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Project 2061 Grant: What Do Green Schools Have to Teach Their Students?

Project 2061 thinks that “green” school buildings, stocked with recycling bins and smart thermostats, might also contain raw materials for a new science and math curriculum for their students.

AAAS’s science and mathematics literacy initiative has received a two-year planning from the National Science Foundation to find ways to turn the technology and data generated in sustainable school buildings into interactive and relevant lesson plans for middle schoolers. The project would explore how to use real-time data collected by the schools—and streamed online at the schools’ Web sites—as an innovative and engaging context for learning.

Jo Ellen Roseman

These data might include anything from measurements of the total water consumption of low-flow plumbing to the kilowatt hours of solar energy absorbed by green and conventional rooftops. That sort of information could be used to teach students core concepts in science, technology, and mathematics as well as “foster their environmental stewardship,” said Project 2061 Director Jo Ellen Roseman.

The grant of nearly $500,000 will support the work of an interdisciplinary team convened by Project 2061, which will include green architects, education experts, and software developers. Together, they will evaluate how environmental data captured by the schools can be turned into a curriculum that integrates both mathematics and science and encourages problem-solving and active engagement by both teachers and students. Roseman said the team will also focus on ways to share the curriculum outside of sustainable schools.

“We think this concept has the potential to reach far beyond schools that are already green,” she said. “The use of Web-based technologies will let students in other schools or in out-of-school settings take full advantage of the learning opportunities provided by this unique context.”

A 2010 report from the U.S. Green Building Council and others noted that the education sector is the fastest growing market for green buildings, and some schools districts have used economic stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to construct new sustainable buildings or renovate existing buildings with green technology.

During the two-year planning grant, the team will describe the kinds of data that could be collected in green schools and identify related science and math concepts that could be most effectively learned in that context. “The intent is to reevaluate the best use of teacher and student time, taking advantage of technology and informal learning so as not to be bound by the constraints of the school day,” said Linda Wilson, a mathematics educator who has joined Project 2061 to lead the day-to-day work of the green schools project.

The team will build a detailed framework of learning activities and technologies that would be most useful in a green curriculum, lay out a plan for using technology tools to share the curriculum across schools, and develop and test at least one classroom activity. With these pieces in place, Project 2061 expects to seek additional support to develop a more comprehensive science, mathematics and technology curriculum.


Read more about Project 2061’s plans for a green schools curriculum.

Learn more about Project 2061.