Arguably, no single “green” technology is better than a green roof to simultaneously improve the energy efficiency of buildings, control storm-water run-off, reduce the urban heat island effect, mitigate air and noise pollution, and create urban wildlife habitat. Designing roofing systems that effectively mimic the natural systems required to grow vegetation on rooftops requires the coordination of expertise from a wide spectrum of professions and disciplines. The multidisciplinary nature of green roof design, construction, and maintenance, coupled with the aforementioned range of benefits, offers tremendous opportunities for K-12 educators to integrate green roof design principles into their curricula. While recognizing such opportunities, the challenge of effectively integrating these principles into traditional high school course structures can be significant.
By exploring how to effectively integrate green roof principles into high school curricula, I have been able to design coursework that adheres to Massachusetts educational frameworks, complements existing high school science courses, and engages students in real-world experiences not traditionally offered by most college preparatory courses. One of the courses developed explicitly uses green roof technology as the springboard to teach a diverse array of knowledge and skills while involving students in the creation of meaningful green roof design projects. By exploring topics such as environmental science and urban ecology, heat transfer and thermal performance, structural physics, engineering design methods, cost analysis, project planning and management, teamwork, and communication skills the course adheres to 20 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks while also exploring content and skills currently not covered by MA Frameworks. Additionally, in order to complete meaningful green roof design projects, students have directly partnered with local green roof contractors, architects, engineers, community development corporations, and environmental non-profits. These partnerships have led to students designing and constructing a green roof educational kiosk as well as students installing the first green roof in Somerville, MA.