September heat waves are causing early dismissals in schools

September 7, 2018 by  
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Snow days are one of the best perks of winter for students, but now, schools are closing for another variation of inclement weather. School districts around the country are releasing students because of excessive heat, an increasing trend in the face of climate change . Will these so-called “heat days” become the new norm? Schools in the eastern U.S. have been giving out more heat days than ever as record temperatures continue to hit New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and even parts of the Midwest. The cancellations are occurring more frequently in places that do not have adequate air conditioning, especially in relation to after-school programs. This past week, for example, schools on the East Coast shut down as temperatures climbed higher than 90 degrees. A few districts in New York also cancelled sporting activities. Related: One in 11 US public schools are plagued by toxic air Meanwhile, schools in New York City have remained open following a city investment in new air conditioning systems worth nearly $30 million to ensure schools were adequately cooled. The city plans on having every classroom air conditioned over the next four years, meaning no heat days for students and a costly impact on the environment. But for schools that don’t have a budget for air conditioning, heat days might become more frequent. In fact, union organizations in New York are advocating for laws that would require districts to close schools if the temperature is hotter than 88 degrees. In a few schools across the East Coast, teachers have reported temperature readings above 100 degrees in their classrooms, which clearly is not a safe environment for anyone. As global warming continues to affect the climate, record high temperatures could become common in months that normally are not associated with such temperatures. There’s no telling how many schools will adopt heat days as policy, but it is possible that these school dismissals become just as common as traditional snow days. Via New York Times Image via Nicola Tolin

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September heat waves are causing early dismissals in schools

Adorable prefab nursery in Greece mimics a tiny urban village

July 18, 2018 by  
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For design collective KLAB Architecture (Kinetic Lab of Architecture), one of the biggest challenges with public buildings in Greece is the lack of architect involvement in the construction process. To circumvent the problem, KLAB Architecture turned to prefabrication for its design of a public nursery in the Athens suburb of Glyfada. Drawing inspiration from a child’s archetypal drawing of a house, the modular gabled structures are clustered together to form the appearance of a tiny urban village. Organized around an open landscaped courtyard , the prefabricated nursery comprises a series of repeating modules of three differing sizes and shapes for visual interest. Each module was constructed in a factory and then transported via truck to the site for quick installation. The nursery follows a minimalist and modern aesthetic with its clean geometric lines and all-white exterior. Timber slatted pergolas provide shade and help mitigate solar gain; once they mature, planted shade trees will also help cool the buildings. Related: WeWork and BIG design innovative new school in NYC “We attempted to employ rather common materials and construction methods in order to create a more complicated structure with a small energy footprint,” KLAB Architecture said. “The exterior walls were constructed 10 centimeters thick, allowing us to maximize the available interior area, and were cladded, along with the roofs, with exterior wall insulation. Thus, by taking also into consideration the construction of wooden pergolas along the careful placement of the windows on the exterior walls, the building is sustainable providing comfort to the children.” Related: Lego-like kindergarten sparks creativity with a playful brick facade The energy-efficient nursery is also filled with natural light and warm natural materials to create a healthy and welcoming environment for the children. In contrast to the white exterior, the interior features bright and colorful wall treatments and furnishings that inject life into the various classrooms. All classrooms are open on three sides to engage the outdoors. + KLAB Architecture Via ArchDaily Images by Mariana Bisti

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Adorable prefab nursery in Greece mimics a tiny urban village

New school in India will prioritize happiness and emotional intelligence

February 15, 2018 by  
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You won’t find the students at Riverbend School near Chennai, India in a traditional classroom – they might be in an ideation laboratory or a meditation room. The school is planning to focus on personal happiness, and turning out children who will give back to the world in a positive way. Designed by architecture studio Kurani , the campus of the Riverbend School was inspired by villages – where, according to anthropologists, personal relationships are strongest. Riverbend School will be a 400-student weekday boarding school dedicated to teaching happiness. The school’s founders, entrepreneurs at SPI Incubator , believe great achievements and lives are built on a foundation of emotional intelligence and personal happiness – which they think are overlooked in traditional education , according to Kurani. Related: Solar-powered school will teach children how to grow and cook their own food So they’re starting a school for middle and high school students that will prioritize those ideals. Kurani took the question: “How can architecture foster happiness?” as a launching point, and found in the longest study on happiness in the world that “real happiness comes from our relationships.” And as relationships are strong in villages, they modeled the layout of the campus after a village. “The school centers around a public plaza and has spaces for studying, playing, reflecting, living, and farming . Every aspect – intimate walkways, outdoor pavilions, traditional courtyard housing – encourages socializing,” Kurani said on their website. Prepping for standardized tests won’t be part of Riverbend School’s curriculum. Students will decide the topics they wish to learn, and learn through experience, according to Fast Company. They might code software for a rocket launcher or recite poems in a seminar on classical Indian literature or launch a business in a campus incubator. Faculty will serve as mentors and coaches, and teach students on living a happier life drawing on resources like ancient Hindu texts. The goal is for students to be exposed to a wide range of subjects as they discover how to learn about skills or subjects that personally interest them. The team is still working out how to bridge the gap between Indian educational regulations and their approach. Co-founder Vivek Reddy told Fast Company, “It’s not a school for everyone,” acknowledging some parents won’t like the approach. There will be an institute at the Riverbend School where researchers will delve into the school’s effectiveness. Construction on the school is slated to begin later this year, and could be complete in 2020. + Kurani + Riverbend School Via Fast Company Images via Kurani

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Dubai tests the world’s first autonomous mobility pods

February 15, 2018 by  
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10 passengers can fit inside Dubai’s new autonomous mobility pods—the first of their kind in the world. The city’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is working with Next Future Transportation on the first tests of the electric units at the World Government Summit, and it seems they were a success. They can operate for three hours with the help of a battery, or charge up again in six hours. Self-driving pods could soon be roaming the streets of Dubai. Six people can sit and four can stand inside the units, which move at around 12 miles an hour. The pods are nine-feet-long, seven-feet-wide, and nine-feet_tall. Related: Dubai police unveil Star Wars-esque electric hoverbikes The pods are designed for travelling short- to medium-length distances, in dedicated lanes, according to Gulf News . Two pods can be coupled in just 15 to 20 seconds, or can be detached in around five seconds. Prototypes tested in Dubai were manufactured in Italy, according to RTA director-general Mattar Al Tayer. Next Future Transportation’s website envisions passengers hailing one of the pods via a smartphone app , and while aboard calling for service modules that could then couple with the module in which a person is riding so they could purchase a drink or go to the bathroom. The RTA press release did not mention if Dubai will offer those services. Al Tayer said of the pods, “It echoes the Dubai Autonomous Transport Strategy aimed at converting 25 percent of mobility journeys in Dubai to autonomous transportation by 2030…The success of initial tests of these units will bring about a breakthrough in transportation systems that offer innovative mobility solutions and ease snarls in the city.” + Next Future Transportation + Roads and Transport Authority Via Gulf News and India Today Images via Dubai Media Office Twitter

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Dubai tests the world’s first autonomous mobility pods

Nature-based preschool trend flourishes across the United States

February 14, 2018 by  
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Over 250 nature -based preschools have popped up across the United States, according to a recent survey cited by Public Radio International (PRI) – and that’s two-thirds more than in 2017. The schools , which offer lots of outdoor play , have been trendy in Europe for a long time, but the idea is picking up speed across the Atlantic. Advocate Richard Louv told PRI, “There is a new body of evidence out there that really shows a connection, at least, between spending more time in nature and being healthier, happier, and maybe even smarter.” Nature-based preschools give kids the chance to spend a large portion of their day outside. PRI said studies show children who learn outside experience better academic results, like higher standardized test scores. Living on Earth (PRI’s environmental news publication) visited Chesterbrook School of Natural Learning in New Hampshire to get a view of a nature-based preschool up close. Eight acres of fields and forest comprise Chesterbrook School, which has around 36 students in three classes. The kids get to spend time in nature every day, whether it’s snowing, raining, or sunny. There is an indoor classroom for some activities like letter flash cards, but many group times and play times are spent outside. Related: 9 forest kindergartens around the world where the sky’s the limit in teachings among the trees Louv says it’s important to build that connection between children and nature while they’re young. He’s concerned climate change and its impacts will prompt children to see nature as threatening. He told PRI, “It’s very hard to protect something if you don’t learn to love it. It’s impossible to learn to love it if you’ve never experienced it.” If a nature-based preschool isn’t an option for your family, Louv said there’s still plenty parents can do to help foster a child’s love of the outdoors, like reading books outside or going for a belly hike , moving around in the grass to get up close with all that lives there. Via Public Radio International and Living on Earth Images via Seattle Parks on Flickr ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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Nature-based preschool trend flourishes across the United States

