A Schooling in Green: paper

It’s no secret schools and paper are intrinsically linked – but neither needs the other in order to survive. In fact, it may be time to make paper an endangered species.

Paper is not only a financial burden on schools but the production, deforestation and waste creates a massive carbon footprint. The good news is: schools can green up their act.

But first, a schooling in math.

The amount of paper used in the classroom varies from country to country. In the US, the average classroom uses 25,000 sheets of paper per year, which equals 833 pieces of paper per student.

Now, if one tree makes 8,333 sheets of paper, that means three trees are being used in every single US classroom per annum. That’s a lot of trees, especially when you consider recycling one ton of paper, which is about 20 full-grown trees, saves enough energy to heat an average home for six months.

And it’s not just the trees that are disappearing. Water is a vital ingredient when it comes to the production of trees. In Australia, to make just one ton of paper, over 90,000 litres of precious water are used, which will fill 450 rain barrels.

Modern paper also involves chemicals for bleaching and, once these chemical-laden products go to the landfill after use, it produces dangerous greenhouse gases during decomposition.

All these numbers are not meant to induce fear – they are simply painting a picture of paper consumption in schools. And based on the math, it’s time to make a change.

So how do you build an army of green warriors at your school?

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Learn to love math

A lesson in accounting is the best way to spearhead a sustainable charge. Review your current paper situation. Look at not only how much paper you use but how much paper you waste.

In the UK, the average secondary school produces 22kg of waste per student each academic year. The figure for primary schools is even higher at 45kg per student.

Ashford Secondary School in the UK did their part. They put two lead teachers in charge of Year 7 students to conduct a waste audit, realised they were tossing way too much in the landfill and came up with an action plan.

The school ended up saving nine tons of CO2 emissions per school year through a recycling program.

Educate about trees

Trees are a big part of our collective environments. They produce oxygen, shade, decoration and, if you’re a kid, they are fun to climb.

It’s important to educate students on the impact of paper production on the environment as it is a global problem. The largest producer countries – US, China, Japan and Canada – alone make up more than half of the world’s paper production, which is 400 million tons a year.

According to our earlier calculations, that’s around eight billion trees.

Raise awareness by putting deforestation in perspective. If students cannot imagine that only about 22 percent of the world’s old growth forests remain intact, ask them to imagine a world without trees.

Do something, even if it’s small

After the review and education processes, schools need to take action, even if it is to save one litre of water, one tree or put recycling bins next to every printer.

The simplest way to make a change is to reduce paper-dependent processes and activities with digital alternatives. Go to step one and think about what you have that can go paperless.

Reports and transcripts? Paperless. Permission slips for activities and excursions? Paperless.

School boards and councils should also be encouraged to distribute meeting papers via email or through online blogs to keep the school community up-to-date digitally. It is a cost-effective way to not only save paper but to make sure everyone stays informed.

The technological tools are already at your fingertips to start making your school greener today.

Schools should be red-faced if they’re not going green

Climate change isn’t a buzzword, it’s a call to action. The world’s environmental situation may seem too big to tackle in the classroom but schools are actually perfectly positioned to make an impact.

Of course, education plays a big part in helping to reduce our global footprint. And many initiatives are in place to assist schools in talking the sustainable talk.

There are also a number of resources available for teachers to support the education of students on climate change. NASA, for example, have created an animated infographic called Climate Kids to help with the big science questions.

NASA interactive infograph screenshot

And in the UK, the Sustainable Learning initiative provides information for schools to reduce energy and water. So far, schools working through the program have seen energy reductions of 10% on average, and have a better understanding of how energy and water is used in their schools.

But, as the next generation are going to encounter new and unknown environmentally related issues in coming years, schools need to be on the front foot in teaching students how to take action.

The Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI) allows schools to make sustainable decisions. It implements improvements in a school’s management of resources and grounds, and integrates this approach into the existing curriculum and daily running of the school. Students participate in an action learning – or learning by doing – process.

So far, more than 2,000 schools and 570,000 students across Australia are now participating in AuSSI. And it’s working. Earlier this year, an eco-friendly Perth primary school received the United Nations Environment Award for their climate change initiatives, which included recycling food scraps, growing vegetables and walk or ride to school on ‘travel smart’ days.

Although great strides have been made in order to reduce the carbon footprint, schools are still big contributors to eco-unfriendliness. This is because, with so many people, it can be hard to keep track of who’s wasting what and where.

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So how can schools improve? There are four key areas schools can begin taking action on now to get greener, and it all starts with paper.

Paper

Did you know a school with 2,000 students could be using 80,000 pieces of paper a year just to send forms home to parents? That’s about 10 trees a year that can stay in the ground emitting oxygen.

However, most schools still rely on a paper-based forms to capture parent permissions for activities like excursions and sports activities. For parents with more than one child, this leads to literally dozens of pieces of paper that must be signed and returned.

Of course, recycling is one option for schools but it can be difficult keeping track of all those papers. Paperless solutions will sidestep these problems all together.

