A New Green Generation

By Rachel Gutter

Kids these days!” The phrase hasn’t changed, but the kids sure have.

Today’s students talk fast, multitask, and type as quickly as they think. They crave constant stimulation, social interaction, and hands-on activities. They have short attention spans and long buddy lists. Many prefer texting to talking. 

Education consultant Marc Prentsky has dubbed this new generation of learners “digital natives”—fluent in the digital language of computers, video games, cell phones, and the Internet. These digital natives are our future leaders, and they have some big problems to solve—decaying infrastructure, high energy costs, and climate change, to name a few.

But new reasons to hope are popping up in today’s green schools movement.

Green schools are healthy for kids. They improve student performance and teacher satisfaction. They save 30 to 50 percent more energy and up to 47 percent more water than traditionally designed schools. They have excellent indoor air quality, good acoustics, and classrooms filled with sunlight. Perhaps best of all, green schools educate students to become “sustainability natives,” fluent in the language of sustainable technologies and environmentally conscious thought.

The building itself acts as teacher, offering the kinds of hands-on learning that are most effective for students. Picture high school students who learn about alternative energy from the solar panels on their school roof. Think about kindergartners who grow the organic vegetables they eat for lunch. Imagine middle school students who study ecosystems in their constructed wetland. This is the green school experience.

Many of us are trying to “go green” by adapting our lifestyles and modifying our behaviors, but the sustainability natives are already there. Green isn’t a choice; it’s what you do. While we upgrade our light bulbs to more efficient models, the light is already on for the sustainability native (and off as soon as she leaves the room). The sustainability native understands the significance of energy, doesn’t take water for granted, and reuses, recycles, and conserves whenever possible.

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