Columbus, Neb. – GreenSchools has nothing to do with painting the school building. Instead, it is a national program designed to make a school “greener” by using critical thinking and problem solving to reduce environmental impacts.
GreenSchools, an environmental-focused program for students from kindergarten through the 12th grade, encourages students to take personal responsibility for improving the quality of their school, home and community environment. Nebraska Public Power District supports the program by providing educational resources, teacher professional development, and classroom programs.
“NPPD offers teachers in energy and sustainability education hands-on, project-based instruction and tools needed to conduct GreenSchools’ investigations,” explained NPPD Energy Educator Jennifer Swerczek. Students complete the investigations and develop action plans for improvement.
One of the key components of the program is an investigative toolkit. These toolkits, which NPPD will loan out to schools, contain light and watt meters, an infrared temperature gauge, a CO2 meter, a conservation flow meter bag, and other associated equipment used to conduct the investigations.
The GreenSchools program consists of five, student-led investigations designed to be carried out in the school setting, but also include elements where students can apply what they are learning in their home environment. At the completion of each investigation, students develop and implement an action plan. Investigation examples include:
Energy- investigate how much energy a school uses, the main sources of that energy, and propose ways to implement energy-saving strategies;
Water- research the source, cost, and quality of a school’s water supply, and implement ways to enhance current water conservation practices;
School Site- investigate natural habitats, wildlife, trees, grounds maintenance practices, and ways to make improvements to a school site;
Environmental Quality- explore the facility and make improvements to indoor air quality, transportation, chemical use, and more;
Waste and Recycling- investigate how much waste a school generates and where it goes, as well as identify existing recycling and composting efforts and identify ways to improve.
“Students are trained to use diagnostic tools to assess the energy usage in their school, thus the school building becomes a learning lab for students,” added Swerczek. “This program helps improve students’ academic performance in science, technology, engineering, and math develops critical thinking skills, and grows student leaders.”
School investigations may be done by one class or a team consisting of multiple classes and grade levels. Teachers will be encouraged to have each of their students participate in the home energy audits.
Based on the results from the energy investigations, schools will develop an action plan, focused on reducing the energy usage at the school, increasing the school’s energy efficiency and improving environmental quality.
Swerczek noted that action plans for the energy investigation could include: installing vending machine misers or CFL light bulbs throughout a school, using renewable energy sources, or utilizing power strips to eliminate phantom load on appliances. Funding may be available for implementing school action plans, and implementing a GreenSchools program could aid schools in applying for the new Green Ribbon School Award given by the U.S. Department of Education.
For more information on NPPD’s GreenSchools program, contact Jennifer Swerczek at 402-336-2701 or visit www.nppd.com/energy-education/greenschools.