Sonoma Country Day School

Green Index Survey in the Classroom

Sonoma Country Day School

Our goal

Each grade level participates in a spring all school event. Younger grades study many aspects of specific cultures or nations. I turn it upside down and study a single aspect across many cultures in the 7th grade history classroom. If you are reading this, then you are someone who already believes that human dependence of the global natural environment is perhaps the key similarity across all cultures and I need not spend time making that case. My goal for last year's class was to practice collecting, analyzing, and publishing data around a sustainable issue. I also wanted to demonstrate for the students that becoming an effective leader in addressing sustainable challenges requires many of the same skills as other professions in business, government, or other more "traditional" adult careers. I very much believe junior high school students will soon tune out adults who start from "this is all broken and we are all to blame." There's not a lot of future in that is there! So we set about assessing the environmental impact of each family in the class, created class means, and then compared those to the national averages around the globe. We shared our results at the all school assembly on the big screen.

How we are doing it

We used the on line Greendex Survey from National Geographic which is free and of appropriate sophistication for 13 year olds. Knowing that many students in the room enjoy lifestyles that are unlikely to be sustainable in coming decades, I carefully planned to shelter them from negative feedback from classmates. Again, telling a 13 year old student that her family is "wrong" will always erect an insurmountable obstacle to learning in the classroom, perhaps despite her own firmly held convictions at home that her parents most certainly ARE wrong most all the time! So we created two fictional households, one headed by Greedy Gus and the other by Perfect Patti. Students took the Greendex survey and tried to create the "greenest score" possible for Perfect Patti who lives in a yurt and only has a bike and grows her own food.... and so on. We then tried to answer each of the index questions with the LEAST sustainable answers for Greedy Gus whose house has 32 rooms alternately air conditioned or heated including a garage with 7 autos and so forth. Establishing these fictional households considerably removed pressure on the kids who could then honestly assess their household's behavior. Nobody had parents more zealous than Perfect Patti and nobody had parents more consuming than Greedy Gus.

What we are learning

We used Excel spreadsheets to track individual class members' Greendex scores, to calcualte mean scores, and to generate pie charts and bar graphs. We compared our class means to those found in the US and in other nations. Students then presented the information at our all school world cultures day assembly for the other grade levels and parents. As we worked, we analyzed how the different measures that compose the index impacted the raising and lowering of the final scores.

School Information

School: Sonoma Country Day School
Grade level: 6-8
Number of students in your project: 18 per class
Subjects: Math Social Science
Number of students in your school: 250
Project initiator: Teacher generated for all school "world cultures" week assembly

Contact Information

David Cole, History teacher, junior high
4400 Day School Place  Santa Rosa,  CA  95492

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