Kerlin, S., R. Santos, and W. Bennett. 2015. Journal of Sustainability Education 8(1).
Many K-12 school districts are embracing energy conservation efforts and constructing environmentally sustainable buildings with the purpose of lowering operating costs of their facilities. Investments in green infrastructure to improve operating efficiencies and occupant health are important but the impact of green buildings on instructional practice should also be considered. This study focused on teachers’ perceptions of the many impacts of a new sustainably designed middle school on students and teachers and explores the use of the school as a learning laboratory. Grades 6-8 teachers participated in open-ended focus group discussions near the end of the first school year in their new green building. An emergent coding framework was created to characterize conversation topics. Analysis of the coding yielded insights into seven major categories of teachers’ perceptions of the impact of the new green school on their work in the building and their students’ attitudes and academic performance. The seven major coding categories of green infrastructure, student behavior, student awareness, teacher awareness, curriculum, health, and professional development were further analyzed to formulate considerations and recommendations for others to capitalize on the instructional potential of sustainably designed school facilities as learning laboratories.