Social and Emotional Learning

Green Heroes: Activists for the Environment

Thousands of educators and students have become agents of environmental change. Here are some outstanding leaders in a swelling educational movement.

Remember when green was the color of grass, money, emeralds, and envy? That was so then. What we once referred to as green is now Green, with a capital G and a universal new meaning. We have entered an Age of Green, in which almost everything and everyone, it seems, is measured by ecological soundness, long-term sustainability, carbon footprint -- in other words, by how green they are.

Not surprisingly, this significant metric has entered the world of American education and begun to rapidly transform it. A growing cadre of concerned and passionate teachers, students, administrators, and parents are bringing the green message to our schools, creating change that will alter the world in ways both local and global.

To that we say "Hallelujah!" -- both for the care and respect environmental education can bring to a planet that needs all the help it can get and for the potential it has to bring students a more project-based and place-based curriculum. As exemplars of this new wave, we recognize the following six green heroes -- two teachers, a student, a celebrity, and a publishing team -- who are showing what can be done, and how to do it.

  • Melissa "Missy" Bain: A Green Teacher of the Year's passionate commitment to the environment is an inspiration to her entire school
  • Tim Grant and Gail Littlejohn: Bringing environmentalism into today's teaching programs through Green Teacher magazine
  • Laurie David: Celebrity champion of sustainability inspires kids to teach their parents in a new book on climate change
  • Jessica Assaf: Teen activist takes on the cosmetics industry and Governor Schwarzenegger
  • Gary Swick: Award-winning science teacher inspires students to be the environmental "best in the galaxy"
Richard Rapaport is a political and architectural writer who contributes regularly to Edutopia.