Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Creating Healthier Classrooms Through Practical Solutions

Rachel Gutter
Director, Center for Green Schools

Today, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC launched the Green Classroom Professional Certificate, an online course and evaluation designed to educate teachers, principals, administrators and other school staff – like nurses and custodians – on what they themselves can do to improve their current instructional environments. This is the first professional designation USGBC has ever offered to non-green building practitioners, making the basic principles of healthy, high performance operations and maintenance accessible to school building occupants.

The course is packed with practical suggestions and solutions like “what are the three questions you should ask your custodian or building manager about where fresh air comes in and stale air goes out of the classroom,” or why it may not be a good idea to purchase an air freshener to cover up that funky mold smell (because that can actually keep us from identifying the problem). And this course focuses heavily on small steps that classroom leaders can take, rather than technical green building information, making it applicable to virtually anyone interested in improving their educational environment.
My mom just retired after 22 years of service to a Maryland school district. A few years ago, she walked into a portable classroom, or, as the school district prefers you call them, “learning cottages.” Portable classrooms are some of the biggest offenders where indoor environmental quality is concerned. They often are made of cheap materials that emit unhealthy toxins, they typically have poor ventilation and abysmal acoustics, and, as was the case with this particular classroom, they are hotbeds for mold. My mom suffers from asthma and is particularly sensitive to poor air quality. Within a few minutes of being in the classroom, she was coughing and wheezing and could scarcely breathe. When my mom approached the teacher to explain her symptoms, the teacher was elated. Not of course, because she was glad my mom had fallen ill in her classroom, but because for months she had been trying to get someone to pay attention to what she intuitively knew was an ongoing issue in her classroom.

Like so many teachers that I’ve met, this teacher had good instincts about how the physical environment was not only impacting her student’s learning but their health and wellbeing too. It turns out that this particular portable classroom was infested with mold hidden to the naked eye. In reviewing class attendance records, absenteeism was through the roof. To the school district’s credit, as soon as the problem was identified, they took immediate action, and today, students in that community attend a newly modernized, LEED-certified school.

The Green Classroom Professional Certificate aims to arm our educators with the knowledge to identify environmental and health challenges and appropriate strategies for addressing them. And to encourage teachers and administrators alike to sign up, we are offering the course at a promotional rate of $75 until April 1, 2012. Sign up today or forward this along to a teacher in your life who wants to make his or her classroom into a healthier, safer place to inspire great learning.

Read this post on Greensource>>

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