What’s the State of YOUR School?

May 6th, 2013 by Jenny Wiedower

Key takeaways from Center for Green Schools 2013 State of our Schools Report

If you’re lucky, you spend your days at a school that has clean air, bright daylit classrooms and is a comfortable and pleasant place to be. If you do, you’re also in the minority. Far too many Americans learn and work in schools with crumbling facilities that negatively impact the health, safety and performance of its students, teachers and staff.

A report released in March by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council estimates that $271 billion is needed to bring public schools in the United States up to working order and comply with the laws. That’s $5,450 for every of the nearly 100,000 public school students in the U.S. Adding modernization to this bill to meet the basic needs of students and teachers brings the total up to $542 billion.

These estimates are “best guesses” and are possibly on the low end; the report calls attention to the fact that it has been 18 years since the federal government conducted a comprehensive study of the condition of our nation’s public school facilities. The 1995 study revealed that an estimated 15,000 schools had air that was unfit to breathe! With the majority of schools still in use nearly two decades later, we aren’t optimistic that that number has decreased. The 5-page report explores the impact of school facilities on student behavior, health, education and communities.

The 2013 State of our Schools report, which features an inspiring introduction from President Bill Clinton, brings to light the fact 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.

Educators can support our efforts by raising awareness about the impact that the conditions of school facilities have on student performance and health. Join a local Green School Committee, work on the ground to improve community schools through our Green Apple Day of Service, earn a Green Classroom Professional Certificate, or connect with your local legislator on these important issues.

This isn’t a conversation about better buildings, it’s a conversation about delivering better education to our students, and ensuring that the places where they learn don’t make them sick, or in other ways jeopardize their future.

Jenny Wiedower is K12 Manager with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council.

Green Strides Webinars: March Series

February 28th, 2013 by Sarah

The Green Strides Webinar Series provides school communities the tools to reduce their schools’ environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental literacy, including STEM, green careers, and civic engagement.>>> These are all the tools that help schools and districts move toward the aims of our U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition award.  This March, the Green Strides Webinar Series will be conducted on:

Integrated Pest Management in Schools: Protecting Children from Pests & Pesticides (EPA)
March 6, 2013 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Pests and pesticides pose risks to the nearly 60 million children and staff who spend considerable periods of time in our nation’s schools. EPA recommends that schools use an Integrated Pest Management approach to reduce exposure in schools. This webinar will describe basics of school IPM, the potential health, environmental and economic benefits, and what it takes to put IPM into practice.

Register here!

Food and Fitness (NASA)
March 13, 2013 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Many factors impact an astronaut’s ability to live and work in space. Study the efforts to improve nutrition and keep crew-members healthy. Learn about the relationship between nutrition and fitness. The activities examine techniques to make life long healthy meal and activity choices, such as determining the proper serving size, understanding food labels, and assessing proper nutritional and exercise choices.

No registration necessary. Log on here!

Taking Technology Outdoors: Geography Connections (NEEF)
March 13, 2013 from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

In this webinar, National Geographic Education will introduce FieldScope, mobile technologies and online communities and how they can be used for citizen science projects. The event will introduce storymaking with maps – how to make maps with existing data and how to collect data in the field for creating story maps.

Register here!

Radiation Exposure on Earth (NASA)
March 20, 2013 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

This webinar features the first activity of NASA’s Radiation Challenge guide designed for middle school classroom – “Radiation Exposure on Earth.”  Discover how NASA is using radiation studies to help design long-duration spaceflight vehicles and how NASA’s space experiences are helping us here on Earth. Explore the use of sunscreen and SPF levels designed to protect us from the effects of solar UV radiation.

No registration necessary. Log on here!

For more information on the Green Strides Webinar Series, upcoming webinars, and past webinar recordings, please visit: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools/webinar.html

Sarah Brzezinski a Chesapeake Conservancy Intern and serves as the manager of Bay Backpack. She is a former Chesapeake Research Consortium/Chesapeake Bay Program Fostering Stewardship Staffer.

