Healthy School Basics

6 Steps to a Healthy School

1. Establish a Healthy School Committee

The committee is the core of the Healthy Schools process, both organizing and directing school activities. It should consist of the stakeholders of the school environment – students, teachers, cleaners, caretakers, parents and administrators.

2. School Assessment

Work begins with a review of the school and identification of issues for action. Students can be involved in this work from assessing the amount of waste generated to checking the building for inefficiencies such as leaky taps or electric equipment left on overnight. Having students involved in the assessment creates opportunities for kids to apply their own critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership skills.

3. Action Plan

The information from the review is used to identify priorities and create an action plan, which sets realistic targets to improve student health and increase environmental performance. The action plan could involve and promote, for example, a paper recycling policy, eco-friendly cleaning materials, carpooling, turning off lights, fitting push water taps, creating a garden, purchasing environmentally-preferable products, waste reduction strategy, or more!

4. Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring ensures that progress towards targets and any necessary changes to the action plan are made and that achievement is recognized. It also ensures that environmental health education is an on-going process in the school.

5. Curriculum work

Classroom study of themes such as energy, water, toxics, food, and waste are undertaken by most students. The whole school should be involved in practical initiatives – for example, saving water, recycling materials and eliminating toxics. Where environmental education is not part of the curriculum, recommendations are made as to how these themes can be incorporated.

6. Informing and involving

Healthy Schools are encouraged to make ties with external organizations and the community in general in order to benefit from their experience and expertise and share success stories that can act as models for others in the community. A publicity program keeps the school and the community informed of progress through classroom displays, school assemblies and press coverage. And always remember to celebrate your accomplishments! Every step you take is an important one.


Healthy School Environments – US Environmental Protection Agency – Find an extensive list of resources, as well as the Healthy School Environmental Assessment Tool (SEAT). This new software tool helps school districts establish and manage comprehensive school facility self-assessment programs. The Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool (HealthySEAT)  contains a fully integrated environmental health and safety checklist and is designed to be easily customized to reflect state and local requirements and policies.

Creating Safe Learning Zones: The ABCs of Healthy Schools (pdf, 62pp)The Center for Health Environment and Justice – March 2002 – This is a comprehensive primer on healthy schools including information about the special vulnerabilities of children, common toxins found in schools, healthier building material choices, the indoor environment, designing healthy schools, getting your community involved, community stories and additional resources.

The Green Schools Initiative Check out  “The Little Green Schoolhouse: Thinking Big About Ecological Sustainability, Children’s Environmental Health, and K-12 Education in the USA” a report expressing a positive vision for healthy, sustainable schools. Learn how to make our schools greener and healthier places for our kids.

Healthy Schools Network – Healthy Schools Network, Inc. (HSN) is a 501c3 national environmental health not for profit organization, centered on children, and dedicated to assuring every child and school employee an environmentally safe and healthy school through: research; information and referral; advocacy and coalition-building. Website includes a clearinghouse of publications.

National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities – Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, this website provides extensive resource lists that cover planning, design, financing, construction, and the operation and maintenance of school facilities. The lists are annotated bibliographies and include links to full text publications and related Web sites, descriptions of books, studies, reports and journal articles. Specific topics pertaining to green building include daylighting, high performance school buildings, energy savings, indoor air quality, and much more. Look specifically for their Healthy Schools Resource List

The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings – California Integrated Waste Management Board, Sacramento , Oct 2003 – (pdf, 120pp)

A Summary of Scientific Findings on Adverse Effects of Indoor Environments on Students’ Health, Academic Performance and Attendance – U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of the Under Secretary, Washington, DC , 2004- (pdf – 36pp)

Vermont Guide to Education for SustainabilityVermont Education for Sustainability

Green Squad – The Natural Resources Defense Council – The Green Squad teaches kids about the relationship between their schools and environmental and health issues. The site is designed primarily for students in fifth through eighth grade, but also offers information for younger and older students as well as parents and teachers.

Green Flag Program – The Center for Health, Environment and Justice – The Green Flag Program is an innovative, three-step program to address four environmental issues at your school – integrated pest management, non-toxic cleaning, recycling and indoor air quality.

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