Back to all Project Ideas / Clear Out The Clutter
We don’t always think about it, but dust comes from our clothes, our skin, and various other items we use during the day. It also, importantly, contains dust mites and cockroach dander (yes, it’s true!) that can be very harmful to breathe, especially to kids with asthma or other respiratory problems.
Nearly one in every 13 school-age kids suffer from asthma. The EPA’s Tools for Schools Indoor Air Quality program gives tips for keeping a healthy classroom, and one of the simplest and most crucial steps is to clean out the clutter. Those corner piles of paper and decorations and science experiments serve as great collection areas for dust—not to mention their tendency to block daylight from windows and get in the way of air conditioning and heating vents. Clean them out, and your classroom will be automatically easier to keep clean and healthy.
Measure your impact
Do a cleanliness assessment of the area (guidance for this is available in the resources below). If possible, partner with a college or university to measure particulates in the air before and one day after your clean-out project or measure the decrease in absence related to respiratory illness.
- Interview your school’s custodial and maintenance staff to understand what green cleaning and health and safety practices are in place.
- The school district may want to form a specific team focused on green cleaning, due to its health and safety benefits. Key participants to consider for this team are nurses, Environmental Health & Safety staff, custodians, and community health experts. The Healthy Schools Campaign has published tips for forming a team as part of their Green Clean Schools program.
- Organize and clean classrooms, removing un-used papers, books and supplies. Strongly consider removing items that typically collect dust and mites, including stuffed animals, cloth pillows, and fabric. Clean all carpet thoroughly to remove all dust and dirt build-up. Ensure that the heating and cooling units, windows and vents supplying air to your classroom are free of obstructions. Ensure that animal cages and fish tanks are regularly cleaned.
- Connect student learning with sustainability action. Learning Lab offers high-quality classroom content — over 450 lessons — for teachers from kindergarten to high school. In the 3-lesson module "Sensing Air Quality," students learn why air quality is important and how their sense of smell can help them identify air pollution. You can find more modules to educate students about protecting air quality by searching Learning Lab's catalog by theme, primary subject, grade or keyword.
- The EPA’s Tools for Schools Indoor Air Quality program has teacher resources on their web site, including a “Classroom Checklist” with tips for cleanliness.
- Find more information from the American Lung Association about asthma and the sources that can trigger symptoms, and take a look at resources from Mom’s Clean Air Force that profile asthma triggers that could impact students and staff.
- Learn more about healthy indoor air quality for schools in the American Lung Association’s Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative Toolkit or the EPA’s Healthy Indoor Environments in Schools website.