Green Strides Webinars: February Series

February 4th, 2013 by Sarah

The Green Strides Webinar Series provides school communities the tools to reduce their schools’ environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental literacy, including STEM, green careers, and civic engagement.>>> These are all the tools that help schools and districts move toward the aims of our U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition award.  This February, the Green Strides Webinar Series will be conducted on:

National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP)
February 4, 2013 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

This meeting will focus on NAEPP and National Asthma Control Initiative (NACI) activities from 1:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. ET and then focus on the Federal Asthma Disparities Action Plan beginning at 3:00 p.m.  Please read the Action Plan in advance and come prepared to discuss how you and your organization might get involved with implementing the plan.

Register here!

An Energy Literate Citizenry from K to Grey (DOE)
February 6, 2013 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

This webinar will detail the Energy Literacy Framework, which identifies concepts every citizen should know to be energy literate. This  Framework was developed through a series of workshops and an extensive review and comment process involving the 13 federal partner agencies which make up the U.S. Global Change Research Program and many others.

Register here!

Emerging Green Technologies: OMEGA: Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae (NASA)
February 13, 2013 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

NASA scientists have proposed an ingenious and remarkably resourceful process to produce clean energy biofuels, that cleans waste water, removes carbon dioxide from the air, retains important nutrients, and does not compete with agriculture for land or freshwater.

No registration necessary. Log on here!

Climate Time Machine (NASA)
February 20, 2013 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Get to know NASA’s website to find resources for teaching or learning about what we know and how we know about what’s happening to Earth.

No registration necessary. Log on here!

Healthy Living, Healthy Students (NWF)
February 27, 2013 from4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Children are spending more time indoors and under the watchful eye of child-serving institutions. We will explore how NWF’s programs are getting kids outdoors by creating outdoor classrooms, edible school gardens, and natural playscapes and how this makes students healthier!

Register here!

For more information on the Green Strides Webinar Series, upcoming webinars, and past webinar recordings, please visit: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools/webinar.html

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Sarah Brzezinski a Chesapeake Conservancy Intern and serves as the manager of Bay Backpack. She is a former Chesapeake Research Consortium/Chesapeake Bay Program Fostering Stewardship Staffer.

Environmental Literacy in the District of Columbia

December 17th, 2012 by Grace Manubay

On Thursday, December 13, 2012 the District Department of the Environment awarded $272,000 to implement components of the DC Environmental Literacy Plan.

2012 has been a banner year for environmental literacy in the District.  On July 2, 2012, Mayor Vincent C. Gray submitted our state Environmental Literacy Plan to the Council of the District of Columbia.  Like other states across the country, the development of our state Environmental Literacy Plan (ELP) was mandated by legislation.  Passed by the DC Council in 2010, the Healthy Schools Act seeks to improve the health and wellness of all District students.  The legislation addresses nutrition, health education, physical education and physical activity, Farm-to-School programs, and school gardens.  Additionally, the law acknowledges that creating and sustaining an environmentally-friendly school environment and integrating environmental education into the schools’ curriculum are essential to the health and wellness of students, as well as the health of the local environment and community.   The Act also directed the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) to draft a plan in conjunction with other District education agencies and stakeholders.

Since submitting the ELP to Council in July, the big question has been, “Now what?” On Thursday, December 13, 2012, DC Council held a Roundtable Discussion on the Healthy Schools Act and District’s Environmental Literacy Plan Implementation.  Four public witnesses testified on the importance of at implementing the ELP as well as on the need to hold agencies accountable for this.  Council plans to draft Healthy Schools Act Amendments in the Spring of 2013.

On the same day as the DC Council’s Roundtable, Mayor Gray announced the winners of the Sustainable DC Budget Challenge, a grant competition in which District agencies proposed projects to test innovative sustainability initiatives.  DDOE was awarded $272,000 to implement components of the DC Environmental Literacy Plan.  Sustainability has been a priority for Mayor Gray and his for  a Sustainable DC includes recommendations to integrate sustainability concepts into the school curriculum.  What better way than through the DC Environmental Literacy Plan?

As exciting as 2012 has been, many promising things are on the horizon to take place in 2013.  We will be looking at building capacity for environmental literacy integration in the schools by encouraging networking between school administrators and environmental education program providers, hosting Green Jobs fairs for students, and more.  We’ll keep you posted on what happens next!

To read more about the plan and DDOE’s environmental education initiatives, visit: http://ddoe.dc.gov/education.

Grace Manubay is an Environmental Protection Specialist with the District Department of the Environment, and has been the project lead for the development of the DC Environmental Literacy Plan.

Green Strides Webinar: December Series

November 26th, 2012 by Sarah

The Green Strides Webinar Series is designed to connect school communities and state and local education officials to existing federal resources that support the three pillars identified in the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) Green Ribbon Schools recognition award program: (1) Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs, (2) Improved Health and Wellness, and (3) Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education. The series is hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, in conjunction with numerous other federal agencies. This December, the Green Strides Webinar Series will be conducted on:

President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Programs (PCFSN)
December 5, 2012 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Research shows that children with better health are in school more days, are better able to learn, have higher self-esteem and are at lower risk for developing chronic diseases. Representatives from PCFSN will present on a new opportunity to help schools make strides in the areas of physical activity and fitness.

No registration necessary.  Log on here or dial 1-8668233031, access code: 5696178

Solar Energy: Power for Earth, the ISS, and Exploring Other Worlds! (NASA)
December 12, 2012 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

This webinar will introduce participants to a Problem-based Learning Activity that requires students to propose and defend a design to provide power to a lunar or Martian research habitat for six explorers. Through this activity,  students will learn about energy, power, circuits, solar energy system, power requirements for their own homes, and energy use on the ISS.

No registration necessary. Log on here!

Chipmunk Cheeks and Chicken Legs: Body Systems and Life in Space (NASA)
December 19, 2012 from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Discover life as an astronaut as you learn about the effects of microgravity on various body systems. Explore the circulatory, nervous, vestibular, and musculoskeletal systems with hands-on activities and demonstrations. This webinar will include a full downloadable educator guide with background materials, readings, activities, and student challenges.

No registration necessary. Log on here!

Sarah Brzezinski a Chesapeake Conservancy Intern and serves as the manager of Bay Backpack. She is a former Chesapeake Research Consortium/Chesapeake Bay Program Fostering Stewardship Staffer.

Green Strides Webinar: November Series

October 29th, 2012 by Sarah

The Green Strides Webinar Series is designed to connect school communities and state and local education officials to existing federal resources that support the three pillars identified in the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) Green Ribbon Schools recognition award program: (1) Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs, (2) Improved Health and Wellness, and (3) Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education. The series is hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, in conjunction with numerous other federal agencies. This November, the Green Strides Webinar Series will be conducted on:

Chesapeake Exploration: Accessing and Using NOAA Data in the Classroom (NOAA)
November 1, 2012 from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has collected and made available vast amounts of environmental data.  Learn how to access this data, use innovative on-line tools, and integrate this data into your educational programming.  During this session we will be exploring sources of climate, weather and water quality data.

Register here!

Integrated School Health Tools for Districts (EPA)
November 7, 2012 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Learn how your school or district can implement a sustainable and comprehensive environmental health program that addresses cleaning practices, mold, chemical management, ventilation, and pest control. The webinar will also highlight resources that are available to help establish a school environmental health program.

Register here!

Train Like an Astronaut (NASA)
November 14, 2012 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Train Like an Astronaut activities are a physical and inquiry based approach to human health and fitness on Earth and in space.  Students can participate in physical activities modeled after the real-life physical requirements of humans traveling in space and experience hands-on science that relates the needs of our bodies here on Earth!

