Fostering Whole-Systems Thinking Through Architecture: Eco- School Case Studies in Europe and Japan

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In eco-schools, the building itself is used as a lever for environmental education. This research examines how architecture, engineering, landscaping, and educational systems are combined to make school buildings the instruments through which students learn how to lessen human impact on the environment. Through tours, interviews, archival data, and surveys with data from England, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Japan, this thesis investigates factors involved in eco-school development, and documents four eco-schools' design, activities, and students' environmental attitudes. The specific aims are: Aim 1. (a) What factors aid eco-school development, and (b) in what kind of social contexts does this occur? Interviews with principals, architects, and government officials revealed that eco-schools develop quickly with enthusiastic principals who excite their students, faculty, and school board members with occasions to think and act in ecologically responsible ways. Aim 2. What are contemporary exemplars of eco-schools, in architecture and activities? Four contemporary eco-school exemplars were studied in England, the Netherlands, and Japan. These schools had an average of 14 environmental features, with the most common being utilizing daylight. Average number of environmental activities was 5.5, with gardening and field trips as the most common. Eco-school activities varied considerably with curriculum integration, alternative transportation, and demandreducing policies. Aim 3. Can eco-schools influence a child's way of thinking in different ways than traditional schools, in terms of environmental attitudes? Across four schools studied, the average environmental attitudes score was 84.43, using a 28 item adapted scale from Musser and Malkus (1994). Although findings indicated that the number of environmental features in a school was not a significant predictor of environmental attitudes, this may be due in part to the fact that all schools studied were eco-schools. Future research might include schools varying more in both design and curriculum.

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Spring 2009
Honors Thesis

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Undergraduate Honors Thesis, Spring 2009


Acknowledgements This research would not have been possible without the generous support from the Wood Fellowship through the Institute of European Studies, the Human Ecology Alumni Association, and the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board. Personal thanks to Michael and Takako Day, Brenda Bricker, David Noble, Catriona Stewart, Marten Overtoom, Tomonari Yashiro, Robert Lorenz, and Ying Hua for their ideas and encouragement. Much appreciation for the patience and guidance of my research advisor, Nancy Wells.

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Design and Environmental Analysis; Undergraduate Honors Thesis; eco-schools; Architecture; green schools; children?s environmental attitudes


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