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With Carol Baxter

Tips for teachers, parents and kids on how to live "greener" everyday lives. Contact me at Teachgreen@AOL.com

Hi! Thanks for stopping by. Every month, I will answer your questions on how to bring environmental studies into the classroom, how to deepen our environmental awareness and how to live more "green". I'll suggest seasonal activities that can help our children get closer to nature and give suggestions on how to encourage them to be loving caretakers of our great planet earth. I want to encourage our children (and ourselves) to fall in love with nature. When you love something, you will take care of it.

I look forward to hearing from teachers and parents about environmental projects that you've done that have been successful.


This month, I've chosen to focus the columnon one of thequestions I received: Creating environmentally sound schools. There issomuch to say!

When we think about our children's school, we generally concernourselveswith the quality of our child's education. What is my child learning? Howdoes my child's school rate against others? Is this the best school for my child? But "school" takes place in a building and rarely do we consider the quality of this building when we think about our child's education. The condition of this building and how it is maintained can have an impacton the health and physical development of a child, and, consequently, have a tremendous impact on their ability to learn. Also, a school that is not environmentally efficient, gobbles up thousands of dollars on wastefulpractices.


Question: Hi, My sixth grade science class is doing a project where we can find environmentally friendly products to make our school better. I was wondering if you would give me some ideas on some products that would begoodfor the environment and our school. Like for example, hand blow dryers instead of paper towels. If you could help me with this it would be appreciated greatly! Thanks!! Kelsey Cole

Answer: This is great question and a wonderful project! By questioning the environmental efficiency of your school you are encouraging your students tobe critical thinkers who can apply this knowledge when looking at their homes and future work places, too.

Since schools and large institutions generally purchase in bulk from companies who win the account by the lowest bid, it may be hard to actually recommend specific companies that your school can purchase from. But,you canrequest that your school seek out, consider and purchase products, cleaning supplies, and classroom materials that are ecologically sensitive. In the long run, environmentally efficient products will save your school money because they are designed to save energy and valuable natural resources.

A helpful, "must-get" resource for your project is the bookBlueprint for aGreen School, compiled by the Center for Environmental Education (CEE).It'ssole focus is the environmental health of your school and is chocked filled with ideas and resources about how to "green-up" your school. It can be ordered by calling CEE at 603-355-3251, writing to CEE c/o Antioch New England Graduate School, 40 Avon Street Keene, NH 03431-3516, or visiting theirwebsite at

Also, CEE has a great program calledStudent/School Greening Partnership (School Audit) for $5. It takes astudent/teacher team approach to investigating environmental conditionsin theschool. Students study their school, and by using the guidelines and the suggested viable solutions, students can help "green up" their school.

In the meantime, I've divided the school up into these categories and offerthese few suggestions for food for thought.


Other School (and Home) environmental issues

Lead and Asbestos

Small levels of lead in child's bloodstream can damage their short-termmemory and affect their concentration levels and reaction time. Moderatel evels can damage their nervous system and kidneys. Very high level scan leadto seizures, comas and, in rare cases, death. Attention deficitdis order(ADD), a growing condition that hinders a child's ability to learn toread,write and do math, is associated with exposure to lead.

Lead is acumulative toxin that stays in the body and is deposited in the bones. It never leaves the body and often a lead-poisoned child exhibits no symptoms.

Leaded paint for consumer use was banned in 1978 but the Foodand Drug Association estimates that 75% of a child's exposure to lead comes from deteriorating leaded paint and lead dust, conditions found in schoolsbuiltbefore 1980.

Nicknamed "white lung disease", asbestos exposure is responsiblefor life-threatening lung conditions and exacerbates asthma. Asthma, which is on the rise, is the leading cause of hospitalization for children ages1-9.

Renovations

It's a happy day when a school that's old and over crowded finally gets thegreen light for renovations. But parents generally are not included inrenovation plans and most of the time construction programs are designed to take place while children are in school, a condition that may behazardous totheir health and safety.

The fundamental goal is to control the quality of the work. Sometimes construction workers lose sight of the fact that they are working in aschool. Tools are left unattended, fire exits are sometimes blocked, public address, fire detection and emergency systems can be accidently disconnected,toxic chemicals gives off fumes, sinks may be pulled out of walls with pipes protruding and ladders may be left in hallways. It is common for achild tonot pay attention to the world around them as they dash through thehalls.

