Sara Mosle is an educator, and she spent her first year as a public school teacher in Manhattan, specifically at P.S. 98. Even in this day and age, this facility did not have air conditioning. Because many NYC schools remain in session all the way through the end of June, she experienced first-hand the struggles that plague teachers and their students in these hothouses of learning. In 2013, she wrote at length about this topic and had a radical suggestion for green cooling solutions.
“From mid-May until June’s end – roughly 17 percent of the school year – the temperature in my classroom hovered in the 80s and often topped 90 degrees.”
The proof in the melted pudding
She said there was visible evidence, as well as intangible proof, that showed the ineffectiveness of attempting to hold classes hostage during these soaring temperatures.
“Students wilted over desks. Academic gains evaporated. Even restless pencil tappers and toe wigglers grew lethargic. Absenteeism increased as children sought relief at home or outdoors. By day’s end, my hair was plastered to my face with perspiration.”
History continues rather than repeats
She is shocked that this issue remains, and has not been remedied long before now.
“It’s absurd to talk about inculcating 21st-century skills in classrooms that resemble 19th-century sweatshops.”
“Get your Air Conditioning off my lawn, you goldurned hoodlums!”
She also was privy to the excuses thrown back in the faces of teachers and parents who had the audacity to complain to school adminstrators. She dubbed it the “Grumpy Grandpa Defense.”
“[It] sounds something like this, ‘Grandpa went to school during the Great Depression. Grandpa didn’t have air-conditioning. Grandpa did fine. So why are all these spoiled kids complaining?’”
She equates this to the arguments that Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of NYC at the time, used in June 2012. “I suspect if you talk to everyone in this room, not one of them went to a school where they had air-conditioning.”
Cooler schools raise grades
Mosle goes on to say, “Cool schools are critical if we are to boost achievement. Studies show that concentration and cognitive abilities decline substantially after a room reaches 77 or 78 degrees. This is a lesson American businesses learned long ago. As Stan Cox wrote in Losing Our Cool, his book on our global dependence on air-conditioning, ‘The American office is, by definition, a refrigerated workplace.’ A pleasant atmosphere leads to more productive employees.
She also spoke about the issue surrounding the extended school day and school year.
“We are also investing enormous sums to extend the school day and school year in many locales. But these investments won’t be effective if schools are ovens.”
Reasons to chill out about the need for chill
However, she admits there may be a reason behind the madness of keeping schools hot, instead of providing air conditioning.
“As Mr. Cox wrote, air-conditioning is a global environmental disaster that contributes mightily to greenhouse gases and climate change. Some scientists theorize that it may even be contributing to the nation’s obesity epidemic. So, how do we balance the needs of Mother Earth with those of her children.”
Green cooling solutions?
Mosle suggests a scheme where schools would become leaders in the search for green cooling solutions.
“Let’s create financial incentives to reward schools that find new green solutions for keeping classrooms in the temperate zone. Schools are natural incubators of reform, and the resulting experimentation could become a continuing lesson for children, even part of the national science curriculum.
“We have the Intel Science Talent Search, in which private laboratories, nonprofits and leading universities work hand-in-hand with the nation’s top students. Why not harness this same energy for a nationwide Science Fair devoted to helping school chill?
“Schools that designed alternative energy solutions – wind-powered classrooms or grassy roof gardens that naturally lower building temperatures – would receive the financing to upgrade their facilities.
“This would not only spur innovation, but also generate jobs, all the while helping to save the planet and foster environments where more children can learn.”
Sounds like a great idea to me! What do you think? Talk about it in the comments!