Anyone who thinks the words “environment” and “education” should go together: Virginia Beach looks like the place to be March 4-7 when the Green Schools National Network brings its fifth annual Green Schools National Conference to the Commonwealth!
With some 1200 expected attendees, an impressive schedule of presentations, and an exhibit hall full of organizations and businesses supporting green education initiatives, the event is sure to be inspiring for teachers, parents, administrators and even students looking to green their schools.
Registration is still open, with one winner chosen each week for a refund. Hotel blocks are closing on February 19. Babies and toddlers are welcome to accompany registered parents, and children age 10 and up can register for their own Student Summit.
I asked the organizers a few questions to help prospective first-time attendees get a picture of the event, and I also asked two local presenters for their thoughts on the event. Elenor Hodges is the director of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment and the parent of two children in Arlington Public Schools. She serves on the APS Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability, which is co-sponsoring a first Growing Green Schools event on April 6 for parents, students and staff in APS.
Elenor said of the “Speed Greening Session” Friday afternoon panel she’s speaking on, “I’m excited to be presenting about the creation of the Arlington Public School sustainability committee to share some ideas with other school districts about the importance of coordinating school system goals for sustainability and some of the lesson’s Arlington has learned along the way.”
Elenor is also a member of the leadership team of the local non-profit group NoVA Outside, which is putting on its fourth School Environmental Action Showcase at George Mason University on April 9. Another NoVA Outside advisory committee member who is speaking at the Green Schools National Conference is Vienna mother of two Melanie Kadlic Meren. The owner of MKM Strategies communications and organizational management consulting, Melanie said, “It’s really a thrill to not only attend but present at this year’s Green Schools National Conference–and here in our own state! I previously attended the conference in Denver and remember being heartened listening to Education Secretary Arne Duncan give the keynote, which was a real nod to this movement to bring more nature- and environmental-based learning into schools nationwide. ”
This year, Melanie and her colleague Kurt Moser of Earth Force are presenting about the power of network weaving, which is a strategy for connecting with others in a strategic and thoughtful way. It’s something that the Children & Nature Network is promoting, and NoVA Outside is using it to build efforts in Northern Virginia. “As part of that presentation,” Melanie said, “I’ll discuss how to build organizational structures and processes to get a lot done with limited time and staff.”
Melanie and Kurt will also be doing two poster sessions about NoVA Outside with fellow leadership team member Elaine Tholen, Environmental Educator in Fairfax County Public Schools.
The conference is not just for educators or those working in schools or the education industry. Parents are welcome and encouraged to attend. Read on for more from the conference organizers!
Mindful Healthy Life: Why should parents attend? What would a parent who is not an educator get out of attending the Green Schools National Conference?
Green Schools National Network: The conference is a great introduction to the concept of green schools. Creating healthier, more sustainable places of learning is more than just installing energy efficient heating and setting up recycling programs. This movement is about creating healthier learning environments, and helping kids become responsible, engaged citizens by becoming more aware of the world around them. From air quality programs to organic foods on the lunch line to environmental ed in the classroom, green schools have a lot to offer — and parents will became as enthused as teachers and students, once they know what green schools are all about!
Q: What do educators who are not science or environmental education teachers stand to gain by attending the Green Schools National Conference?
Green Schools National Network: “Green” topics can be incorporated into any curriculum. Certainly, science and environmental ed teachers are already focused on ‘greening’ topics, but their colleagues can easily get involved as well. For example, an English teacher can ask students to write about their experiences growing veggies in the school garden. Business teachers can ask students to examine the cost savings of a school’s new energy efficient heating system or recycling program.
Q: What about parents of very young children and homeschooling parents? How could the Green Schools National Conference benefit them and their children?
Conference workshops and sessions focus on topics that homeschooling parents can adopt. Last year, one of our ‘speed’ greening sessions was about efforts to save the Monarch butterfly. A parent can easily make a ‘butterfly garden’ at home to teach their children about the topic of species restoration. What about a home recycling program? Or explaining the difference between conventional and organic foods?
Q: What is new this year that you’d like to highlight? Include any specific goals you want to promote.
One of our main messages this year is that there is no need to have a multimillion dollar budget to go green. Any school, no matter its size or funding, can adopt programs that can help them launch healthy, sustainable initiatives. And it’s a great place to network — folks who have success stories are always happy to share their best practices!
To register, visit https://greenschoolsnationalnetwork.org/conference/
Photos used with permission from Green Schools National Network
Disclosure: The author has been given a press pass to attend the conference in exchange for this post and a follow-up post reporting on the event.