Jenny Wiedower, K-12 Manager, Center for Green Schools, US Green Building Council.
This year, the Center for Green Schools drew attention to the condition of our country’s public school facilities in our 2013 State of our Schools report, released in March. We estimate that it will take approximately $271 billion to bring our nation’s 100,000 PK-12 school buildings up to working order and comply with laws.
Together with dozens of organizations, the Center for Green Schools is calling for an updated survey on the condition of America’s schools. This will provide more detailed and accurate information to direct our efforts to restore, repair and revive our schools, which will help direct our limited dollars to where they are needed most.
NEA and NEA HIN – two of our many partners – agree. "Our job—as educators, as parents and as elected officials—is to remove barriers so that all students can succeed," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "This means investing in the right priorities. Children need and deserve safe and healthy environments so they can learn. It’s not more complicated than that.”
Educator and student resources….You can help raise awareness about the impact that the conditions of school facilities have on student performance and health.
- Join a local Green School Committee,
- Work on the ground to improve community schools through our Green Apple Day of Service,
- Give the gift of our Green Classroom Professional Certificate to a teacher, principal, custodian or educational support staff you know, or
- Connect with your local legislator on these important issues.
We think “11 Ways to Green Your School” is a great place to pick up new ideas for how to engage students, staff, school stakeholders and community members in making fun, action-oriented improvements in your school.
For the college bound….The Center for Green Schools is pleased to announce the release of The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2013 Edition. In its fourth year of publication, the guide highlights exceptional institutions of higher learning for their leadership in sustainable operations, sustainability in curriculum and green living on campus. As the only comprehensive and free resource of its kind to the majority of prospective students who say that they are looking for a green college to attend, this is a wonderful resource to share with your high school guidance counselors and high school students alike. More information can be found on The Princeton Review’s website.
And don’t miss….
- The Center for Green Schools on NBC’s TODAY Show on Monday, April 22! TODAY is scheduled to celebrate Earth Day by building six green living walls on Rockefeller Plaza with local students from Bronx public schools. The segment will highlight the Center for Green Schools and our flagship event, the Green Apple Day of Service. Tune in!
- Also, on Monday, April 22, the U.S. Department of Education will announce their 2013 Green Ribbon Schools awardees. USED will be live-streaming the event at 10 am on this website.
- Get free 20-minute-or-less web trainings with all the information you’ll need to make your Green Apple Day of Service activity on September 28, 2013 a success. The first web training will be “Save Water” on Thursday, April 25, tune in, these webcasts will introduce you to project ideas, volunteer recruitment tips, fundraising ideas and more.
- As always, check in with the Center for Green Schools regularly to learn how others are making a difference in their schools and communities and share your story with us!
Read Across America Day 2012 is showcasing The Lorax and while there may be many a Truffula tree planted, it's also a great time to think about the indoor environment of your school.
NEA HIN has a host of resources that can help you improve the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of your school. Superior IEQ is one of the many components of a green, high-performance school. Our partners at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offer the IAQ Tools for Schools program to reduce exposures to IEQ contaminants in schools through the voluntary adoption of sound and effective IAQ management plans. You can also learn more about "greening" your school by visiting the U.S. Green Building Council's Center for Green Schools.
So after you enjoy the book or the movie and have decided whether or not you need a sneed, think about how you can help create safer and healthier schools for all!
On Wednesday, February 22 I participated in a School Nutrition Foundation webinar, entitled Teamwork is Key to Successful Food Allergy Management in Schools. Over 300 people participated in the webinar generating many questions and concerns. (If you missed it the webinar is archived and can be found at the link above.)
With 6% of children having a food allergy, it is very likely that a school will have one or more students whose life could be threatened by eating the wrong thing. The big eight of food allergies (soy, eggs, milk, fish, wheat, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts) are found throughout school meal programs and family meals alike. School employees need to know what to do to prevent life threatening reactions.
Given the title of the webinar, it should be no surprise that the most important thing that is needed is TEAMWORK. Teamwork is what gets a good plan developed and implemented. Teamwork is what makes sure that staff and volunteers get trained. Teamwork is what helps parents feel confident that their child is being well cared for. And the team needs to made up of people from every job category. This means the school nurse and allied health professionals, school food service staff, custodians, teachers, paraeducators, administrators, office staff, and bus drivers. Of course parents need to be on the team too (if age appropriate, students should also be considered).
This may seem like common sense, but too often the pressures of the day-to-day business gets in the way of sitting down with the right people and creating a plan. Sometimes we get busy and don't make sure that the plan is more than a document sitting in a binder (or on a website). Staff need to be trained, practices changed, and parents communicated with. Teamwork can make sure those things happen.
To help foster that teamwork, NEA HIN is currently working with the United States Department of Agriculture to produce new resources on food allergies and what school employees need to know and can do. Watch this space for more information.
Recently, I took a trip back in time. I drove 3 hours (my DeLorean was up to task) to Reading, Pennsylvania where I, along with NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen, visited Southern Middle School.
Southern Middle, like so many other schools across the country, is falling apart….literally. Over 90 years old, Southern Middle School is feeling its age. Crumbling paint falling from its walls, floors that have buckled under the swell of water damage, a heating system that leaves 6th floor classrooms at 80 degrees in the middle of winter WITH THE WINDOWS WIDE OPEN, and broken water fountains preventing students from rehydrating after sitting in these extreme conditions.
Lily and I spoke with one of the most dedicated group of teachers and support staff that I have met. They are totally committed to the children of the Reading community and their one wish is that their school, built as a beautiful model in the 1920s, could be retrofitted to support great teaching and learning.
“The message these kids get when they look up and see their classroom ceiling leaking and falling in is, ‘I don’t matter,’” says Eskelsen. “How can we expect students to achieve in this environment? Given that 35% of America’s schools have similar conditions, this is a national crisis. We need to repair our public schools to keep our children healthy and allow them to learn.”
Stepping into Southern Middle School was like taking a trip back in time. I recognized everything from the type of construction to the refreshing resolve of the faculty, staff, and students. We need your help in re-writing the future!
Here are 3 things you can do:
- Urge your member of Congress to pass the Fix America’s Schools Today Act which will provide $25 billion to modernize and repair public schools nationwide. Visit NEA’s Legislative Action Center for details.
- Take NEA’s online course, “What’s Your IEQ? A Roadmap to School Indoor Environmental Quality” to learn about mold, asbestos, and other pollutants and how you can organize around IEQ as a local association. To take the course visit www.neaacademy.org.
- Let us know how crumbling schools are affecting you. Tell us your story about crumbling schools,comment on this blog, post to our Facebook page or our Twitter account.