District/charter public school educators & students join to help promote “Green” schools


Give several hundred district and charter school teachers, businesspeople and students an “A” for making our planet a priority.  They’re coming together from 50 states, October 24-26 in Minneapolis, for what they describe as the nation’s first conference bringing together schools, non-profits, government and corporate partners to help encourage the growing “National Green Schools Movement.

Abby Fenton of the Will Steger Foundation, who is helping plan the all day “Youth Summit”, wants students to know that they can attend this part of the conference at no cost. (For info, go to www.greenschoolsyouth.org and http://www.greenschoolsnationalconference.org (1-800-280-6218)

Conference speakers will share experience and research, including

  • Research showing that certain types of studying about the environment can and have helped improve test scores

  • There are a variety of new, emerging jobs in this field that students can consider.

  • Using “green” building techniques can save significant dollars for public schools, by allowing them to use less energy

  • Existing buildings also can be modified in cost – effective ways to reduce energy costs

  • District and charter public schools are developing intriguing curriculum that helps students learn about the environment, and the controversies in this field

Ron Bratlie, formerly an Elk River disttrict  is doing a workshop at the meeting.  He’ll share the district’s experience in constructing two “green” buildings. Bratlie will explain that “going green isn’t just about the school buildings: “GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technologies should be used to green your district:  save time, money, and energy in areas of site selection and planning, transportation, student services, facilities, public relations, demographics, bond and levy elections.”

Bratlie told me,  “Communities have the ability to build better buildings with a better environment yielding better students costing less to operate at no additional cost. We need to re-think our approach to facilities.  School boards must voice expectations for building performance goals to the professional that they hired to design, build, and then measure the results achieved. “

James Steckart, Director of the Northwest Passage Charter in Coon Rapids also will be presenting at the conference.  He told me last week, “America has always been on the cutting edge of innovation…the green movement is the next stage in that evolution.  Green sector jobs have the potential to revitalize our economy by creating highly skilled workers, while at the same time reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources and promoting a healthy world to leave to our children.”

He continued, “Schools need to be the leaders in teaching our young people these concepts, skills and ideas through innovative and hands on learning.  We see the energy light up in our students’ eyes when they are given the chance to learn something relevant while providing a chance to better their world. The Green School Conference and the forming of the Minnesota chapter bring resources and ideas together supporting these concepts.”

Philippe Cousteau, Environmental Activist, chief spokesperson for K-12 Environmental Education for Discovery Education and is the host for OCEANS Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Planet Green will be a Keynote Speaker.   He also will work with students who attend the Youth Summit.

Conference organizers suggest that people attending might include “different disciplines/job titles who may not normally attend a conference together: such as administrators, facility managers, school CFOs/business officers, school board members, teachers, purchasing officers, school lunch managers, transportation managers, business/community leaders, parent, students, and policymakers.  Their goal is to promote the use of “green” approaches in schools throughout the United States.

Sounds like a great opportunity, and terrific collaboration.

Joe Nathan, a former public school teacher and school administrator, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College.  He welcomes reactions,