Register here!

Hands on the Land (DOI)
November 28, 2012 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

America’s national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges, waterways, and other public and private lands offer unique teaching and learning opportunities. Hands on the Land, a national network of field classrooms, connects students, teachers, families, and volunteers to these special places all across America through hands-on experiences.

Register here!

Sarah Brzezinski a Chesapeake Conservancy Intern and serves as the manager of Bay Backpack. She is a former Chesapeake Research Consortium/Chesapeake Bay Program Fostering Stewardship Staffer.

Green Strides Webinar: October Series

September 24th, 2012 by Sarah

The Green Strides Webinar Series is designed to connect school communities and state and local education officials to existing federal resources that support the three pillars identified in the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) Green Ribbon Schools recognition award program: (1) Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs, (2) Improved Health and Wellness, and (3) Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education. The series is hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, in conjunction with numerous other federal agencies. This October, the Green Strides Webinar Series will be conducted on:

Environmental Education for Everyone: EPA’s ‘K through Grey’ Resources
October 3, 2012 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

EPA and the National Environmental Education Foundation will present environmental education resources for schools and teachers to use to incorporate and integrate EE into daily classroom activities.

Register here!

Images: via EPA OEE.
The School Day Just Got Healthier
October 10, 2012 from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

This session will cover the USDA back-to-school initiative which helps prepare students, school staff and leadership, and parents for the changes to school meals.  The webinar will highlight the resources available to help build support for healthy eating in schools.

Register here!

Images: via USDA
Why Environmental Health in Schools Matters
October 17, 2012 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Unhealthy school environments can affect attendance, concentration, and performance, as well as lead to expensive, time-consuming cleanup and remediation activities.  Learn more about what schools can do to better address environmental health and EPA’s new voluntary School Environmental Health: Development and Implementation Guidelines for States.

Register here!

Investigating the Climate System
October 24, 2012 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

This webinar will introduce participants to the five problem-based learning educator guides in the NASA Investigating the Climate System series. Topics addressed will include wind, precipitation, energy, clouds and extreme weather.

Register here!

Image: via NASA
Sarah Brzezinski a Chesapeake Conservancy Intern and serves as the manager of Bay Backpack. She is a former Chesapeake Research Consortium/Chesapeake Bay Program Fostering Stewardship Staffer.

Green Strides Webinar: September Series

August 20th, 2012 by Sarah

The Green Strides Webinar Series is designed to connect school communities and state and local education officials to existing federal resources that support the three pillars identified in the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) Green Ribbon Schools recognition award program: (1) Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs, (2) Improved Health and Wellness, and (3) Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education. The series is hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, in conjunction with numerous other federal agencies. This September, the Green Strides Webinar Series will be conducted on:

School Buildings and Community Building
 style= September 5, 2012 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

This webinar will discuss EPA’s voluntary School Siting Guidelines and describe how a growing number of communities are using school investments to meet educational, environmental, health, economic, social, and fiscal goals.

No pre- registration is required. Log-on here! Conference Number: (866) 299-3188. Participant Code: 2025662950

Image: via EPA
Strategic Collaboration for Effective Asthma Management in Schools
September 12, 2012 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Leading asthma experts will discuss best practices for asthma management in schools and how to form successful collaborations with key partners. Understand the connection between effective asthma management in schools and green and healthy learning environments.

Register here!

Image: via EPA
The School Flag Program
September 19, 2012 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

This webinar will highlight the four easy steps needed to implement the School Flag Program based on the Air Quality Index (AQI) and feature other air quality educational resources.

Register here!

Image: via EPA
The Sun, UV, and You: EPA’s SunWise Program
September 26, 2012 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

The SunWise Program is an environmental and health education program that teaches the risks of overexposure to UV radiation and simple actions to protect one self.  We will focus on the free tools and resources available from SunWise for grades K – 8.

Register here!

