There is a new trend popping up across the nation in schools that are not only "going green," they truly are green — from their passive solar heating to their intense environmental coursework. Rather than limiting environmental education to an occasional workshop or class project, these schools lace environmental themes into every aspect of their curriculum.
These green schools, as they are being called, go beyond recycling and tree planting to teaching kids about problems such as sooty air, environmental legislation and social justice. Some schools — like The Urban Assembly School for Green Careers, a high school in Manhattan, N.Y. — focus on teaching hands-on skills such as installing insulation and solar panels to prepare students for entering the work force after graduation or pursuing college degrees in fields like engineering.
And while all the green schools discuss broad topics like recycling and global warming, many also focus on local issues that directly affect the students and their families — contamination of a local waterway or the razing of low-income housing.
According to New York's Department of Education, at least 11 traditional and charter green schools at varying grade levels have opened in the last six years in New York alone.
Of course, since most of these schools are new, it's difficult to assess how this environmental focus is affecting students' grades and after-school employment opportunities. But I for one have my fingers crossed that these green schools are helping to create a new generation of eco-champions who are well-versed in eco-issues and skilled in the solutions needed to really implement change.