April’s Inspire Speakers Series was filled with storytelling, adventures, youth voices, and music! Dr. John Francis, Patty DeMarco, Mike Schiller, and students from the Environmental Charter School had the audience enthralled from start to finish. We were even treated to some banjo-strumming by John Francis himself, a perfect complement to the Chiodi Trio’s banjo music during our opening reception.
This edition of the Inspire Speakers Series was an awesome event attended by 150 of GBA’s closest friends, including our Green & Healthy Schools Academy Cohort. GHSA participant Dina Biscotti Barnes shares her reflections on the event and the workshop she attended with Dr. John Francis the following day:
Invisible Ripples of InspirationI am humble and thankful for the opportunity to attempt to put into words the experience of being in the presence of Dr. John Francis for his presentation at GBA’s Inspire Speakers Series. I have heard it said that the word inspire means “in spirit.” These speakers and workshops bring insight and a deep connection with not only the spirit of nature, but with each other.
How do these gatherings of GBA and its Green & Healthy (thanks Andrew Ellsworth) Schools Academy translate into our lives, the students’ lives, and the communities to which we return? Dr. John Francis shared his authentic truth of silence and planet-walking; will we bring silence back with us? Possibly walking meditation will follow us into our school hallways and guide us with our class straight out the door! His message that “we are the environment” is similar to the wisdom I have heard at other GBA meetings. We want our children and students to be aware of interconnectedness and inter-being. Nature and the environment are not “somewhere out there” and his message of caring for one another because we are the environment hits a lovely banjo chord of unity.
How will we measure data related to our sustainability efforts? Will we count the number of magical smiles on our students as they plant seeds in their school garden? Will we tally the number of students we guide to the closest city park? Will we photograph their eyes of complete wonder and awe as they watch the swooping bald eagle diving for a fish in the river? Maybe. Yet, our inspirations will collectively become these invisible ripples as they spread out into the world in silent moments in ways we may never see. Dr. Francis said in his book The Ragged Edge of Silence, “In order to listen actively, one must suspend judgment.” This is a simple awareness with the potential to cause huge ripples. If, for example, I take this with me and attempt to apply it in my school life, think of the invisible ripple my listening and non-judgment could bring to the world.
I sat at this month’s Green & Healthy Schools Academy workshop silently inspired as I watched people declaring they will be bold! I listened to teachers and engineers who, by climbing great mountains, erected a wind turbine at their school. I teared up when listening to the Divas of the Environmental Charter School express their inner voice. I sat with a huge smile while hearing Sam, a student from Chartiers Valley High School, exuberant with the coolness of the vibes of GBA’s people. What we are all a part of is real and it matters and it will live on in the invisible ripples of inspiration. Thank you all.
Dina Biscotti Barnes is a health and physical education teacher, speaker, and author of the book, When My Mind Met My Soul .