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 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.