Written by Katie Lockley
As I watched a group of teachers from all across the country stand ankle deep in the muck of Frick Park while our fourth graders urged them to get down on their knees and look for fossils, my heart was overjoyed. I had a moment of reflection that made me remember just how proud I am of the work we do with our students and staff to build our community.
This is the work we do. We listen, we engage, we dig in together.
Last week, several staff members had the opportunity to take part in the Green Schools Conference & Expo, which brings together thought leaders and champions to advance the shared vision of green schools for all within this generation, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. As part of the pre-conference events, ECS opened its door to visitors from all over the country. We ate lunch with Kindergarten, observed lessons in the Thinking Lab, and ate delicious veggie rolls prepared by our 8th Grade Cooking students. We also hiked with a group of Mr. Burke's fourth grade students through Frick Park.
I'm not sure our visitors knew what they signed up for as they were led into the creek, but they truly got the ECS experience. It is during these moments that I am able to step back and witness how special an ECS education truly is. This is the work our teachers do every single day-but moments like this allow me to pull back and view our work with a different lens. This experience reinforces that we are on the right track and allows us to reflect on how far we have come in 8 years. Our actions and words are consistent with our values and we were able to showcase this through our tour. There is something incredibly hopeful about bringing together this many people to take part in the national conversation around green schools.
At the closing of the conference, our friend and partner, Jenna Cramer, VP of Transformation and Community at Green Building Alliance, hit the nail on the head when she spoke about the importance of the WHY:
"I feel like our ability to get to a better, brighter, happier, just, and thriving future is dependent upon loving all of our children, loving each other, and of course, loving ourselves.
Sometimes we need to define the things that are intolerable to us, in order to discover our WHY. Our WHY is what drives us, what gets us out of bed in the morning, what enables us to inspire and engage other people, and it is essential to connecting on a deeper level with ourselves and with others. We've spent the past two days talking a lot about the WHAT and the HOW, but we need to have the COURAGE to start discussing the WHY. The WHY is what is going to build this movement, and sustain it."
From the very beginning in creating these green spaces, the student's voice, the people we are serving, must be deeply ingrained within these conversations. It is not enough to build a green building, or "green a building," without first consulting the stakeholders. Most importantly, we must continue to engage our community in this journey. This work will not happen overnight, but I am so proud of where we are right now and where we are going. Let us continue to dig into the work of building a happy, healthy, vibrant community.