Printing

Whether it’s a paper jam or running out of ink, the printer can be a source of many frustrations – including financial ones. Not only are printers expensive but, if not maintained properly, they can sap a ton of energy contributing to a school’s overall footprint.

In the same way, schools can digitise forms and they can also bring printing online.

Schools in the UK have moved towards digitising their print systems, introducing new ways of managing a fleet of printers and copiers centrally. These technologies have not only help schools move closer to becoming paperless but they have helped save money by tracking printing costs across the whole network in real time.

Waste

In the US, paper accounts for 60% of a school’s waste. That’s over half of all the waste a school produces.

Switching to recycled paper is one way to tackle this and, in California, the Green Schools Initiative developed a Green Schools Buying Guide to help schools make sustainable purchases.

Reduce.org suggests involving students by providing information on how to reduce paper waste, encouraging students to not only use recycled and look for recycled products but to proactively uncover ways to avoid using paper.

Remember, recycling one ton of paper, which is 24 trees, saves enough energy to heat an average home for six months.

Distribution

The first question a teacher should ask when distributing paper in a classroom is: can this be done digitally?

The RecycleWorks School Program suggests conducting an audit on the amount of paper distributed to students throughout the week and search for ways to cut down.

In our digital age, it is unnecessary to be using paper for every piece of permission, homework or note when digital solutions like email can cut down on costs, save time and reduce a school’s footprint. Schools still have a way to go before becoming sustainable superstars but, by taking action now, it will make it easier for generations to come.

Ask ParentPaperwork about bringing your school permission slips and paperwork online. 

A student’s perspective on technology in her school and classroom

Clea Boyd-Eedle is in her final year of high school, and offers her perspective on technology in her school and classroom.

The way that students are taught today in schools has been completely revolutionised compared to 20 years ago, with the constant development and implementation of new and groundbreaking technology aimed to further education.

As a Year 12 student, I have plenty of experience with a wide range of tools that teachers use to aid their teaching. With a younger brother in Year 9 also, I am able to see the difference in the technology that my classmates and I use and the future year levels.

For example, iPads and tablets are being used to teach primary and kindergarten students. iPads have shown to be a fun and exciting way for children to learn, and has proved important in the way of aid for children with disabilities, and offers an array of apps and softwares for those in need of extra support.

Since year 4, much of my education has involved or incorporated technology in some sort of way. In year 5, trolleys of laptops were wheeled to each classroom where we would use websites and games to learn math and how to use applications like word, excel or powerpoint presentations.

I fondly remember playing a game in math called Bloxorz, where the player would manoeuvre a block around an obstacle course. It was a little more complicated than that but was very perplexing yet enjoyable. Language subjects used online quizzes and games which tested your vocabulary and ability to conjugate words, the best kind of game was when we were timed.

The fact that I even remember these methods of learning show that they are somewhat effective. I believe that I, and most students, learn best when the task is enjoyable, and by mixing entertainment with education; endless possibilities present themselves by way of teaching through technology.

Being in my final year, I have never been more grateful for technology and my ability to have my laptop in class. There are very few students in any of my classes who opt to handwrite their notes, although it is somewhat important, it is just much more quicker and easier to type. This is especially important when having lectures, and as much information must be written down as possible in short time frames. By having my laptop in class, I am able to search for virtually any piece of information I need.

Some may say that our generation is lazy and is becoming less intelligent, but in my opinion it is completely the opposite. We have literally anything we need to know at our fingertips.

Technology in education is so much more than just learning through educational games, as more schools are beginning to shift much of their curriculum and organisational tools online, we are now seeing the classroom being brought home.

My current school has its own platform where we access all our emails, lesson plans, content and timetables. Year levels below me also use an online diary to keep record of their homework and upcoming events, although we still use bound books. By storing all of this information online, not only an unthinkable amount of paper is saved, but being organised is much achievable for students.

What’s even better is that many of students textbooks are available for download onto their device, which not only saves money but means less weight to carry in the schoolbag home.

It is exciting to see the leaps and bounds that educational has made in the past few decades, and how dramatically it has developed. What is even more exciting are the possibilities that the future of technology in education presents, especially with the rapid rate of growth in the development of applications and software tools designed to aid teachers in the classroom.

Image: US Department of Education

 

ParentPaperwork is now available in the Microsoft Office Store

We’re pleased to announce that ParentPaperwork is now available in the Microsoft Office Store.

A few weeks ago we advised that Office 365 single sign on was available for ParentPaperwork, along with Google Apps. Single sign on means school staff can log into ParentPaperwork using the same user name and password they use across other applications in their school. The login is seamless and gives instant access to ParentPaperwork’s unique online forms platform without the school’s ICT staff configuring and managing individual user accounts within ParentPaperwork.

Now a staff member can add ParentPaperwork directly to their Office My Apps list, so ParentPaperwork is always available.

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Of course being listed in the Office Store also means school managers and administrators around the world will see ParentPaperwork as available to their schools, giving ParentPaperwork exposure to a huge world of potential users – which is why we’re pretty excited in the office today!

You can visit ParentPaperwork in the Office Store by searching the Store for ‘ParentPaperwork’, or go straight to our listing.