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Fit to Be Taught, Vol.27

Fighting for Better Indoor Air Quality
In Schools


Ah, fresh air! Maybe the air in your community is delicious to breathe. But what about the air inside your school buildings? Is it healthful to breathe -- or is it making people sick?

Barbara "Sam" Gutman is among the educators fighting for better air quality in schools. Gutman, an art teacher at Colchester Middle School in Vermont, has fibromyalga, a muscular disease. The illness makes Gutman ultra-sensitive to any chemicals in the air.

Gutman, who was featured in an issue of NEA Today, wrote her master's thesis on sick building syndrome and its effect on Vermont schools. She went on to become Vermont-NEA's volunteer representative to a statewide Indoor Air Quality Committee. The organization also includes members from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state agencies, school boards, the state employee union, and the Vermont Children's Forum.

Vermont isn't the only place with air problems in its schools. According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, 46 percent of U.S. schools have difficulties with indoor air quality or ventilation systems. That means millions of school employees and students may have health problems or distress because of poor indoor air.

And experts say the air quality inside schools has deteriorated over the past several decades.

"Since the energy crisis in the 1970s, people just tightened up buildings to conserve energy, and because districts saw savings, they never opened schools back up again," John Guevin of the U.S. EPA said in an edition of Teacher Magazine. "Things have gotten worse, and the problem is everywhere."

Read the full article on Education World.

Wellness News
Eating Better Could Earn Kids Cash Children who eat more healthful food at school and exercise regularly could receive taxpayer-funded financial bonuses in their state savings accounts, a health adviser to the British government suggested.

Schools Chief Hopes Tastier Lunches Increase Revenue The head of the Washington, D.C., schools is seeking a contractor to upgrade the cafeteria menus with more nutritious and tasty food to help the food services budget move into the black.

Getting Kids Cooking

Cooking with Kids Albuquerque is a multicultural food education program that tries to improve the quality of children's nutrition by involving low-income elementary-school students and their parents from the Albuquerque (New Mexico) Public Schools in hands-on learning about culturally diverse foods that are healthy and appealing.

Cooking with Kids Albuquerque also encourages direct parent involvement in school and teaches children to be advocates at home for good nutrition by taking home recipes to allow families to cook together at home and try new foods.

Community partnerships have been key to the success of the program. Small farms, grocery stores, and other local businesses are working with individual schools to provide supplies for the Cooking with Kids Albuquerque program.

During the 2001-2002 year, Cooking with Kids Albuquerque provided a total of 180 food education classes in three elementary schools, including 104 tastings. Community and parent volunteers contributed 256 hours during the cooking and tastings.

In one example of changed behavior, when 1,590 students in five schools were offered a cafeteria meal of green and white fettuccine with tomato and basil sauce and salad, which students had prepared in classrooms, 1,113 students chose the pasta dish over quesadillas, Frito Pie, and burritos. About 780 students who selected pasta ate more than half of the food on their cafeteria tray, drastically reducing food waste.

Read more about this program at: Cooking With Kids Albuquerque.

Click to learn more about Action for Healthy Kids.

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