News / USA

More US Schools 'Greening' Their Curriculum

Educators integrate environmental action into lesson plans

Head-Royce students grow organic vegetables as well as native plants and trees in the school's 370-square-meter garden.
Head-Royce students grow organic vegetables as well as native plants and trees in the school's 370-square-meter garden.

Multimedia

Audio
Shelley Schlender

Head-Royce School, a small private academy for students in kindergarten through the 12th grade in Oakland, California, prides itself on strong academic performance as well as leadership skills.

As part of that leadership experience, senior Tyler Finney gets together with other students and school staff to talk about "greening" their school. "Every day we meet to discuss how to lower emissions," he says, adding that they also plan events to get other students excited about sustainability.

Getting involved from the ground up

Green Team member Mike Eidlin, also a senior, says they're drafting a letter to parents about why they should carpool and how to buy greener products for their kids. "If we can influence our parents, the generation before us," he says, "they could help out other people who aren't as informed."

Head-Royce students formed the Green Team about three years ago and their school now gets much of its electric power from solar panels.
Head-Royce students formed the Green Team about three years ago and their school now gets much of its electric power from solar panels.

Head-Royce principal Paul Chapman says the Green Team has his full support. He believes sustainability is so important that when students first requested this project three years ago, he made sure they would have a major say in generating ideas and taking action.

"I told this group there was a reason for that, because it was about their future not our past," says Chapman. "And I wanted to make it apparent that the kids should have some power. The point was that we wanted them to get out and make change, which they did."

Principal Paul Chapman believes the green mission at Head-Royce helps students build leadership skills.
Principal Paul Chapman believes the green mission at Head-Royce helps students build leadership skills.

Chapman encouraged them to think creatively, even if some of the projects they came up with seemed fanciful and some didn't work out. Thanks to the students' ingenuity, many of their ideas have paid off. The school now gets much of its electric power from solar panels and has a garden for healthy classroom snacks.

The Green Team's efforts have also reduced the amount of trash the school generates. Senior Lydia Glenn-Murray says the committee members are trying to reduce it even more through a trash audit. "Next week, we'll be sorting through all our trash and figuring out how much of our trash should be in compost that's not and is going into the landfill." She says that, in Oakland, 30 percent of the trash in the landfill is actually compostable.

A nationwide movement

Green schools are sprouting up in all shapes and sizes across the United States, according to Lisa Bennett of the Center for Ecoliteracy, in Berkeley, California. "Some schools are doing it through gardens, some are doing it through healthy nutritious lunches, others are doing it through their classes."

A new book, called Smart by Nature, profiles U.S. schools that are greening their curriculum.
A new book, called Smart by Nature, profiles U.S. schools that are greening their curriculum.

The Center for Ecoliteracy has worked with Head-Royce and other schools to integrate environmental action into lesson plans and offers workshops for educators around the world. A new book from the center, called Smart by Nature, profiles U.S. schools that are greening their curriculum.

Bennett says it's important for schools to teach sustainability. "Many of the problems that we now face are because we didn't learn about sustainable living so why not start teaching young kids about it?"

Some educators oppose adding environmental projects to the school day. They are concerned it will distract from basic academics like reading and math. But Bennett says the opposite is usually true. "What the research is now showing is that when kids are out in nature and they're met with a challenge, when they're given this kind of education that's designed around a project, where they then have to learn things for a reason in order to complete their project, they are willing to work a lot harder and we have seen scores go up."

Environmental challenges foster leadership, problem-solving skills

The environmental focus at Head-Royce has made a positive difference. One Green Team member says, "It's really cool for once, rather than just learning material, to be able to build material out of our passions and out of our creativity because that's something that's not always emphasized enough."

The Green Team's recycle boxes have explicit instructions about what goes into which bin.
The Green Team's recycle boxes have explicit instructions about what goes into which bin.

Headmaster Chapman says that, in addition to supporting academic growth, the green mission at Head-Royce helps students build leadership skills. He points out the connection between that and real world problem solving. "When you pitch a problem to kids and let them understand that they could come up with a solution to a problem that has bedeviled other people, it's highly motivational."

You can see the motivation throughout the school, says Head-Royce Academic Dean Crystal Land. She explains that teachers incorporate the idea of sustainability into every subject at every grade level. "Our math classes have a great water-use project where they measure the amount of water that comes out of the shower in each of their homes and then compare to local water use and worldwide water use rates for other families. All through the lower school they study the ocean." 

Green Team members try to get all students at Head-Royce involved in sustainability projects.
Green Team members try to get all students at Head-Royce involved in sustainability projects.

Future goals at Head-Royce include reducing the school's carbon footprint down from 2,000 metric tons of C02 a year to zero, in hopes of becoming one of the first carbon-neutral schools in the nation. Headmaster Chapman says the students are figuring out how to make that happen. He says they've discussed ideas such as running educational or fund-raising campaigns as well as encouraging carpooling and other alternative transportation.

As for the future of the Green Team students, many plan to keep trying to make the world more sustainable. "There are a lot of colleges out there that have wind turbines and they have composting set up," one young woman points out. "But I'm definitely going to get involved in whatever college I go to, in helping further green their school."

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs