Green Schools National Conference a Resounding Success
Katie Bell, our new EverGreen Twins Outreach Director, and Rick Reynolds recently had the pleasure of attending the 1st annual Green Schools National Conference, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The EverGreen Twins Activity Book was represented among other great resources like Green Teacher Magazine, the KidWind Project and Project Learning Tree’s GreenSchools.
Repeated accolades from teachers, students and program staff gave the EverGreen Twins a glowing review at the event. Farm to School programs applauded the organic food activity, Garden Box appreciated the composting and photosynthesis pieces, and teachers enjoyed the visual and upbeat tone of the book. “I LOVE the book because the graphics perfectly illustrate the concepts. I had to buy a second one to share it with a friend!” exclaimed Naomi Harper, Science Curriculum Educator from Will Rogers Middle School in Sacramento, CA.
Educators also loved the book’s versatility for integrating sustainability education with science, math, language arts, social studies, art, and technology education. Several schools also planned to use it with after school programs, such as Pine Jog Elementary’s amazing green program in West Palm Beach, Florida (see more information below about the school). Teachers and parents from other states such as California, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (just to name a few!) were excited to use the EverGreen Twins with their kids, and we have already started to hear about how much the students are enjoying it.
The conference gave us opportunities to engage with 700+ educators and dozens of programs from around the U.S. and Canada. In addition, these inspirational stories of students doing amazing work in their schools really stood out:
- Students from Erie High Charter School in Erie, Kansas enthusiastically shared news of their work towards creating what they hope to be the first LEED Gold-certified school building in the state. They are neck-in-neck with a nearby high school, and these teens have the passion, skill and creativity to achieve their goal. Already 25% of the schools’ LEED points have come as a direct result of student action. From engineering a walkway around their pond to designing educational media and sustainability-based curriculum, these students are creating a greener world for themselves, their community and generations to come.
- Chris Hershiser’s 5th and 6th grade students from Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake, Illinois are making rain barrels for water catchment using donated and discarded materials. The rain barrels are then decorated and sold as a fundraiser to benefit the school’s green initiatives.
- Pine Jog Elementary students in West Palm Beach, Florida, are using an advanced hydroponics system to grow thousands of strawberry and other plants using dramatically less water and no pesticides. The school’s leadership, including principal Fred Barch and Education Director Susan Toth, have helped to integrate nature, science, and art throughout the curriculum. Their ethnically and socioeconomically diverse students are thriving from the approach, and test scores have been rising significantly, among many other benefits.
- After meeting for only 3 days, a group of teens from across America turned leadership and environmental workshops into action plans for their schools, many of which are Green Charter Schools. Youth Summit representatives presented heartfelt and thoughtful ways to address social justice, clean energy and environmental awareness back at home.
Informative sessions covered a spectrum of themes from nature-based learning to creating energy efficient school buildings and new ways of teaching about climate change to healthier cafeteria food. Expeditionary Learning presented a compelling case for project-based education by providing stunning examples of student work and explaining the support and resources they provide to schools. The KidWind Project explained how teaching the physics of wind-generated energy is fun, easy and affordable when using adaptable and age-appropriate turbine models. Organic Valley, HealthCorps and the Food Family Farming Foundation shared innovative and low-cost methods to improve school nutrition with food reform programs such as SaladBarProject.org and the Teaching Garden Program.
Prominent keynote speakers gave us personal perspectives on the state of environmental education and our global health. David Sobel of Antioch University New England presented data that suggests place-based education can improve student engagement, attendance, and even standardized test scores in areas such as reading and math, not to mention the environmental quality of the school and surrounding community. Phillipe Cousteau emphasized the harsh reality facing our oceans and freshwater systems, especially the impact that oil spills and warming ocean waters are having on marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs. Will Steger shared hopeful and effective tools for discussing climate change with his pioneering way of connecting classrooms and glaciers through first-hand video observations from the Arctic.
The 2011 Green Schools National Conference will be in Denver, CO and we hope to see you there! Until then, we’ll keep engaging students with fun, hands-on activities that teach sustainability and promote environmental awareness, and we hope you do the same. The EverGreen Twins Activity Book is a great resource to begin with…or to support what you’re already doing with students in your school or kids at home.