In support of growing environmental concerns, the federal government and many states are funding green schools.
Many of these eco-friendly schools are experimenting with everything from solar and wind energy sources, recycled building materials, and natural lighting to using green products and pesticides, implementing energy efficient technology and incorporating environmental issues in curriculum.
Going Green in Your School
While it would be ideal if all schools could be green schools, it is difficult to find the time and money to reconstruct and convert currently existing schools.
Even if your school can’t or won’t invest in eco-friendly changes, you can still do your part and have a positive impact on your students, your school, and your community.
Just because you don’t have a green school, does not mean you can’t have a green classroom.
The following is a list of easy and immediate ways to make your classroom more eco-friendly:
1. Go Paperless
Whenever possible, have your students turn in homework assignments online or through email. This will cut down on the use of paper, chemicals and electricity for Xeroxed worksheets all while incorporating technology into your classroom.
** Note: If you choose to assign homework on paper, request that your students use recycled paper. Upon completion, have your students recycle their paper assignments at the end of the quarter when all assignments have been graded and recorded into your grade book and after parent-teacher conferences.
Teacher Tip 1: When students ask if they can throw out old assignments, simply reply, “Yes, you may recycle it.” It’s a nice way to get your eco-friendly message across while answering their question. Designate a recycle bin in your class and even include “recycle monitor” as a classroom job.
Teacher Tip 2: Make sure your students use both sides of every sheet of paper. Old assignments are perfect for scrap paper.
2. Find new uses for existing products.
As a child, your imagination ran wild allowing you to turn a simple empty box into a spaceship or even a cave. Why not channel your inner child’s imagination and find new uses for existing products? (Granted, you will want to use your imagination for more practical uses than a spaceship or a cave). Whether you’re using plastic grocery bags as trash can liners or reusing old t-shirts or awkwardly fitting clothes as pillow cases, scarves, smocks, etc (called t-shirt reconstruction), the possibilities are endless!!
Fun Classroom Example: Add empty plastic milk jugs or empty boxes as part of your students’ classroom supply lists. Cut the jugs or boxes in half and let your students decorate them. They can serve as “mailboxes” for returned homework assignments or for distributing special gifts or prizes. Your students will love sending and receiving mail!
3. Cut down the use of electricity.
While it may seem difficult to do so considering we live in a technology driven society, it is not impossible!! Be on the look out for energy saving products and be mindful of leaving appliances on when you’re not using them. Something as little as turning the lights off when you leave a room or using natural lighting in place lamp lighting can make a huge difference.
Fun Classroom Idea: If weather permits, have class outside!! You and your students will enjoy the fresh air and change of scenery. On sunny days, let that light shine in and turn off the indoor lights.
4. Incorporate environmental lessons into curriculum.
Reinforce your actions with you words. Even if you aren’t a science teacher, you can still make environmental issues applicable to your lessons. Whether it be writing your local Congressman about your environmental concerns or using recycled materials in art class, incorporating green-inspired lessons will spark student interest and creativity as well as help them better understand the importance of their eco-friendly efforts.
Teacher Tip: Have your students present their own ways to be green and implement their suggestions in the classroom! Assign captains to help monitor the progress of each student proposal. This will help your students reach goals and build leadership qualities.
These few, easy steps are meant to be a jumping off point for you and your students. As you become more comfortable with these simple classroom changes, you will find yourself thinking of more creative ways to be green. Who knows, maybe your habits could inspire a schoolwide eco-friendly initiative!