Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a nationally accepted benchmark for design, performance and operation of green buildings. While few schools in the United States are officially labeled "green" construction, there are many smaller things that can make a school "greener," or more environmentally friendly. The LEED Rating System for Existing Buildings addresses:

  • whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues including chemical use
  • ongoing indoor air quality energy efficiency
  • water efficiency
  • recycling programs and facilities
  • exterior maintenance programs
From this rating system we can derive some fundamental questions that students can ask and research. Based on the findings, students can work toward more energy efficient and environmentally friendly building management.

1. Begin by asking the students about the definition of "green." Use any pedagogical method for brainstorming ideas that you prefer, e.g. jig saw, class call-out, or think-pair-share. After students are able to think independently and as a class, derive a workable definition for what it means to be "green."

2. Follow this discussion by asking students to reflect on how "green" they think they are and how "green" the school is. Once they have recorded their responses in a journal and discussed these responses with their neighbor, ask them what specific criteria they used to classify both themselves and their school building.

3. Discuss with them how their ideas are similar to nationally recognized benchmarks for green buildings (LEED). Teachers, review this Web site prior to the discussion: USGBC: LEED for Existing Buildings

4. Discuss how any actions in science or specifically to "green-up" a building or lifestyle should be based on information and in this case data that is easily collectable. Hand out the "What Shade of Green Is Your School?" worksheet.

5. Assign or have students volunteer for one of the six sections on the worksheet except for section three. If there is a computer lab available, have the students research the benefits of being "greener" in their assigned areas of research. What are the "greener" options?

6. Once all sections are completed (except section three), have students store their data and complete section 7.

7. If there are glass, bottle and aluminum can recycling bins in the school, have each pair of students count the number of these recyclables that are deposited in an equal number of trash cans and recycling bins. Compile class data to determine the percent of cans that are recycled and the percent of recyclable cans that end up in the general trash and then a landfill.

If your school has no recycling bins, determine the total amount of cans and bottles that could be recycled. For either case be sure to determine how long it has been since the receptacles have been emptied or changed.

Have students extrapolate how many cans are recycled and thrown away in a school year. How can the school improve on this? As an extension to this, if your state has a bottle deposit, calculate the estimated amount of money that could be made if you turned in all redeemable cans over a year. Assume the proportions that occur during the audit would remain the same.

8. Post activity discussion: Have each group share their findings with the class. This can be done as formally as needed. I often use this as an opportunity to fulfill the state requirements for various types of speaking presentations. Determine what can be changed in the school to make it more environmentally friendly. Extensions include presentations to the administration and custodial services of the findings and suggestions for change.
From the National Science Education Standards site:

CONTENT STANDARD F: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of:

  • natural resources
  • environmental quality
MATHEMATICS STANDARDS From the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards site:

Data Analysis and Probability Standard for Grades 9-12

Measurement Standard for Grades 9-12

Number and Operations Standard for Grades 9-12

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