Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Architecture



Major Professor

John M. McRae

Committee Members

Mark M. Schimmenti, James R. Rose


The importance of school buildings has been recognized as a fundamental element of modern society. Today, roughly a quarter of America’s population, including our youngest citizens, spend the majority of their days in school buildings. Still, many of our nation’s schools are in disrepair, with systems in need of repair or replacement.

Over the years, strong evidence and research have shown that school building impact student’s health and their ability to learn. Green schools mean healthier environments for students and staff. Pragmatically, we also know that that green schools save money. Energy-efficient buildings help reduce energy costs, which in turn frees up money for crucial academic and student support services.

This thesis proposes a study in which a combination of green school design and educational goals set the stage for the attributes of green schools to become teaching tools that help children develop a conscience of sustainability and complexity of living and built systems around us. Assuming that school facilities, whether functioning well or not, serve as powerful pedagogical instrument, one may argue that if the power of these attributes as three-dimensional textbooks was connected, the impact on learning for the next generation of students would be limitless. School buildings could then provide students with opportunities to connect with themselves, their community and their local environment. Through hands-on, real world learning experiences children could see their learning as relevant to their world, take pride in the place they live and grow to become concerned and contributing citizens.

Through the exploration of themes of sustainable design, ecological schoolyards and environmental education, along with case studies, I will gather creative ideas which schools have successfully developed on their grounds to create opportunities that encourage children to explore the natural environment and learn about sustainability.

Finally, the goal of this thesis will be to demonstrate how architecture can become an important part of educating our children about stewardship and sustainability, setting them to create a sustainable future.

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