Lead and asbestos, present in most schools, is a primary problem during renovations. Laws on asbestos abatement are very clear, strict, and enforceable, but not so with lead. Work areas are required to be sealedoff, and plastic is to cover every inch of the classroom. But when workers smash through walls, hazardous dust, chips and other matter are released,which seepthrough even the best intended partitions. And, a crucial phase of renovationis a thorough and spotless clean-up to remove all hazardous dust and materials from the site. Areas should be retested, and if levels of lead are found,children must be tested. Many of these clean-up measures are neglected.

Water

Lead can be found in walls and in tap water. Lead leaches into water frompipes, connecting joints, and fauce ts. Parents can and should ask that every faucet in their school be tested for its lead content.

Parents should be suspicious of schools where teachers and school workers drink from vendor water.

Other issues

Other environmental and safety problems that plague the schoolsare thecondition of play equipment and the misuse of toxic pesticides and cleaners.For children that have allergies, asthma and chemical sensitivities, six to seven hours a day in an over crowded, poorly ventilated, environmentally neglected building is extremely detrimental to their health.

Parents can and should get involved. According to the New York Healthy Schools Network in Albany, parents should urge their district to adopt the"bill of environmental rights" recently adopted by the State Board of Regents and form a Building or District Environmental Health and Safety Committee,which includes parents and school personnel which assesses and makes recommendations about buildings and grounds conditions and practices. Never forget that it is the parents right-to-know the environmental condition of their child's school and it is the School Boards legal obligation to provide asafe, healthy school environment.

Request their Construction vs. Children

General: New York Healthy Schools Network CEC, 33 Central Avenue Albany, NY 12210
Request their Environmental Quality of Schools: Report to the New York State Board of Regents. (Or you can check with your own State Board ofRegents.)and Environmental Health Threats To Children, by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

Book: Is This Your Child's World? How you can fix the schools and homes that are making your children sick. by Doris Rapp, M.D., Bantam Books, 1996.


RELATED TEACHING PROJECT:

Disposing of Disposables A great teaching project is to go through the classroom, the cafeteria, the art room, etc. with a fine tooth comb and write down all the disposable products that are present. How can these items be replaced with reusable items? What percentage of these disposables are made of plastic?

How many things that are made of plastic can be replaced with natural materials such as wood, metal, paper or cotton? Remember, plastic is made from oil which is not a renewable resource, once the oil supply isdepleted,it is gone... forever! Not only that, plastic materials "off-gas",which mean they slowly release toxic fumes into the air. How can we curb our int ake of plastic in school and at home?


WINTER CRAFT:

Feeding the Birds

Our fine feathered friends who did not migrate south (or the ones who are migrating south through your neighborhood), could use extra help infinding food over the winter months. Here are some suggestions. Remember if you start to feed them, they will depend on your consistency. Keep a birddiaryof the different species of birds that you attract.

1- Fill separate bowls with, cranberries, popcorn, dates, largely cubedapples, and large chunks of bread. Thread a large craft needle withheavycotton thread, cut to desired lengths. (12 inches is a good length). Don'tuse a plastic or nylon string because if it breaks off the bird maychoke onit. String the food. Hang in a tree.

2- Roll a pine cone in peanut butter. Then, roll it in wild bird seed. Tie acotton string on the wide end of the pine cone. Hang in tree.

3- Design an edible bird house! You'll need a half gallon milkcontainer, peanut butter, sprigs of millet, wild bird seed and foods used in number1.Working on one side at a time, spread the entire side with peanut butter.Using your imagination, design doorways, win dows, shingles, etc, out of your edible materials. Repeat on each s ide and the roof. Hang with string attached to the top.

4- Don't forget you can always just throw out your used bread scraps and wild bird seed into your yard. The birds will be grateful. P.S. Next summer, consider planting shrubs and bushes that have winter berries. The birds love them.


AWARDS OPPORTUNITY

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City, NewYork, hasannounced their Young Naturalist Awards scholarship program for students in grades 7-12. The program is designed to promote participation and communication in science and the awards will honor excellence inbiology,earth science, astronomy, and cultural studies. The focus of this year'sprogram is earth science. To win, students must complete one of three of the suggested projects and report their findings through illustrationsand/orwriting.

The twelve Young Naturalist Award winners (two in each grade)will:

1-Receive a scholarship (bonds worth $500-$2,500 redeemable after highschoolgraduation)
2-Have their winning entry published
3- Celebrate at the Museum in the Spring

For entry form, rules, or further information, contact the American Museum ofNatural History, visit their website at orsend in a post card with your address to:Young Naturalist Awards, c/oAlliancefor Young Artists & Writers, Inc. 555 Broadway, 4th Floor, NYC, NY10012.


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