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Green Schools Program offers teachable moments



Take the Oklahoma Green Schools Program, for example. The program allows schools to participate in assistance with service learning projects, carbon dioxide reduction and LEED certification.

“We have everything from classroom teachers to architects to energy consulting businesses that have come together to try to assist schools that want to become greener and healthier,” said committee member Christina Stallings.

above, Students use a meter to measure CO2 levels

Britton Rife, a representative on the Green Schools committee for the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative, said the program is raising awareness about environmental issues.

“It’s important for students to understand some of the environmental problems we’re facing right now,” Rife said. “It’s important to engage students in activities that can teach them the solutions for future problems.”

Stallings said teachers can incorporate the program into the curriculum or make participation extracurricular.

“The real eye-opener is CO2 levels,” Stallings said. “In the two years we’ve done this, students have measured CO2 levels reading 4,000 to 5,000 parts per million. The air is toxic.”

Average CO2 levels, according to Stallings, are 1,000 parts per million.

“The students can’t stay awake, can’t focus, can’t learn with those kind of levels. It affects test scores,” Stallings said.

Rife said CO2 levels are the most common problem in schools. Students monitor the air quality and realize why they feel horrible.

Stallings said the program is offering teachable moments to “the environmental leaders of tomorrow.”

Deer Creek Public Schools Chief Operations Manager Richard Vrooman said the impact has been incredible since changing the district’s custodial and maintenance products to be 100 percent green.

“We’re one small thing in the whole system of trying to improve the environment,” Vrooman said. “We bought all new buses, and now we’re going to compressed natural gas, which is the next step forward.”

Thanks to the program, Vrooman said a green team task force analyzed and tested the area for free. The school system learned it’s green rating without paying a dime, received help modifying items such as air units.
“We’re studying to see what we can do as far as converting ourselves,” he said. “If you can get a grant, it doesn’t cost much.”

Rife said that’s one item the Oklahoma wind power initiative is investigating: how to fund wind turbines for schools.

“There’s a small loan available, but sometimes the school board needs more to convince them,” Rife said. “If we can obtain the funding, we would like to help the schools with wind studies so we can install small turbines to offset part of their electricity costs and produce clean, renewable energy.”

Not only focusing on the environment, the program teaches students that they have a voice.

“It enables students to dig in … and it encourages the administration to do something,” Rife said.

The program shows students they have a voice and can force administration to make environmental changes, Stallings said.

“Every decision, every choice, is cumulative. If every person makes this one behavior change and then if we multiply that by students in the school or district and have this type of savings per classroom, they begin to see choices matter,” she said.

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