Safe and healthy school environments are critical for children to learn, play and grow, and there have been national efforts to build and improve new and existing school environments. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed the first national-level School Siting Guidelines in 2011 mandated by the Congress. Also, the Obama administration announced the first-ever 78 Green Ribbon Schools in 29 states and Washington, D.C. in 2012. Many EDRA members have been actively engaged in school environment research and play a vital role improving children’s learning environments.
At EDRA42 in Chicago, many presentations focused on how indoor and outdoor learning environments influence children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviors, environmental preference and peer conflict resolution. Also, a few studies investigated the association between public school environments and children’s school performance after controlling important confounding variables such as free lunch status, school size, student-teacher ratio, etc. This link was particularly critical for poor minority children since they attended the schools with less desirable environmental conditions.
In addition, much effort has been made to better understand the school environmental needs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Therapeutically enhanced school design and design guidelines for outdoor therapeutic environments for ASD children have also been presented in previous EDRA conferences. It is important to provide supportive and healthy environments for all school children to learn. However, if we fail to do so, it might be particularly challenging and difficult for children with special needs.
The EDRA44Providence conference theme is “Healthy + Healing Places” and has a focus on health policy implications for environmental design. I hope to engage in much discussion on creating healthy and healing school environments for all children in May 29- June 1, 2013.