Professional Development Goes Green

from Educators' eZine

What if you wanted a drink, and there wasn't any clean water? Or you could not go outside because the air quality was way below standard? This is happening in many parts of the world today. Right now, 1.5 billion people don't have enough water to meet their daily needs.

The future depends on what we do now and how we educate our children so they make the right decisions to preserve the earth. Everyone drinks water to survive, breathes the air and leaves a carbon footprint that impacts the environment. Teachers can adapt their curriculum by integrating action projects that involve green activities. Professional development can go green by designing or pointing to saving the environment and climate change lessons that teachers can use or adapt as replacement units.

Biomonitoring is an example of monitoring plants and animals that give us clues about pollution in our air, land, and water, before we even notice that something is wrong. Milkweed is a good plant to study because it shows signs of damage from ozone, grows in most areas of the United States, and is the main food of Monarch butterflies. Damage to milkweed is measured by showing stiples, or dark polka dots, all over the leaves; losing leaves; turning strange colors; or not growing very big.

Through EEK (Environmental Education for Kids): students around the state of Wisconsin studied ozone, set up field plots, selected plants to be examined, collected ozone data, and followed up after the examination. Students from Spring Harbor Environmental Magnet Middle School near Madison, WI as part of a Research Project of Elver and Token Creek Parks collected data about milkweed plants and reported in a data chart organized by year from 1993-2006. The school posted these directions with specific examples for other schools around the country to use with their students. (

(image from

If you stopped driving just 20 extra miles per week for one year, you could save about 900 pounds of CO2.

A professional developer can use the biomonitoring activity to start a series of green workshops enhanced with a collaborative online environment where teachers share data, student conversations, and their own findings and reflections on the process. Invite your teachers to calculate their carbon footprint: the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). The Carbon Calculator at Be Green ( can be used to determine their carbon footprint. Next have your teachers share their graph and create an action plan to reduce the carbon emissions and share with the other teachers. The teacher's footprint and action plan can be used as a model for their students. The Glossary at ( can be used as a vocabulary activity. Students measure their family's carbon footprint and work as a team to design brochures, posters, and public service announcements as eco-conscious strategies to take action reduce carbon emissions.

(This is my footprint from Ecological Footprint Quiz)

Moving your thermostat down two degrees in the winter and up to degrees in the summer saves 2,000 pounds of CO2.

Take professional development one step further by mapping your curriculum to determine which of these activities meet the standards and can be used as replacement units. Go green and your students become eco-conscious, can make a difference, and increase their academic achievement.

A few green links:

Barbara Bray writes a regular column on professional development for OnCUE, coordinates the Professional Development Quick Tips (PDQs) for, and is President of My eCoach, a learning community that supports coaching and mentoring. Check out her blog at This article was originally published in the Winter 2007 OnCUE.