Green Education – More Than Just The 3 Rs

Writing about the strength of the Eco-Schools movement in England last month, I indicated that schools in the U.S. do virtually nothing to educate their youngsters about green living.

It seems I was wrong, as numerous Care2 supporters let me know! And just yesterday, a piece in The New York Times entitled “Teaching Green, Beyond Recycling,” by Mireya Navarro and SIndya N. Bhanoo, describes a whole new, 21st century approach to the green curriculum. The article leads on the Green School in WIlliamsburg, Brooklyn, where the students are encouraged to move beyond typical green topics like recycling and tree planting, and to explore local issues such as contamination of waterways like the Gowanus Canal, water quality and polluted air.

This same approach is echoed in various schools across the country, including the Environmental Charter High School in Los Angeles, where environmental education refers to a curriculum “that extends learning into the local environment so all students graduate with the knowledge values and skills to become lifelong learners and quality stewards of their community – a community where magic happens,” as their Mission Statement states. Alison Suffet Diaz, the founder of the school, explains that the focus on environment is especially important in poor communities that are disproportionately affected by problems like contaminations from industrial sites.

Thus, the green curriculum movement in education, having embraced the 3 Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle, and worked to green its buildings, is now moving to add grassroots activism. And surely that’s a good thing – to have students study their local environments, and delve into the socio-economic impact of decisions made in their communities. At other schools students come to understand how the local environment affects food choices, or how to promote waste-free lunches at their school, once they discover that the average elementary school generates 18,760 pounds of lunch waste per year – a
veritable mountain of trash.

It is hard to gain a reliable estimate of how many schools, public or private, have made environmental education a part of their curriculum, especially since, unlike the English model, they do not share uniform programs and standards. Still, the Green Charter Schools Network, based in Madison, WI, has counted around 200 green charter schools nationwide, while the Green Schools Alliance (GSA), based in New York City, has a membership of 1951 schools, most of them in the United States. According to their website: “We encourage all schools – public, private and independent – to sign the Green Schools Climate Commitment and become global leaders in their own communities.”

Twenty years ago, environmental education in the school where I taught meant the opportunity to get away from the classroom for a few days and explore the great outdoors, with the aim of bringing the students to an understanding of the natural world, and thus giving them a reason to care for it. The recognition that environmental education can and should begin in your neighborhood is a great addition to that concept, and means that the green education movement is thriving in U.S. schools and moving forward to embrace the 21st century. And that’s exciting!



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Judy Molland


Abo Ahmed r.
Abo r8 years ago


Abo Ahmed r.
Abo r8 years ago

Noted thanks

Heather B.
Past Member 8 years ago

This is great news! Thanks for the article, Judy.

Chintin C.
ChungTing Chen8 years ago

thanks for sharing

Elaine Dixon
Elaine Dixon8 years ago

good post- interesting

Kat Greenseas C.
kathryn cook8 years ago

ty for this post

Carole H.
Carole H8 years ago

what a wonderful idea - great thanks

Richard T.
Richard T8 years ago

This inspiring article makes me feel good and gives me hope for a better future for Mother Earth. Thanks. Enviro-ed should start in pre-school and continue through graduation in my opinion.

Debra Thomas
Debra Thomas8 years ago

Great to hear this - and so encouraging to see the massive yes vote for ecological education in schools - in a sane world of course it would not be a 'topic' it would be the basis of everything

Linda M.
Linda M8 years ago

thanks for the great article.