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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Edutopia Webinar: "Greening Your School" post discussion!

Edutopia Webinar: "Greening Your School" post discussion!

Related Tags: Environmental Education
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Here we can explore the ideas, concepts, and educational potential presented in the "Greening Your School" Webinar.

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation
Staff

Tim and Tom - thank you for a most excellent and informative presentation! Jason, thanks for moderating this discussion, and - to all the webinar attendees and Twitterfolk who are here - thank you for your great work!

Keep the questions coming...

betty

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Great questions Jason. One of my favorite parts of the webinar was when Tim showed how a very unlikely pairing became such a smooth transition: From environmental studies to city planning.


It stuck with me, the images of students planning out an old factory building revitalization by taking pictures and elementary kids stating their opinion at city councils for necessary sidewalks (I especially liked that each student had note cards that were bright yellow fishes!).


A VERY close second was hearing about Tom's cool biodiesel project in his high school. In the Q & A, Tim made the comment that Tom approaching a local University to partner with was a very smart move and I completely agree. I'd also add to look to the community, as a whole, for support if there isn't a local University. Parents may be engineers, work at companies with employee volunteer programs, and there may be even local biodiesel businesses around.

Anyway, my two cents :)

Jason Flom's picture
Jason Flom
Director-Elect in Tallahassee, FL

There is definitely the risk of a false perception about what "being green" means. If not framed right, the projects may come across as not being rigorous enough, even if they are.

I've found that parent education is as much a part of my job as teaching students at times. When embarking on a new green project I often tie it to our larger integrated themes, concepts, and skills. I make sure that projects incorporate relevant writing assignments (like letters to the editor or press releases), investigations (the science behind a phenomenon and experiments around certain aspects), and historical contexts (to put it in perspective.

Starting out, I found that the trick was to communicate these elements to colleagues, administrators, and parents in a way that enumerated their academic benefits. I almost added the "green-ness" as an aside. As the project moved forward, and there was more buy-in, the other additional (and perhaps more long term) gains became more apparent to all parties.

I'm fortunate that I work in a school that values green projects, so it was never a hard sell. In an environment less supportive of such projects, I'd start small, and build slowly.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Ok.. I HAVE to share this. Just stumbled upon an Edutopia article, Green Building and Curriculum Resources for Teachers, which has links for building your own environmentally progressive school and even has some eco-friendly lesson plans.


Check out the Green Schools Checklist that highlights everything schools should consider when beginning to think about going green.

Tom Koulentes's picture

[quote]There is definitely the risk of a false perception about what "being green" means. If not framed right, the projects may come across as not being rigorous enough, even if they are.
I've found that parent education is as much a part of my job as teaching students at times. When embarking on a new green project I often tie it to our larger integrated themes, concepts, and skills. I make sure that projects incorporate relevant writing assignments (like letters to the editor or press releases), investigations (the science behind a phenomenon and experiments around certain aspects), and historical contexts (to put it in perspective.
Starting out, I found that the trick was to communicate these elements to colleagues, administrators, and parents in a way that enumerated their academic benefits. I almost added the "green-ness" as an aside. As the project moved forward, and there was more buy-in, the other additional (and perhaps more long term) gains became more apparent to all parties.
I'm fortunate that I work in a school that values green projects, so it was never a hard sell. In an environment less supportive of such projects, I'd start small, and build slowly.[/quote]

For older students I think you can counter the "hippie" "fluff" idea by showing how "green" jobs & careers are absolutely exploding. For the intellectual set, Tom Friedman's "Hot, Flat and Crowded" makes a compelling case that environmental action is in America's best national defense and business interests. Environmental engineering is a rapidly growing major on college campuses, and virtually all large corporations are investing in personnel who work as sustainability consultants and engineers. Going green is no longer about just "hugging a tree," it is about engaging people, business, and government in sustained change in order to bring about envrionmental benefits.

Tom Koulentes's picture

[quote]Quote:How to connect inner city students with what sustains our quality of life?Joanne Thibault[/quote]
Chicago has the goal of becoming America's "greenest" big city. To that end, there are a ton of cool urban projects going on. Check out the concept of green roofs. Your students could analyze the extent to which a green roof would impact their local environment, and they could make design recommendations for green roofs. Also, students could get involved in helping people learn how to make energy saving decisions at home. In addition, many hawks, birds, coyotes, and other wildlife are nesting and living in urban places. Students could think about creating artifical habitats to "lure" wildlife back to the city. Or, students could investigate ways the city could protect wildlife (like glass that birds can see so they don't fly into tall buildings). In addition, there are some very cool social justice projects that incorporate urban gardening. Many cities are tearing down old, abandoned houses and turning them over to citizen groups to make into gardens. Finally, perhaps check out the book, "No Impact Man" by Colin Beavan. In it, he attempts to live a life with absoultely no impact on the environment....and he lives in a high-rise in Manhattan.

Tom Koulentes's picture

[quote]A comment, really. What I have found at our school (which is in a large Northern Virginia school district), is that the school system is strongly supporting well thought-out grounds projects that reduce the district's mowing contract.
Elizabeth Burke[/quote]

Absolutely...less cost for fuel, and less cost for labor to mow. I would consider the idea of native habitat restoration as well. Looks beautiful, provides habitat for native animals/birds/insects, and requires minimal maintenance.

Tom Koulentes's picture

[quote]Often, there are many people and groups working separtely for common goals. What ideas have you seen for bringing together community and building partnerships with the schools (occasionally community groups feel quite separate from school groups) ?
Leah Fietsam[/quote]

We have created a "green alliance" in our city. Once a month members of our school administration meet with representatives from the city, the park district, the chamber of commerce, the library, the hospital, and the police & fire departments. In addition, members of other environmental groups attend. These meetings enable all of these entities to share information about the environmental projects they are undertaking and also enlist the support of one another. The mayor chairs these meetings and they are well attended.

GreenHearted's picture
GreenHearted
Sustainability educator with GreenHeart Education

I agree, Jason, that we don't have to create this dichotomy. Everything is interconnected these days. And global climate disruption is going to exacerbate every social (and environmental) problem going.

Here's another good reason to see both as interconnected: climate change is already killing 300,000 people per year, and impacting the lives of millions of others. If we can encourage compassion for those people - seeing them as our brothers and sisters (and there but for the grace of God go I) - then climate change isn't off in the distance, it's here and now, and happening to people who, but for luck and timing, could be us.

Besides, we already have increased wildfires and droughts in North America ... that's not distant.

Further, the Arctic summer sea ice is now predicted to disappear in about 10 years. When it's gone, we in the Northern Hemisphere will lose our summer "air conditioning" - and look out then! Our agriculture will be terribly affected. Are we teaching resilience now? Are we teaching back-to-the-land survival skills now? Are we teaching students how to grow their own food?

What is it that we're waiting for?

GreenHearted's picture
GreenHearted
Sustainability educator with GreenHeart Education

[quote]As a reminder, we've listed all of the websites, books, and other resources talked about in the webinar at: edutopia.org/october-29-webinar. We've also included some relevant articles Edutopia has done on this topic.
Enjoy![/quote]

I'd like to add GreenHeart Education (http://www.greenhearted.org) to the list. Members might find some interesting ideas and helpful resources there. I'm biased, but I think it's a neat website to explore.

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