Green building is the practice of creating buildings and processes that are environmentally responsible, healthy, and resource efficient throughout a building’s life cycle. While university level courses for green building are currently available, there is still a need to provide more education about green buildings, sustainability and the environment in middle and high schools. The final project for the SBIO 3324 Green Building Systems class was to help develop educational materials for middle and high school students.

The class partnered with One Valley, Inc., a non-profit organization in Roanoke dedicated to creating a sustainable community through education and environmental actions. A long term goal of One Valley, Inc. has been the development of the George Washington Carver Environmental Education Center. Located in Northwest Roanoke, this education center would provide information on healthy eating, healthy living, environmental education and green building.

On November 13th, the students met virtually with One Valley, Inc. board members Gene Yagow, Caroll Carter and Peter Wonson. The board members described their organization and its vision for the future. They talked about the challenges of Northwest Roanoke, including its history of racial prejudice and housing discrimination. Students were instructed to create two 50-minute sessions of content on one of the following topics: building sites, indoor environmental quality, electrical use, electrical production, plumbing use, or neighborhood development. Students were supplied with the Virginia Standards of Learning for specific grades and asked to integrate their activities into the current curriculum.

Activities included lectures, discussions, a Jeopardy game, and purchasing scenarios. “Through completing this project, I learned how to structure and maintain a healthy community. Additionally, I learned how to relay this information to younger generations,” said Austin Greifenkamp, a junior in Sustainable Biomaterials.

“I liked that the project challenged us to truly understand the material we were learning so that we could present it in an applicable way to younger generations. I learned that it can be practical and relevant to integrate green building concepts into other subjects even in a set curriculum,” said Grace Hopkins, a student in Sustainable Biomaterials.

On December 15th, as part of the class’s final exam, the students presented their materials to the One Valley, Inc. board members and discussed how their materials can be used. The students listened carefully to our questions following their presentations, then answered fluently and in detail. They seemed very much at ease in conversation with folks who are two and three generations older than they (no small feat!). And the information we as a steering committee gleaned will be extremely helpful as we plan and execute the construction of the Carver Center” said Peter Wonson, one of the board members of One Valley, Inc.

Future plans are to help integrate the materials into online lessons that can be distributed to interested science and social studies teachers for integration into their programs.

More information about One Valley, Inc. can be found at