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Oklahoma Green Schools training programs available this summer

Students at Peters Elementary School in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma display the Green Schools flag after completing program training. Photo provided.
Students at Peters Elementary School in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma display the Green Schools flag after completing program training. Photo provided.

By Darla Shelden
Contributing Writer

Beginning this month, the Oklahoma Green Schools Program is offering three summer training opportunities for anyone interested in learning about funding and educational resources available to help their schools go green.

Sessions include an overview of the OK Green Schools Program, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related Green School projects reviewed by current OGSP Teachers, Lighting 101 for the classroom by Les Pace, which includes a demonstration of the OGS Toolkit, and PLT (Project Learning Tree) GreenSchools.

Topics include Energy, Water, Waste & Recycling, Environmental Quality, and School Site.

The sessions are led by Oklahoma Green School Committee Members Les Pace and Christina Roberson.

President of Pace Applied Technologies Inc., Pace is a certified energy manager and Executive Director of Partnership of Environmental Education Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides environmental education to teachers and students K-12.

“The training program has a two pronged benefit,” said Pace. “First, the students learn about the environment, their school’s environment and what makes the best learning/teaching environment for them to be in by evaluating their own classrooms. And we give them the tools to do it.

“Secondly, there are errors within the environment that are happening that can be corrected, which will make the environment more energy efficient and friendly, which reduces the costs of operations in the school district.
“We did a program of 25 elementary schools as a pilot and at the end of two years we found a 3 percent increase in test scores and an 8-22 percent reduction of the overall utility costs by getting the students involved.”

Pace has been working with this type of program since 1996. “The results are always the same,” Pace said. “Kids take pride and ownership of their building and suddenly they’re doing something to solve a problem rather than being part of a problem. They really take an interest in it.”

Jeff Wegener, Oklahoma Green Schools Committee Chair said, “Many educators in Oklahoma have expressed the desire to have a program to support and recognize ‘green’ activities within their schools. Available information on the topic can be overwhelming, so this program has been developed to provide a clear, organized source for information.”

Susie Shields Derichsweiler, founding member of the Oklahoma Green Schools Program said, “A green school is defined as a school building or facility that creates a healthy environment that is conducive to learning while saving energy, resources and money.

“Public and private schools alike are realizing that going green is a no-brainer. If a green school saved $100,000 per year in operational costs, that’s roughly enough to hire two new teachers, buy 200 new computers or purchase 5,000 new textbooks.”

In 2008, representatives from the Oklahoma Chapter of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) joined forces with other public and private organizations leading to the creation of the Oklahoma Green Schools Program.

Roberson, former Green Schools Program Director said, “Our goal is to educate and empower Oklahoma students and teachers to make a difference through environmental awareness and stewardship of resources.”

Ten school districts participated in the pilot program launched during the 2009/2010 school years. Today, the program is growing as more agencies, schools and other partners are joining.

“We have students brainstorm what’s going on in their school regarding energy, water, waste & recycling, environmental quality and school site, which includes gardening, composting, storm water run off, everything going on outside,” said Roberson.

Students then pick one of the five areas that they’d like to investigate further. Curriculum materials are downloadable through their partner organization, the National Project Learning Tree.

“The curriculum is a series of questions and data collection that the students can do themselves,” said Roberson. “From the data they collect, students come up with an action plan. This is all service learning, and it is all student led.”

Roberson says 50 to 60 schools each year are doing some part of the program. From their findings, they develop the action plan that makes sense for their school.

“If the student initiated projects are implemented, they will result in cost savings for the school,” said Roberson. “The students are then asked to put their findings in a report, which is presented to one or more decision makers.

“It could be the principal, the superintendent, the school board, the maintenance crew, whoever it is that can become their partner in getting the project implemented.”

A Green School flag is presented to each school after completing program training.

For 2013, sessions will be held from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Session one is Tuesday, July 9, at the Wilson Teacher Learning Center, 2710 East 11 St., in Tulsa.

On Wednesday, July 31, session two will be held at the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), 707 N. Robinson in downtown Oklahoma City.

Session three will take place on Thursday, August 8, at the Northeastern State University Campus, 3100 E. New Orleans St., in Broken Arrow.

“Come out and see what Oklahoma Green Schools is all about,” said Roberson. “You’ll find out how to get your students excited about coming to school and becoming an advocate for their own education.”

For more information or to register for training, visit

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