Greening the back-to-school experience for students

The recent rains produced a green end to an exceptionally green summer and now students are returning to school. There are opportunities to make the school year green as well and to teach a future generation how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

The Oklahoma Green Schools Program committee was assembled in late 2008 to coordinate the environment and energy resources from state governmental agencies and private industry to benefit the Oklahoma schools.

Committee members are from organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council Oklahoma Chapter, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Department of Education, Oklahoma Department of Commerce and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, among others. Their objective is to bring coordination and focus to the green school movement in Oklahoma, by laying out a plan to help administrators, teachers and students to improve their schools and their environment.

There are three tracks to the Oklahoma Green Schools Program. Track One is Educational Investigation, which includes free environmental education training and materials, assistance with service learning projects, and opportunities for low-level funding of green projects.

Track Two, Building Upgrades, focuses primarily on funding for major energy retrofits in school buildings.

Track Three, LEED for Schools, is for new schools or schools undergoing major renovation that are interested in achieving LEED certification. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED for Schools provides a comprehensive tool for school districts that wish to build green with measurable results. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification provides parents, teachers and the community with a report card for their school building, verifying that the school has been built or modified to meet high levels of performance.

The Oklahoma Green Schools Pilot Program kicked off recently at Keystone Adventure School & Farm in Edmond, which serves children from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
Requirements for Track One Pilot Schools include:

• Register as a Green School on the Project Learning Tree Web site.
• Designate a Green Team whose members will attend an on-site Green School Workshop in September.
• Host a free environmental education/training workshop open to school staff and faculty.
• Involve students in Project Learning Tree school investigations for at least three categories (energy, water, waste, environmental quality, or school site investigation) to determine where changes could be made to save both resources and money for your particular school.
• Present a student-designed report of findings and recommendations for green retrofits to school decision-makers.
• Develop and implement at least one service-learning action project from information provided by the student report.
• Mentor other schools in your district or region starting in the 2010-2011 school year.
Assistance is provided by the committee for Track One Pilot Schools in areas such as collecting feedback, conducting on-site Green Schools Training, and aiding in service-learning project planning.

Greening the back-to-school experience for students is a great way to improve the school environment and encourages students to live a sustainable lifestyle. Our next generations will determine the future, so it seems reasonable to teach them to make it a green one.

For more information about the Oklahoma Green School Program, visit their Web site at www.okgreenschools.org.