Here are five people I only just discovered at the Green Schools National Conference in Sacramento, CA that I look forward to following!
1) Charles Orgbon III, CEO of Greening Forward
This keynote speaker is a senior in high school and CEO of a nonprofit (he started it in 7th grade), and totally blew the conference out of the water. He told it like it is. My favorite part was when he explained that youth aren’t superheroes, but that doesn’t mean you should write them off as partners. “We’ll overlook your emails just like your adult colleagues do.” (True that.) His workshop in the youth summit (held in another building…next year let’s get the youth and adults collaborating instead of separated!) was one of the most well-facilitated workshops I’ve ever been to. No, not by a youth, but by anyone. His attention to group dynamics, his social justice lens, and his ability to captivate and guide people through difficult conversations was phenomenal. Keep your eye on this one, he’s already making a huge difference in his wake.
2) Rosalyn Lemmo, 11th grader at Bay School San Francisco
I met Rosalyn in Charles’ workshop and was happy to hear she had won the Nature’s Voices award for her work protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. Onstage at the end of the conference, she recounted her journey into environmental activism from elementary school (including her chant below with fellow students). Keep track of this Bay Area student activist!
Stay in touch: Nature’s Voices winner at the Green Schools Conference
3) Dr. Ming Wei Koh, Sustainability Curriculum Facilitator at Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy & HI School Garden Network
Dr. Ming Wei Koh presented with a team of professional development providers exploring what makes successful PD and how educators can work with community organizations on hands-on projects. I was particularly touched by how she incorporates traditional Hawaiian knowledge in her gardening curriculum, making that the core of her teachings. Students explore food through working with elders who are keeping traditional Hawaiian food practices alive, such as making taro, and connect with their ancestry and the land. At the end of the workshop, we all went outside to chant “Recognize life, Recognize the path, recognize life to stand together upon the land as one. Acknowledge the rains of above, the knowledge of healing upon the land, A refresh land ready to be created, created by higher knowledge, Knowledge of earth, knowledge of the sea…The land of the people, to stand together as one” in Hawaiian to the pouring rain outside in Sacramento. It was truly a healing moment.
4) Michael Stone, Senior Editor at Center for Ecoliteracy
Along with Kirk Bergstrom, Jaimie Cloud, Gerald Lieberman, David Sobel & Jenny Wiedower, Michael Stone hosted a Solution Summit on ‘Curriculum that Advances a Sustainable Future‘. We looked over frameworks from each of these organizations, and worked in small groups to compare and contrast how these sustainability frameworks play out in our programs. I was impressed with Stone’s systems thinking about schools, particularly when he noted that “Students are always learning, just not necessarily what we want them to learn.” We teach young people in all moments of our lives, from the way the school looks to the way we treat each other as educators to the way we walk into the classroom. I was grateful for this food for thought as I reflect on my own teaching, and for Stone’s holistic way of expressing how ecoliteracy education is all around us.
5) George Bandy, Vice President of Sustainability at Interface & Board Chair for United States Green Building Council (USGBC)
George Bandy was a keynote speaker who really got what it means to be working for healthy schools. His energy was infectious, and his sense of humor helped put into words what we already know. Showing a slide with “eco-friendly” stickers all over it, he said “eco-friendly is not radical.” The next slide showed a kid giving the middle finger — “this is radical.” He gets it, that youth who are pissed off and ready to take action are what is going to make a difference. I was grateful and impressed with Bandy’s energy, and that he was able to express with charisma that it’s about youth and our interconnectedness. What will you do to contribute to the system?