This is the amount of time, on average, that a student spends in school by the time he or she graduates from high school (Harvard report). Other than their homes, today’s students spend more time at school than anywhere else. We know this for a fact - yet we still overlook the importance of the physical school environment.
Education is key, not only for students, but for the rest of us, too. More education and outreach is necessary to convey how school buildings impact the entire community. From financial implications to cognitive ability and health impacts – the school building influences more than meets the eye.
Back To School
Labor Day is fast approaching and students will soon be (or are already) heading back to school for the next 10 consecutive months. Undoubtedly, teachers around the region do a great job sprucing up their classrooms to make it a welcoming environment for students. I should know, my sister is heading into her ninth year as an elementary school teacher in Reading, Massachusetts. She just spent the last week of her “summer vacation” painting, decorating, and doing whatever else was needed to prepare her classroom for the first day of school. She is one of many that did the same.
Setting Up a Grade A Learning Environment
A lot of time and effort goes into making every school year a success but teachers can only do so much to make the classroom a desirable setting. It is the aspiration of every community to send their students to the best possible learning environment. But are we actually accomplishing this goal? The short answer is no, not yet.
There are some communities that have accomplished this goal while others lag far behind. So what near-term actions can be taken to reach this goal? As previously mentioned, education and outreach are fundamental pieces to get people thinking about the importance of the school building. But first, we must first understand what that ideal learning environment looks like. At NEEP, we call this a high performance school (HPS). A HPS has three main pillars: (1) better educational outcomes, (2) healthier indoor environments, and (3) sustainability. NEEP’s high performance schools initiative seeks to bring together the educational community to share best practices and inform stakeholders about how these three pillars can be achieved.
Numerous studies exist today that prove the connection between the way a school is built and operated and its impact on occupants and the community. Natural daylighting is a key feature found in HPS that has multiple benefits. The inclusion of daylighting decreases the amount of energy needed to artificially light a building, reducing a school’s energy bills. Additionally, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan Schools for Health Report, there is significant evidence that shows daylighting leads to improved vision, better quality sleep, and fewer headaches, ultimately leading to improved cognitive ability in the classroom. Lighting is just one of many building characteristics that impacts the learning environment. Additional research exists linking other elements such as acoustics and indoor air quality to the well-being and performance of students.
Be A Student of HPS
NEEP and the NH Department of Education are partnering for the 2017 NH High Performance Schools Summit to educate stakeholders about the importance of including high performance attributes in the school building. The theme for this year’s summit is that high performance schools are attainable by everyone. Whether a community is building a new school, renovating an existing school, or improving upon its operations and maintenance procedures, a stronger emphasis needs to be placed on unlocking the potential benefits of high performance schools. From funding mechanisms, to emerging technologies, the 2017 New Hampshire Schools Summit will dive into the many topical areas that can turn a high performance school into a reality for your community. Stakeholders from all states are encouraged to attend the summit as most sessions throughout the day are applicable to those outside of New Hampshire.
Going back to school is always difficult for students. Join us on October 20 to help make the annual back-to-school transition easier for students by turning our schools into a more desirable place to be.
For more information about the summit, visit the event website here.