A sustainable institution is one that is self-contained, producing the energy, shelter, and food that it needs, and does not poison the environment in the process. If the end of education is to foster justice and joy, to create moral, self-directed, life-long learners who pursue positive activities, than a sustainable school is a valuable tool. Our public schools do a tremendous amount of good for our society by teaching students valuable skills and lessons; however, our schools could serve the public even further than they already do. Improving upon the models of certain universities, schools should lead the way in becoming sustainable, truly public institutions that grant access to the people that it serves both when school is in and not in session.
The large tracks, football, baseball, soccer, and tennis fields of our public high schools are already commendably, regularly utilized by the community. Many of our public high schools have other excellent facilities that could also be used by the community including machine shops, libraries, auditoriums, swimming pools, classrooms and car garages. It is sometimes difficult to find places to discuss important issues in the community and ,instead of building a community center, why not use the school which is already a center for the community? Community members of the school district could be given access to the school facilities when they are not being used. Signup sheets could be placed in the main offices of schools where members of the community could check-in and check-out as well as reserve equipment. It will not only give those without families a chance to utilize the facilities they help contribute to, but it will also provide an opportunity for people of different generations to share their knowledge.
In order to make schools sustainable, solar panels will sit atop the roofs of school buildings. If this is insufficient to power the school, students can learn first hand about renewable energy by working and experimenting with faculty to find alternative ways of fueling the school. Now, that is a science project I would enjoy working on.
In addition, a portion of the large sports fields should be transformed into agricultural space which both students and faculty will work together on. By working in the field, it is less likely that students will develop any notion that there is something inferior about working with one's hands. Students and faculty be able to reap the rewards of the work by serving the produce they grow in the cafeterias. In addition, students could learn from and work with janitorial staff to clean and repair the school, as well as administrators and principals to learn and have a say in creating and balancing budgets for the school. Studying is extremely important and that will not be neglected in this sustainable school where students also learn by doing.