The Green School: A Superintendent's Perspective

The Green School: A Superintendent's Perspective

Maggie Shook (Thomaston-Upson Schools, USA) and Michael D. Richardson (Columbus State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7915-1.ch005
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Green schools are supportive and efficient spaces, the places that the authors speculate should inspire others to value students, sustain the environment, and promote learning. They illustrate that the benefits of a green school go far beyond the environment to include student health and student academic performance. Seen from a superintendent's perspective, the authors conclude that green schools also help lower operational costs and reduce waste, while also encouraging the active involvement of occupants in these conservation efforts, teaching them to be responsible stewards of the environment and learning.
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More than 53 million children and 6 million adults spend their days in one of the 120,000 public and private school buildings in the United States (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2008). Over half of these school buildings have polluted indoor air, lead, asbestos, chemical fumes, pesticides, and other harmful toxins (Healthy Schools Campaign, 2010). “It's estimated that at least 22 million school days are lost every year because of colds caught by students and faculty, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” (Alderson, 2009, p. 1).

Not surprisingly, there is a growing realization that K-12 schools can play a pivotal role in preventing environmental degradation (Edwards, 2010; Edwards & Naboni, 2013)). By influencing human minds at an impressionable age, K-12 institutions can instill a more long-term mindset among future policy makers, business leaders, politicians, and decision makers about the benefits of preserving the environment (Gordon, 2010; Gough, 2005). K-12 institutions that follow practices that prevent environmental damage are typically referred to as “Green Schools” (Freeman & Klein, 2011; U. S. Department of Education, 2009). Some issues that green schools have focused on are benefits of recycling, biological pest control, energy conservation, and sustainability (Association for Enterprise Opportunity, 2013; Gleed, 2009; Sneirson, 2009).

The term “Green Schools” has its origin in the literature on “Green Ergonomics” (Thatcher, 2013), and represents a fusion of the interrelated concepts of (a) environmental education and (b) sustainable utilization of natural resources (Gutter & Knupp, 2011; Iffrig, 2009). While several conceptualizations of green schools are available, from an operational standpoint, a school is considered as “Green” if it adheres to leadership in energy and environmental design or an internationally recognized certification system that focuses on (a) energy savings, (b) water efficiency, (c) sustainable land use, (d) air quality, and (e) stewardship of natural resources (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, 2013). What is a “green school?” No generally accepted definition exists either from professional organizations or from researchers and educators (DuBose, Bosch, & Pearce, 2007; Gisason, 2009; Hornman, Lapinski, Korkmaz, Pulaski, Magent, Luo, Hardig, Dahl, 2006; Mardaljevic, Heschong, & Lee, 2009). For some, green school buildings are the definition of green schools, while for others it means a healthy school environment, and for others it might indicate an environmentally literate student body (Kensler, 2012; Inside Binghamton University, 2011; Kats, Braman, & James, 2010). The U.S. Department of Education (2008) defined a green school as a school that produces environmentally literate graduates, minimizes its environmental footprint, and has a positive impact on student and staff health (Kats, 2003; Matich, 2012).

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