Bridging the Gap in Schools

Posted on July 6, 2009 by Courtney

Please welcome today’s guest poster, Nancy Pearl Wannabe, who is a school librarian.

Much like Stefanie last week, I was both flattered and a little surprised when Allie and Courtney asked me to whip up a post about eco-friendly schools and technology. I mean, I love saving the Earth as much as the next girl but I will admit, I had some doubts about my qualifications. Don’t I need an EPA certification or something to write about this stuff? Apparently not, because here I am! And while I might not be an expert on going green I do think that my career choice as a middle school librarian has given me a unique perspective into the types of problems facing many school districts attempting to move into this increasingly environmentally-concerned age. 

In my own school there seems to be a great divide between the students and the older teachers. Many students have pushed for more recycling programs and have been the cheerleaders for becoming more energy efficient by turning off lights and computers when they are not in use, while the older teachers still insist on paper notices in their mailboxes because they can’t be bothered to check their email. Frustrating, right? Let’s do some simple math here: I would estimate that I received roughly seven notices per school day that went directly into the recycling bin because I had already received them via email. There are about 80 teachers in my school, so that is 560 pieces of paper per day getting read and chucked. At 180 school days, that is 100,800 pieces of wasted paper and unless you are Dwight K. Schrute, that should be a less-than-thrilling number. So, clearly, just getting these older, more reticent teachers to understand is step number one. 

Getting the kids while they are young is easier, but that’s not to say that the students are doing it for all the right reasons. I mean, they are twelve. If the Jonas brothers told them they should drown baby ducks in motor oil they would probably consider it. But luckily for us, going green is very trendy with the added bonus of being important. Even so, for most of my students the consumer culture is a way of life. If they received an iPod for Christmas and a new color comes out in January that they like better they think nothing of demanding the new one regardless of what would happen to the (30-day) old one. While there are plenty of options for trading in old electronics for cash (TechForwardMyBoneYardRadioShack’s Trade-In Program), getting the kids to think critically about what they need versus what they want as well as the consequences of their purchases should be step number two. 

Finally, young, energetic, enthusiastic teachers who can bridge that gap between the students and the rest of the staff have a responsibility to make sure that happens. If it means championing school-wide campaigns, writing grants for solar panels, working green engineering into science and math classes, or just heading up your school’s Green Team and encouraging kids to participate, getting the word out that you care will make a difference. Do you find that a lot of teachers are throwing out their plastic water bottles because making it to the recycling bins in the cafeteria in between classes is impossible? Have your Green Team provide the teachers with cardboard boxes and once a week the kids can go around emptying them for the teachers who choose to participate. Does your school not have a Green Team? Make going green a part of your Student Council’s agenda. It may sound like a small thing, but every little bit helps to enforce the importance of keeping our planet viable.

No Comments +

  1. I’m pretty proud to be in a paperless office. It just makes sense.

    July 6th, 2009 at 6:40 am
    Comment by Julie
  2. In my office, the recycling bin is two inches away from the trash can, and yet, every week, I pull aluminum cans out of the trash and put them into the bin because it apparently hasn’t occurred to people to put them in the right place themselves. I can’t believe something so basic isn’t just habit by this point. Clearly teachers aren’t the only ones with habits to change.

    July 6th, 2009 at 9:50 am
    Comment by Stefanie
  3. In my office, the recycling bin is two inches away from the trash can, and yet, every week, I pull aluminum cans out of the trash and put them into the bin because it apparently hasn’t occurred to people to put them in the right place themselves. I can’t believe something so basic isn’t just habit by this point. Clearly teachers aren’t the only ones with habits to change.
    PS: Wanted to say great post!

    July 6th, 2009 at 2:38 pm
    Comment by Comment on Bridging the Gap in Schools by Stefanie
  4. Hi Nancy, great post there. Yes, these days kids do things better than elders. Whether from habit or for lack of alternatives we can’t say, but that is not the issue. The fact that their approach is on the right track is something that we should be proud about. Our task in http://climatarians.org then is to educate the elders to follow the children’s example.

    Wisdom can be found in unlikely places!
    Joost Hoogstrate

    July 7th, 2009 at 8:47 am
    Comment by Joost Hoogstrate
  5. I love the idea of getting kids involved with the recycling efforts at school!

    July 7th, 2009 at 10:06 am
    Comment by Allie
  6. Great ideas, NPW!

    July 7th, 2009 at 10:38 am
    Comment by Catherine
  7. Its not only in schools that this should be practiced….older people in the work force are just as bad…I would like my office to be paperfree but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon because its so hard to break bad habits.

    July 7th, 2009 at 2:00 pm
    Comment by M Lou
  8. A friend of mine who works in a school says there is a Green Team and the curriculum involves teaching the kids to be eco-friendly, but in the cafeteria there is styrofoam GALORE. Not only are the trays styrofoam, but every item on the tray is ALSO in an individual styrofoam container! It’s really frustrating to teach kids something positive and then have it undermined literally minutes later in the same building. If they’re going to include eco-friendliness in the curriculum, schools should follow through with it.

    July 7th, 2009 at 8:57 pm
    Comment by Courtney
  9. [...] Many students have pushed for more recycling programs and have been the cheerleaders for becoming more energy efficient by turning off lights and computers when they are not in use, while the older teachers still insist on paper notices in their mailboxes because they can’t be bothered to check their email. Frustrating, right? Let’s do some simple math here: I would estimate that I received roughly seven notices per school day that went directly into the recycling bin because I had already received them via email. There are about 80 teachers in my school, so that is 560 pieces of paper per day getting read and chucked. [...]

    July 10th, 2009 at 9:30 am
    Pingback by Quick Green Reads For The Weekend Volume 125. | The Good Human

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Tip of the Day

If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It

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According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.


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