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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More