Are you ready to get going? Here are some frequently asked questions

  • Eco-Schools-USA

    What are the areas (pathways) of sustainability that we can choose to focus on?
    NWF has identified a variety of areas of primary focus or "pathways" to help schools become an Eco-School:
    • Energy Pathway
    • Water Pathway
    • Climate Change Pathway
    • Global Dimensions Pathway
    • Transportation Pathway
    • School Grounds Pathway
    • Consumption and Waste Pathway
    • Healthy Living Pathway
    • Healthy Schools Pathway
    • Biodiversity Pathway
    • Sustainable Food Pathway

    What are the project based 7-Steps that all schools are required to follow?
    1. Establish an Eco-Action Team
    2. Perform an Environmental Review / Audit
    3. Develop an Eco-Action Plan
    4. Monitor and Evaluate Progress
    5. Link to Educational Curriculum
    6. Involve the Entire School and Larger Community
    7. Create an "Eco-Code," or a Mission Statement

    How does this program help me provide my students with a meaningful STEM learning experience?
    Eco-Schools USA takes a holistic approach to sustainability within the school building, outside the school building, and within the greater school community. Addressing sustainability on campus isn't just about recycling and turning off the lights; it's about providing students with the tools, opportunities, and time to create and solve environmental issues in their communities. Students who participate in the Eco-Schools USA program use and practice skills important in STEM fields, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration that allow them to be creative and innovative. These skills coupled with STEM content knowledge and practices make for dynamic learning experiences. For example:

    After completing and analyzing the Eco-Schools USA energy audit, students find that temperatures in the west facing rooms go up by more than two degrees throughout the afternoon even with blinds drawn. Students set out to determine solutions to this problem through research, design, and experimentation and decide they can look at several different variables to help decrease this rise in temperature, that include, planting a tree line to shade the west facing rooms, working with district facilities to test for air leaks in the window seals, installing solar awnings, and curtains. Students break into teams to further investigate the effectiveness of each variable through product testing, partnerships, and continued research. They also look into the cost for the project, and its potential return on investment, ROI. Next, students come back together and as a whole discuss their findings and make a final decision as to the best solution to the problem. From design and experimentation come questions - Can I create a sealant that will change color when a leak occurs? Can I use peel-and-stick solar panels on a refractory metal awning or solar shingles on a wooden awning as a sun block? How many kW can be produced from these awnings? What fabrics work best to absorb heat?

    Students want to increase the biodiversity at their school to support a pond for native macro and micro invertebrates and small aquatic species to better support various learning opportunities and to provide field experiences for the neighboring elementary schools. After completing the Eco-Schools USA biodiversity audit, they work together to develop a plan with short, medium, and long term goals. These goals and learning experiences deal with landscape architecture, soil and water quality, invasive v. native plant and animal species, as well as deciding upon the types of learning that will take place and designing the space accordingly, determining the permitting that is needed, conducting a cost analysis and many more. One feature they want to include is a bridge that spans the width of the pond so that students can better attain samples, provide other vantage points in which to make observations, and allow students to get from one side of the pond to the other safely. A team of students work to determine the design, shape, and type of material needed for this part of the project. They build several models based on their research and measurements, and test them for their ability to support weight whether it is evenly or unevenly distributed. After coming up with what they feel is a working design, they collaborate with a local structural engineer to help support their findings.

    Whether a student is in kindergarten or twelfth grade, they can be problem solvers and innovators. Students are born wonderers and creators, no matter whether their innovation is 3D, virtual, written, spoken or a combination. The Eco-Schools USA program is just one way to engage student's innate curiosity and love for the natural world through the lens of STEM.

    Students are the creators of local solutions now, so that in the future they will have the knowledge, skills, and training when they are called upon to solve environmental problems that affect our nation and our globe.