Center for Green Schools at USGBC

The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council was established to educate and change our schools into sustainable and healthy places. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn in an environment that enhances the educational experience, and we provide resources and support to help improve buildings, grounds, operations and maintenance, working toward a shared vision of green schools for everyone.

We work with teachers, students, parents, volunteers, policymakers, communities and others to promote the importance of healthy, high-performing schools. We are seeing tremendous change across the country and around the world, especially in the following areas.

Community service

For the first Green Apple Day of Service, on Sept. 29, 2012, hundred of thousands of volunteers tackled 1,250 projects in all 50 states and 49 countries to improve schools and campuses. This year, on Sept. 28, volunteers are once again taking on community service projects to improve where we learn.

Projects for the Day of Service can include hosting a schoolyard cleanup, planting an edible garden, painting a mural and much more. We’ll have a full series of webcasts all spring and summer to provide additional project ideas and tips for getting started. To see our full list of resources and tools, visit mygreenapple.org.

Policy efforts

The past three state legislative sessions have seen a tremendous surge in the volume of activity relating to healthy, high-performing schools. State lawmakers are increasingly using their leadership platforms to promote the benefits of green schools in their communities.

The released a report at the 2012 National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual summer meeting outlining more than 80 different bills introduced across 28 states relating to healthy, high-performing schools. This represents a more than twofold increase from 2011 session activity, and based on our current tracking of 2013 state legislative sessions, we anticipate even more green school bills to be introduced this year. However, beyond the actual number, what’s most promising is how some of these bills are gathering support from both sides of the aisle. At the Center, we call it “common ground around green schools,” and it’s one of the key campaigns embraced by our extensive network of chapters around the country.

Research

In March 2013, the Center for Green Schools, along with key partners including 21st Century School Fund, the National PTA, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Society of Civil Engineers, released the State of our Schools 2013 report, which calls for an updated survey from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the condition of America’s schools. The report brings to light the fact that a whopping $271 billion is needed to bring public schools in the United States up to working order and comply with the laws. Adding modernization to this bill to meet the basic needs of students and teachers brings the total up to $542 billion.

This report shows that we are lacking critical data that allows us to address the safety, health, education and environmental challenges of our public school facilities. Better understanding would allow us to not only demonstrate that green schools can bring significant benefits to school and district facilities, but prove that we can invest school’s limited resources more efficiently, effectively and equitably. For more information, visit centerforgreenschools.org/stateofschools.

Teacher engagement

The learning environment can be a rich and exciting place. Educators have been using their school buildings and grounds to teach about natural cycles, thermal conductivity, ecosystem interrelationships, landforms and geography, and more. Educators have also engaged students in civic process, helping them understand what they can do in their communities to effect change. The Center for Green Schools is gathering examples of these incredible educators through our Trailblazing Teacher Award program. Winning educators earn both a place on an online map as one of the country’s leading sustainability educators and a small cash prize to purchase instructional equipment, curricular materials or event-related items.

Even with these stellar examples, it is clear that many educators don’t know where to begin when it comes to using the school as a teaching tool. To help educators see the full picture, we launched the Green Classroom Professional certificate (GCP), an online course and exam that equips pre-K–12 teachers and paraprofessionals with background knowledge and actionable information to sustain healthy, efficient learning spaces.

For more information, visit centerforgreenschools.org. You can also find us on Twitter at @mygreenschools and at Facebook.com/centerforgreenschools

Mallory Shelter joined the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) as a Communications specialist in July of 2011. She can be reached at mshelter@usgbc.org.

 

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