During the fall of 2011 more than ten schools across the country participated in the pilot version of Green Education Foundation’s (GEF) Green Building Course. One of these schools volunteered to share their story and experiences as they relate to the unit on water. Through this course important science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills were taught using real world examples and applied learning methods.
The Green Building Course is made possible thanks to generous funding from American Standard. GEF and American Standard have teamed up for the second year to pursue the companies’ shared values regarding water conservation and student empowerment. Over the course of the next year, the companies will work together to share strategies and tips encouraging homes, schools, and communities to conserve water and better understand the global water crisis.
During the unit on water, students at Paul M. Hodgson Vocational Technical High School in Newark, DE conducted audits of their school building to make real recommendations to improve water efficiency. This group of students was inspired and challenged by what they learned about water conservation. According to their Environmental Landscape Technology Instructor, Justin Benz, “The students really engaged with the units in the Green Building Course, particularly when completing the audits. The course provided a great balance of quantitative and qualitative learning strategies, all the while remaining very visually engaging and interesting. The materials and technology were easy to access and implement, and I enjoyed using the PDF viewer to display them in the class, so much better than the traditional overhead.”
After learning to convert ounces to milliliters and taking multiple measurements to gather accurate data, the students were inspired to create diagrams of water conservation strategies they want to implement on campus. In the spring of 2012 they plan to design a rainwater collection system and then put a pump and timer on it to water the landscaping in front of the building. Jermaine Robinson, a junior at the school said, “I really liked learning about water, and I was so surprised at how much water is used, and wasted, everyday! During the unit, we conducted an audit of how much water we use at school and at home. Now, I’m going to be more careful about how much my parents and I use on a daily basis, and encourage my school to implement some of the water saving strategies we learned.”
The results of this study go beyond this classroom to effect the strategic operations and management of the school building and property. Principal Annemarie Linden reported that “through the audits of our school, the green building curriculum has us really thinking about ways to conserve more in our building. So far we have started a school-wide recycling effort and we are looking into ways to promote water conservation throughout the school. This curriculum has not only affected the environmental career pathway at Hodgson, but is fostering a more “green” mindset for our staff and our students.”
Victoria Waters, CEO at GEF, reflected on the impact of the Green Building Course’s water unit: “GEF couldn’t be more pleased with the way attitudes and behaviors are affected by learning about water in context with green building concepts and strategies. The goal of the Green Building Course is to foster student engagement with critical STEM education and leading edge green building concepts using real world, hands-on teaching methods. Furthermore, learning about green building encourages and prepares students to pursue careers in the new green economy.”
GEF’s Green Building Course is aligned with National Science Education and Teaching standards and focuses on developing important STEM skills. The course uses in-depth, hands-on audits and activities within each unit to enhance learning and comprehension. In each of the 6 units, students participate in weekly audits of their school building where they are instructed to prioritize areas for enhanced efficiencies. For their end of semester capstone project students analyze and recommend building improvements based upon feasibility and greatest need and return-on-investment (ROI). All materials, including textbook, teachers manual, certification tests, and more, are housed in an online database accessible through any internet connection and PDF viewer.
The course and accompanying audit are aligned with U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) guidelines for what constitutes green building construction according to their LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system.
To learn more about the Green Building Course please visit GEF’s website. In its effort to meet the sustainability education needs of educators nationwide, GEF also offers online sustainability courses through the GEF Institute. Enrollment in the program’s foundations course, Sustainability Education Concepts and Teaching Methods, is available starting February 1 at GEFInstitute.org/.