Schools Can Be Used As Tool for Environmental Education

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When the topic of quality arises in relation to education, most people have plenty to say about teachers, curriculum, class sizes, and cuts to extracurricular activities like arts, music, languages, and sports, just for starters. But very few people immediately jump to environmental considerations and how they can affect the quality of education that children receive.

In fact, most will never make this connection at all, even when asked point blank whether or not they would equate environmental initiatives in schools as adding to the overall quality of education. The majority of people just don’t see how the two are connected. And yet, schools can not only benefit from adopting eco-friendly practices; they can also enhance the level of education that students receive in a number of ways. Here are just a few that parents, educators, and policymakers should be aware of.

To begin with, making eco-friendly changes to schools can save them money, a boon that is passed on to students. Schools that set up recycling programs may take cans, bottles, and other items that students and teachers would normally toss and turn them over to the local recycling center, perhaps helping to raise additional funds for the support of after-school programs. But that’s just a drop in the eco-friendly bucket. Educational institutions can save a lot more by addressing issues of waste within their walls, including both energy and water conservation issues. An energy audit can let schools know about structural issues (leaks that let the bought air out), but a bigger problem is the amount of energy used to light classrooms and power electronics, from computers to tablets to overhead projectors.

Luckily, there are several ways that schools can cut back on the use of energy and water. For example, natural lighting should be used as much as possible, and when further illumination is required, teachers can use only half the lights in their classrooms and maintenance can replace traditional bulbs with energy-saving CFL or LED models. Further, electronics can be set to power down after short periods of inactivity. As for water, it’s simple enough to install low-flow toilets and motion-sensor faucets, both of which will pay for themselves in savings over time. In some cases, states may have programs in place to help schools pay for such changes or even reward them for their efforts. But how does this add to the educational experience for the average student?

When schools save money in one area it can be transferred to another. So saving on essentials like energy and water can equate to more resources in the classroom, the salvation of after-school programs, or even retaining teachers and maintaining smaller class sizes. But implementing eco-friendly initiatives in schools can also provide an opportunity for teachers and students to discuss the environment and the impact, positive or negative, that each of us can have. Students can even be encouraged to become involved in creating projects to undertake in their schools or communities. As anyone involved in education or social work jobs with children can tell you, the lessons that children learn when they’re young tend to stick with them for life. So making eco-friendly changes to schools can definitely improve the bottom line and provide many benefits to students, increasing the overall quality of education they receive and creating a generation of citizens that see the value in preserving our environment.

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