Case Study: GreenSpot for Kids—Teaching Sustainability
The objective of the GreenSpot program is to create a greener Columbus. The first initiative, which was conducted in 2008, sought to promote a culture of sustainability by supporting and engaging residents, community groups and businesses. The mission was to inspire, educate and recognize community members in their efforts to promote a sustainable and healthier environment for the current and future citizens of Columbus.
Following on this earlier initiative, the purpose of GreenSpot for Kids is to extend the GreenSpot program to children ages 4–7, elementary teachers and schools by supplementing existing science curricula, with the goal of advancing science standards achievement. In addition to creating printed pieces for this program, we made enhancements to the existing GreenSpot website that featured the GreenSpot Kids program, providing students with opportunities to learn how to create a healthier environment and community.
The City of Columbus received a grant from the Ohio Environmental Educational Fund. The budget for the entire program was $40,000, including printing and production costs. Ologie provided additional in-kind support to cover overages.
Research was conducted by the City of Columbus prior to submitting the grant proposal. In addition, the city audited children’s materials from other environmental organizations in central Ohio and met with children’s literature specialists at The Ohio State University.
Ologie had already performed in-depth discovery and strategy work as part of the original GreenSpot project in 2008. We drew on that information for GreenSpot for Kids, conducting specific youth-oriented research and auditing similar websites and programs about the environment and green initiatives.
Our original GreenSpot positioning statement sums it up:
All it takes is one. It started with just one phone call to the City from someone wanting to know more about green. Before long, that one call became many—more than the City could possibly answer. Then it was clear: Columbus was open and ready for green. That’s why GreenSpot was created. And that’s what it’s all about: individuals, businesses and communities taking small steps that—together—add up to a big impact.
To engage central Ohio children and the community early on, students were asked to submit their ideas for a GreenSpot mascot. Dozens of drawings were submitted, and in the end, GreenSpot Dot was born. It appears in all of the GreenSpot for Kids materials.
The scope of this program includes the execution of two projects:
Project 1: Book and Poster
This project includes content development, design and printing of a GreenSpot Kids program book and poster that works in conjunction with the GreenSpot website. We created a poster for distribution to schools and a full-color book—whose content we created using age-appropriate vocabulary—that is capable of withstanding multiple uses and is printed on paper with at least 30 percent recycled content.
Project 2: Website
This project includes content development, design and programming for a new site that leverages the print materials, the current GreenSpot website and the new GreenSpot for Kids ambassador. For the kids, the website features an array of online and offline activities: tips to be green, games, an interactive quiz and downloadable green walking maps and accomplishment charts. For the teachers, we created an Educator's Toolkit that includes downloadable versions of GreenSpot and the Dots books, a classroom Accomplishment Chart, worksheets and resource guides.
Our design objectives for both projects were straightforward: the visuals needed to be familiar, fun and uncomplicated. Because the chosen mascot drawing was simple, the environment also needed to reflect a similar aesthetic. We brought the character to life in illustrated settings with familiar Columbus landmarks, using a color palette with a prominent range of greens. For the book and the poster, we created an original typeface that evokes a child’s handwriting. Simplicity was key here, especially as some students in the target age range were learning to read.
As we had previously worked on GreenSpot for its launch in 2008 and had worked closely with the Mayor's Office, we had a solid understanding of the program. Therefore, the challenges we faced doing the design work for this new offshoot program were kept to a minimum. Within this new programming aimed at children, the biggest challenge was trying to achieve as much website functionality as we could within a very limited budget. We wanted kids to visit the site multiple times and to have fun while learning more about being green.
The centerpiece of the program was a children’s book, which Ologie wrote and illustrated in-house. (The design team even handcrafted the book’s unique typography, word by word.) To help make a deeper connection with the students, we used familiar Columbus locations as backdrops throughout the story. Classrooms also receive an accomplishment chart to track green activities and give access to the GreenSpot for Kids website.
In less than a year, 36 schools are already using the GreenSpot for Kids materials in their classrooms. “Our goal was to create a program that teachers could adapt to fit their needs, and that would further enrich and support existing school science curriculum. Not only have teachers in Columbus Public Schools actively requested participation in the program, but we have also had teachers outside the district clamoring at the opportunity to have GreenSpot for Kids in their classrooms,” said Leslie R. Strader, Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s assistant environmental steward.
Additionally, although the program was launched for first-graders, teachers in both second and third grades have requested materials and said the information was relevant to their students. This suggests that the materials are appropriate for and understandable to a variety of skill levels and a broader age group than we had initially anticipated.
Columbus is the capital of Ohio, that state’s largest city, and the fifteenth-largest city in the nation. Since the mid-2000s, Mayor Michael B. Coleman and his administration have led the charge to make Columbus a more sustainable city, with support and participation from businesses, organizations and residents.
The success of both the GreenSpot and GreenSpot for Kids programs have necessitated hiring a full-time GreenSpot coordinator within the Mayor's office in 2013. In related news, Columbus is in the final phase of implementing a long-awaited citywide recycling program and there are no signs that the city's green movement is slowing down.
This case study is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.