Ocean Cleanup Project launches San Francisco base in Pacific trash-busting bid

February 14, 2018 by  
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The Ocean Cleanup Project seeks to dismantle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch , guided by an ambitious design concept and the development of new technology to tackle the pollution threat. First conceived in 2013 by aerospace engineering student Boyan Slat, the Ocean Cleanup Project has recently announced the location of its home base, a former naval station in San Francisco Bay . From here, the Ocean Cleanup Project will manufacture, then launch, the first of its giant trash-collecting booms. With any luck, the inaugural trash-busting voyage will set sail in mid-2018. In addition to its strategic location, the former Alameda Naval Station in San Francisco Bay is a location that carries special significance for Slat. “Next to Alameda’s major historical military significance, it was here that the famous car chase scene in The Matrix Reloaded was filmed, and it was home to some of the best experiments of my favorite childhood TV show, MythBusters,” said Slat . “We’re honored to be allowed to use this site as the assembly yard for the world’s first ocean cleanup system. Hopefully, we will make some history here as well.” Related: Could France-sized ocean garbage patch become 196th nation? The Ocean Cleanup Project ‘s 2,000-foot-long system harnesses natural currents to catch trash in passive, strategically located arms, under which wildlife should be able to swim. While some have criticized the project for the potential environmental damage and cost, the group has committed to undergoing environmental impact studies at every stage in development and production. The team has already conducted aerial surveys of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and developed a prototype system in the Netherlands. By the end of this year, we should know more about whether the Ocean Clean Project’s design is an effective tool to fight pollution. Via New Atlas Images via The Ocean Cleanup Project

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Moya Power tests sheeting material to harvest wind power from London’s Crossrail

February 14, 2018 by  
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We can harness the power of wind in a field or on the ocean, but what about in drafty train tunnels? 27-year-old Charlotte Slingsby’s startup Moya Power seeks to generate electricity capturing wind in existing infrastructure, Wired reported . The company employs a lightweight sheeting material to harvest low grade wind power. They have a pilot project underway on the London Crossrail . Slingsby pioneered Moya Power as part of an Innovation Design Engineering master’s program at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art (RCA); the description on RCA’s website describes Moya as a building material able to harvest wind energy in a variety of locations, like bridges or building facades. The statement on the project said, “The printed, semi-transparent sheets are light, low cost, versatile, and scalable.” Related: Pavegen unveils world’s first energy-harvesting smart street in London Wired described Moya as lamellae-covered plastic sheets. Moya Power’s website said the energy harvesting material “is designed to scavenge-off low grade wind energy, which is abundantly found against existing infrastructure . This involves vibrations and low speed, turbulent winds generating power 24 hours a day, which can be mounted on otherwise unused surfaces, hidden from public view.” One of those areas is the London Crossrail . The Moya material has been installed in tunnels , where wind from trains causes protrusions on the sheeting to move to generate electricity. According to Wired, the system is able to generate 10 percent of the power per square meter a solar panel can. Slingsby sees her product as one piece of a future mixture of urban power sources. She told Wired, “If we all live in cities that need electricity, we need to look for new, creative ways to generate it. I wanted to create something that works in different situations and that can be flexibly adapted, whether you live in an urban hut or a high-rise .” + Moya Power Via Wired and Royal College of Art Images via Transport for London Flickr and Moya Power/Royal College of Art

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Moya Power tests sheeting material to harvest wind power from London’s Crossrail

