If I had a million dollars, I'd build you a school.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Proposal: The Green Olympics

A few weeks ago I put up a post about the new Middle School building at Sidwell Friends here in DC. It was one of my most viewed posts so far, which leads me to believe there is some interest out there in the idea of environmental education, and the ways in which we can teach our students to be better stewards of their environment. Today I came across this New York Times article about what some college students are doing to be more green at school, and it got me to thinking.

The article features a sustainable student house at Oberlin College. Among other green activities, the students competed over who could take the shortest shower, and unplugged one of the two refrigerators in the house to conserve electricity.

The competition aspect of it struck me as something that could translate well to a school situation. In addition to timing showers, you could have students calculate the trash their houses produce, their family fuel consumption, or electric bills. You could create charts by homeroom or grade, keep track of scores in a various categories and award green medals. It would be the environmental olympics. It could be a lot of fun.

On the other side of things, one quote from the article stuck out for me. Discussing the fact that the house does not have a TV, one of the residents says, “You have the rest of your life to watch TV." It's a throw away line, but I think it gets at a fundamental problem in environmental education. A lot of these sustainable activities are perceived as things to do in school before your real life begins. Once faced with the realities of the grown-up world, sustainable living drops a long way down the priority list. That's why we send the kids home with green missions for their family, because the kids are way more likely to follow through than their parents. So that begs the question:

What can we do to teach sustainable habits that will actually carry over into the real world once the students are out of our hands.

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