Green Schools Exhibit In DC

BY ON March 21, 2013

Photo of a display at the Green Schools exhibit

This was written by Anneka Wisker and Molly Rauch:

At Moms Clean Air Force, we want to make sure that children breathe healthy air both inside and outside, at home and at school. That’s why we’ve been writing about and working on green schools. We even have a new “Armed with the Facts” resource on school air quality! When we learned that Washington D.C.’s National Building Museum had opened an exhibit on green schools, our first thought was: Field trip! So we met for a lunch break to check out the new exhibit.

The Green Schools exhibit showcases dozens of schools making efforts to improve energy efficiency, water use, walkability, food quality, daylighting, and other environmental achievements. It was great to see a wide variety of initiatives to create healthier learning environments from schools across the country.

What really struck us throughout the exhibit was the effort to bring nature back into the classroom. We are often focused only on what harmful elements we should be taking out of the classroom, and while this is undoubtedly a very important element to consider, it is almost equally as important to look at how we can bring nature into the classroom and tie it to the curriculum–using it as a tool for both health, learning, and building efficiency. This concept was quite visible in the Bertschi School whose Living Science Building includes an indoor river, a densely planted green wall, as well as indoor and outdoor rain water cisterns.

We also got to poke around a new, ecofriendly, modular pre-fab classroom built on the front lawn of the National Molly Rauch at the Green Schools exhibit Building Museum by architecture firm, Perkins + Will. The “SproutSpace” prioritizes good indoor air quality. After all, when the air inside a school is healthy, children perform better and have fewer absences.

We would have liked to have seen more information on potentially toxic chemicals in building materials, school furnishings, and cleaning supplies, as well as the problem of school bus idling. And there was too little information on the schools that aren’t able to take on innovative renovations — the schools where basic maintenance is deferred and children spend their days breathing potentially compromised indoor air.

What is your child’s school doing to create a more healthy learning environment? What are the barriers to healthy air at your school? We’d like to hear.


TOPICS: Indoor Air Pollution, Pollution, Schools

  • Ernest Grolimund

    Wood smoke hung around the entrance to my daughters high school with it’s noxious, toxic fumes indicating dangerous invisible pm2.5. Everyone ignored it. I pulled my daughter out of the high school and transferred her to the next school district because she had asthma. The old school was designed in the 1960’s with hot water heat and infiltration of air through windows with no filtration. The chosen school was down wind of woods, not wood burners most days and the building pulled in air from up high, filtered it, and distributed it under npressure to rooms to block infiltration of wood smoke. After an initial episode where a teacher opened windows for fresh air and let in wood smoke, the air pollution problem was solved by educating the principle who then ordered the windows closed. No asthma attacks. No problems. 4.0 cum. Full scholarship to college instead of becoming disabled from damage due to asthma attacks. No albuterol, nebulizers. Difference? Ignorance of air pollution effects in one city and bad engineering and knowledge of air pollution effects in another school and it’s architect engineering team.
    Wood burning in Maine is suddenlt a huge problem but env groups refuse to recognize it and insist on talking about car pollution and industrial pollution without recognizng that the recent rush to burn wood is doubling and even tripling pm going into the air and causing an average of 50 mcg/m3 pm2.5 when the ave used to be the present pm design level of 25 mcg/m3. Peak hotspot pm2.5 is on ave 75 mcg/m3 and the pm from wood smoke is about 4 times more toxic with a different safe dose of 180 mcg/m3,hr as oppposed to 840 mcg/m3,hr for mixed pm mainly from oil and gas combustion.
    EDF challenged the NSPS stds for all wood brning equipment with all the other env groups yet MCAF basically ignored the problem. The EPA reportedly is ignoring the EDF and env group reccmendations to meet the pm std and new safe dose for wood smoke pm. But MCAF continues to talk about car pollution in Salt Lake City and ignore the poor apportionment studies in Utah that do not check with all the other states. So ignorance is the main barrier to solving the air pollution problem. Lok at Salt Lake City. The DHHS says if you see or smell smoke of any kind, there is a health problem and SLC is videoed engulfed in smoke 300 foot thick. The doctors are correctly saying there is a health emergency and the Governor is saying everything is OK. There is a huge coverup anddenial mof the problem everywhere. The first step in solving a problem is recognizing a problem exists.
    So,continue to educate everyone, end the ignorance.