Learning Lessons from an Eco School House
Eco School House, a recently released documentary on DVD from Microcinema International, details what happens when the right people want to do the right thing. When Grant Elementary School lost a building to a fire, the insurance company didn’t exactly come to the rescue.
The classrooms were in a trailer—a common solution for school systems that can’t afford new stick-built facilities. One evening, someone entered the trailer and, possibly accidentally, set it on fire; it was gutted. The insurance company claimed it could be restored, then offered $5000 reimbursement for the loss (insurers determine the value of a trailer the same as cars—the older it is, the less it’s worth). The principal felt that, even when restored, the building would not be safe for students.
A “visionary architect” who wanted to do something for the community stepped forward with a design to replace the trailer. A “committed builder” managed to get construction firms to volunteer for the project and suppliers to donate some of the goods needed. A third person, the “determined” principal, was a member of the team, and together they overcame financial challenges and uncooperative weather, as well as time constraints, to build “the first community-built, sustainable schoolhouse in the nation.”
The architect’s aim was a “green” building; and stick-built was a good start since such buildings require less energy. The use of renewable materials also contributed to planet-friendly construction. The project inspired new curriculum and the school incorporated more environmentalism into classes. Soon children were encouraged to walk to school in a “walking school bus” (in response to childhood obesity) and worked on local environmental issues, such as cleaning a creek.
Eco School House demonstrates that good things can come from bad, and that individuals within a community can join together to make important things happen, whether it’s rebuilding or cleaning up. It is informative and inspiring, and its website provides downloads and extras (architectural plans, curriculum, bonus material) for those willing to stop thinking about what they should do and begin concentrating on what they can do.