What was valuable…
* Being a "rookie" pursuing the dream of a better environmental education experience for our students, this was the perfect fit!
* When presenters shared their frustrations over speed bumps and road blocks yet have still found success, that was the ray of hope I needed to carry on with the many projects and changes that we are making to our teaching, both in and out of the classroom.
* It was powerful to feel the presence of passionate educators coming from all over the globe toward a shared vision for green schools.
* It was great to take some time to step back and remember that we are part of something bigger and that there are so many people doing important work out there.
* Listening and talking with new and old connections has reminded me of why I am enthusiastic about helping educators and architects better understand implications of the built school environment.
* Until this year, I had zero exposure - not only as an adult, but also as a professional - to anything green-related. Having the opportunity to see so many educators and their passions for green life coming to fruition was a beautiful experience.
* I am hopeful for the future when I hear the voices of other green educators and leaders who are also doing this work.
* My students listened intently to a speaker talk about fresh food in schools and then relayed to me some powerful thoughts and feelings about our own school’s food.
* This was an enlightening experience for our students to be able to learn and interact with other students from around the country, and to have them share some of our ideas and hear about new ones that we might implement in our own school.
* I learned that the best way to engage fellow students with environmental concepts is not to distance the issues from their political, religious, and other important beliefs, but to insert the issues into those beliefs, making them feel that environmentalism doesn’t contradict what they stand for.
* We were able to reflect on and share a collective vision of the future of education. Many of the most powerful sessions were run by educators who had come up with creative ways to work within the system or to build new systems.
* We all want to come running with band-aids and quick fixes to say we are “helping,” but must recognize that many problems do not have simple solutions.
* Christopher Emdin’s closing speech was electrifying and inspiring. His perspective was important and I applaud GSCE for including a speaker whose truths are possibly controversial to some attendees.
* The speaker who most powerfully affected me was Dr. Chris Emdin. His take on “white folks who are teaching in the hood” really spoke to my experience. He mentioned the African proverb, “If you don’t initiate your young men into the tribe, they will burn down the village just to feel its warmth.”
What they will do now…
* I would love to implement all that I learned but understand that I need to start small and build on what is already working.
* The students learned that there is always one more step to take and they are interested in creating and learning about new ways to help our school continue on this path.
* I always find that green schools events plant ideas in my head that sprout later. It’s that kind of inspiring, slow knowledge that continues to pay off for months.
* Recognize that there is always a “there” there in every neighborhood, new student, or even in each of us as educators.
* I will continue to try to teach students to examine complexity, allow for nuance, and see the beautiful spectrum of gray that exists between the black and white of any issue.
* These discussions and moments for collaboration allowed me to make connections with people not only across the country, but also with potential local collaborators as I plan my next research steps.
What needs to change…
* I think the testing atmosphere that took over education during No Child Left Behind needs to finally be left behind. I think the process for funding charter schools needs to be re-envisioned so that our laboratory schools and alternative programming does not have to come at the literal expense of other public schools.
* We need to pull away from the focus on standardized testing and begin to prioritize the education of the whole child and community.
* The idea of giving back through service learning, awareness of place, and seeing ourselves as an integral part of our school, community, and environment is key to changing the way we view education and its purpose. When children are involved in the process of change for the greater good, the ripple effect is enormous.
* Within inner-city, high-poverty school districts, students need to experience outdoor, active learning activities. For every environmental initiative, there needs to be a community component attached.
Thanks to everyone for making the conference a success! We look forward to continue connecting with educators and students in Pittsburgh and beyond.