BIG and WeWork reveal plans for interactive WeGrow kindergarten in New York City

November 29, 2017 by  
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International startup WeWork is expanding beyond its co-working roots with a public  kindergarten in New York City called WeGrow. The innovative school will be designed in collaboration  BIG Architects  and will provide an environment for education in an interactive space that focuses on introspection, exploration, and discovery. WeGrow will be a public elementary school for kids ages three to nine that aims to function as an environment where youngsters can experience hands-on and experiential learning. The first images of the space show wooden play areas, large grey pods for climbing and sitting, and several modular classrooms and treehouses that facilitate interaction. Related: 10 brilliant communal designs helping people work and live together WeWork claims that the new kindergarten will “focus as much on the growth of our children’s spirits as we will their minds.” References to various natural phenomena, as well as an element of futurism, permeate the new WeGrow concept, set to open its first location in Chelsea next autumn. “The design starts from the premise of a school universe at the level of the child: a field of super-elliptic objects forms a learning landscape that’s dense and rational – yet free and fluid,” said the firm. + BIG Architects Via Dezeen

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BIG and WeWork reveal plans for interactive WeGrow kindergarten in New York City

This high school in California embodies sustainability at every possible level

June 28, 2017 by  
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The new Center for Environmental Studies (CES) at Bishop O’Dowd high school in California is one of the greenest classrooms we’ve ever seen. Siegel & Strain Architects designed the building to support sustainability at every level while providing a flexible space for learning. It paid off – the classroom has achieved both Zero Net Energy and LEED Platinum certification. The new facility is located at Bishop O’Dowd, a college preparatory high school in the Oakland Hills in California . Its goal is to prepare students for careers in renewable energy, resource management and environmental engineering and inspire them to become innovators in tackling environmental challenges. Related: Sprout Space is an Award-Winning Prefab Modular Classroom by Perkins + Will Passive design strategies minimize the building’s energy use. A deep overhang and low-emissivity dual glazing protect south-facing clerestory windows from unwanted solar gain , while a large porch wraps around the building and shades its west side. Related: Project FROG’s Zero Energy Modular Classrooms Rainwater is collected in a series of large cisterns for use in toilets and irrigation, while low-flow water fixtures reduce the use of potable water by 60% over USGCB-estimated baseline water usage for a building of similar type and size. In order to create a healthy environment, the architects used natural, non-toxic, renewable, recycled and environmentally friendly building materials. + Bishop O’Dowd High School + Siegel & Strain Architects Photos by David Wakely

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This high school in California embodies sustainability at every possible level

Koch-backed group distributes 25,000 insane climate change conspiracy booklets

April 12, 2017 by  
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The climate change deniers at the Koch brothers-backed Heartland Institute have apparently mailed a lengthy report challenging established climate science to 25,000 educators across the nation. The report, entitled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” has been challenged as climate “propaganda” by the National Science Teachers Association . The goal of the Heartland Institute’s campaign is to continue to mail out the 135-page report until it reaches the hands of 200,000 teachers across the country. If you’d like to read the report, it’s available freely online , but here are a few of the highlights. The report opens by arguing that the science of climate change “is not settled,” despite the fact that multiple studies have found the vast majority of scientists agree that human-caused global warming is real and a serious threat. Study after study has shown that 97% of researchers surveyed are in consensus on this. Related: Fossil fuel-funded study attempts to deny the human causes of climate change It also bashes the science of climate models, claiming that because the certain aspects of the climate are not completely understood, that it’s impossible to predict how global temperatures will change over time. Over at Gizmodo , climate scientist Patrick Brown of the Carnegie Institution for Science explains, “Scientists are constantly working to try to improve these models and reduce uncertainty. This is all done openly and honestly in the peer-reviewed literature.” There’s a lot more inaccurate information packed into this report, including the claim that changing global temperatures are all just part of Earth’s “natural variability” and that global warming could be caused by the sun instead of CO2 emissions (in case it needs to be said, this is not true ). The authors even go so far as to claim that evidence of climate change is “unreliable” and that there’s no proven correlation between melting sea ice and rising temperatures. Related: Americans don’t trust climate change science because of fossil fuel industry’s disinformation Finally, it closes with conspiracy theories claiming that climate scientists are corrupt and driven by a political agenda rather than accurate science. That’s rich coming from an organization backed by fossil fuel companies like Exxonmobil , although perhaps not terribly surprising. While science teachers who receive the booklet will be able to easily see through the flimsy reasoning and distorted facts, it’s troubling to think of other educators or students who might stumble across the publication without the background to analyze its credibility. That’s why educational organizations are encouraging teachers who receive the report in the mail to toss it straight into the trash . Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons and Knitty Marie

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