Image: via EPA
Sarah Brzezinski a Chesapeake Conservancy Intern and serves as the manager of Bay Backpack. She is a former Chesapeake Research Consortium/Chesapeake Bay Program Fostering Stewardship Staffer.

Why Learn About School Air Quality

April 30th, 2012 by Sarah

Holes in the ceiling and exposed wires in a classroom at Southern Middle School in Reading, Pennsylvania. Photo: Cindy Long

Air; it’s all around us but we rarely think about how air quality impacts our lives.  Early this year in a Toxic Schools edition of CNN’s Toxic America program, Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported that an estimated one third of public schools in the United States currently have indoor air quality problems.  He also noted that the number of schools with air quality issues is likely to get worse due to budgetary restrictions in this difficult economic climate.

In addition to the variety of respiratory problems that have been linked to poor air quality, recent studies have also shown that indoor air quality can directly impact student health and academic performance. Children are especially vulnerable to environmental conditions, such as indoor air quality, because their bodies are still developing.

Why Should YOU Learn More About Air Quality

There is no better time than the present to learn about air quality, but if you need an extra reason to do so – tomorrow kicks-off Asthma Awareness Month! Poor air quality, indoors and outdoors, can cause and exacerbate asthma.  In May 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Communities in Action Asthma Initiative will support local programs working to help people in their communities bring asthma under control.

Though there are currently no mandatory air quality standards specific to classrooms or schools in the United States, in March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its new, draft State K-12 School Environmental Health Program Guidelines for public comment. The voluntary adoption of this program by K-12 schools would be a great step towards improving air quality in our schools.

How Can YOU Learn More About Air Quality

There are a number of resources that can help school systems, administrators, teachers, and families create a healthy school environment and improve air quality. Some of these resources are linked below:

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Sarah Brzezinski a Chesapeake Conservancy Intern and serves as the manager of Bay Backpack. She is a former Chesapeake Research Consortium/Chesapeake Bay Program Fostering Stewardship Staffer.

EPA State School Environmental Health Guidelines

March 5th, 2012 by Sarah

Submit your comments on the draft K-12 School Environmental Health Program Guidelines by April 13, 2012!

Last week, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its new, draft guidelines for the voluntary adoption of environmental health programs by K-12 schools. The goal of these guidelines is to provide a comprehensive framework for improving the health and well-being of students by creating and sustaining healthy, safe, and productive school environments.  The intent of these guidelines ties in very nicely with the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program, which identifies “Healthy School Environments” as one of its three pillars that will be assessed in the selection of recognized schools for the first time this year.

The Guidelines

Specifically, the State K-12 School Environmental Health Program Guidelines recommend six steps that states and tribes can take to establish key partnerships to maximize resources in their efforts to develop sustainable school environmental health programs. They also summarize the cost savings and health benefits associated with adopting a school environmental health program; highlight incentives for states and tribes to work with school districts to encourage the adoption of healthy schools practices; and provide links to numerous resources to help states and tribes establish, implement and sustain comprehensive state and tribal K-12 school environmental health programs.

The EPA is currently seeking public comments on these guidelines to facilitate their continued development.  The 45-day public comment period for this draft document will close at 4:00 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time (EDT) on April 13, 2012. For information on how to submit your comments, please refer to the EPA State School Environmental Health Guidelines website.

The Funding Opportunity

To support the implementation of the strategies outlined in the draft voluntary K-12 School Environmental Health Program Guidelines, the EPA has announced the release of a Request for Applications (RFA) that will provide funding to eligible states, tribes and/or territories.  The total funding available for this opportunity is expected to be $750,000 and applications for up to $150,000 will be accepted.  The closing date for receipt of applications is April 10.  For more information or to provide comments on the draft guidelines, visit:  www.epa.gov/schools.

Sarah Brzezinski a Chesapeake Conservancy Intern and serves as the manager of Bay Backpack. She is a former Chesapeake Research Consortium/Chesapeake Bay Program Fostering Stewardship Staffer.
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