The old saying goes “We are what we eat.”  But you know as well as I do that we, as individuals, are much more than that.  A variety of factors influence who we are and, in turn, how we learn and interact with our surroundings.  One of these factors has begun to receive more attention in recent years: indoor air quality, or IAQ.

Late last year, I came across a new study out of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan’s School of Public Health.  The focus of the study was to determine how indoor environmental quality affects the cognitive function of office workers.  Essentially, the researchers found that people who work in well-ventilated offices with below-average levels of indoor pollutants and carbon dioxide had significantly higher cognitive functioning scores than those who worked in offices with typical levels.

Although this type of research has not been conducted yet in the school environment, we do have access to studies that demonstrate how IAQ influences student health and success in the classroom.  IAQ is a top concern for many schools in the United States and has been for some time.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tackled the issue head-on with its tried and true IAQ Tools for Schools Program.  The program’s framework and action toolkit have been used by school districts across the country to develop comprehensive IAQ management plans.

In this edition of the newsletter, you will learn about three school districts that used the IAQ Tools for Schools Program to create healthy learning environments for their students.  You will also get a brief overview of the Tools for Schools Program, as well as an introduction to some of the new tools and resources available from the EPA to help your school improve its IAQ.  The newsletter also includes two research oriented stories: the first presents new research on the effects of indoor environmental quality on student test scores and health, and the second examines indoor air quality in high schools, with a focus on educating students on this topic and identifying low cost solutions to improve IAQ.

You can learn more about the latest research in IAQ, as well as best practices being employed at schools across the nation, at the 6th annual Green Schools Conference and Expo, being held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from March 31 – April 1.  The conference program and pre-conference workshops are available for you to view on the conference website.  Stay tuned for a special conference newsletter in March!

Finally, I invite you to check out the call for nominations for the Best of Green Schools 2016.  GSNN is partnering with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council to co-present these awards, which recognize the people, schools, campuses, and organizations making a big difference in creating healthy, efficient learning environments for our students.  If you or someone you know is making significant strides toward creating more sustainable schools, we want to hear from you! You are welcome to submit nominations for yourself and others.  The call for nominations closes on February 26, 2016.  Winners will be announced and awarded at the conference!


See you in March,