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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid