Green Schools and Beyond Posted on April 15, 2016 by wpengine Share this post GTECH was able to attend the Green Schools Conference and Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center from March 31 through April 1. Some would ask, why is GTECH at a Green Schools Conference and how does it apply to their work to date? While we don’t work in a school setting, our Green Playces Initiative hopes to work with educators and students to help explore our natural settings and think about local environmental issues. Eco-literacy and environmental justice are issues that our youth deal with on a daily basis, and we try to empower residents and youth to take action through environmental education. Our blogs have recently focused on issues that affect our region including air quality, stormwater, and vacancy and blight, as well as how resilience affects our region. While attending the conference I was struck by the level of excitement to transform our schools not only to run more efficiently, but to teach our kids about natural settings and the importance of eco-literacy. The presentation that most resonated with me was from Barry Svigals, an architect who was tasked with rebuilding the Sandy Hook Elementary School. He talked about community support as well as finding resident champions that will not allow projects to fail because they are so passionate about the topic. This approach resonates with us at GTECH and most likely all those who work on community projects. All of us can think of projects in our communities that began with great promise only to fail later because residents were not involved wholeheartedly in the process. “We do not save things we do not love”-Stephen Jay Gould The conference highlighted green building design, innovation, and collaboration amongst all stakeholders. Rick Fedrizzi, the CEO of the United States Green Building Council, spoke on the condition of our schools and noted that indoor health conditions often directly impact the health and learning capacity of students. He also noted that 14 million school days are missed yearly due to the prevalence of asthma in kids. GTECH has worked previously on improving indoor air quality with our ReEnergize Ambassador program as well as our Healthy Homes Incentive Program. We are currently looking at how land use decisions and actions can impact community health measures and outcomes. At GTECH we also feel it is critically important to involve local residents in design ideas as well as to create safe outdoor places for the neighborhood to meet and congregate. Green Playces in particular hopes to drive environmental education with safe and impactful outdoor spaces for kids. Something that hit close to home was a discussion from Leesa Carter Jones, Executive Director of the Captain Planet Foundation, who talked a lot about turning empathy into action, and letting kids and communities work through their issues. She also talked about the importance of guiding youth, not doing the work for them but rather supporting creative thoughts and ideas. GTECH has long used a methodology of IACS: we Investigate before we take Action, and try to empower residents to Connect with each other to Sustain momentum for our projects. Mr. Eco Rap: Eco Hero Anthem I will wrap up by linking a song from Mr. Eco, an environmental rap superhero, who is collaborating with youth from seven countries to create awareness about the importance of environmental literacy and taking action with his “Renewable Rap.” Mr. Eco discusses the importance of community level involvement and that you are never too young or too old to take matters into your own hands and make a difference, mentioning, “If you only solve one problem it won’t be sustainable”-Mr. Eco It is our hope that everyone can incorporate green concepts in the work they do and connect with their communities to create change, even if that change seems small and insignificant. “You must be the change you want to see in the world”-Mahatma Gandhi Key Resources: Book by Dr. Christopher Emdin: For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education. Dr. Emdin talks about drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America. Here is a very interesting review of the book. Dr. Emdin spoke passionately about the importance of taking time to develop real partnerships with communities. “We have to fill the gaps between our communities and the work being done in those communities…We also need three components for successful projects: Dialogue, Listen and Compensate.” -Dr. Christopher Emdin USGBC’s Learning Lab: A resource provided free of charge until August 2016. Learning Lab provides K-12 teachers and school leaders with comprehensive, project- and STEM-based curriculum that encourages student leadership, environmental literacy, and real-world action. One More Generation: An amazing story of young kids (nine and seven years old) who were passionate about the environment and spreading the word to kids around the globe. They created a non-profit to educate all kids and keep species around for one more generation. Here is a touching video on how they started the non-profit.