I’m writing a series of blog posts to document my learning about green schools; work that I have landed in over the last year and a half. Please follow along with my journey and share where you are in the environmental sustainability movement.
Last week I attended the Green CA Schools and Community Colleges Summit 2020, which was a virtual event this year. Last year was the first time I attended this event, and I shared my reflections and new learnings in my post about sustainable education. This year, the picture and quote below was shared by the keynote speaker.
Soon after seeing this picture, I had the opportunity to spend the day with my 7-year old nephew. As part of our day, I drove by his school (in another state) since I had never seen it. He is still in distance learning, as his district hasn’t brought students back on campuses yet. As we drove around the block of his school, we talked about where his past classrooms had been, where he eats lunch, and other random things a 7 year old thinks to tell you about a school he hasn’t been inside of for over 7 months. The one thing that struck me was the similarity to the picture above.
The school is made of of two large buildings, one of which is two stories. I saw a lot of brick, and then a lot of empty concrete. There was a small play structure in the Kindergarten area, a medium-sized play structure for the older students, and some basketball courts. There was a beautiful area of green grass in the back of the school, that my nephew said he didn’t use. The largest outdoor space was made up of empty blacktop. This looked similar to most schools I’ve worked in over my career, but it was the stark opposite of the schools in my current district.
I’ve blogged before about our green initiatives, which I’m so proud to continue to learn about and support. Our schools all have at least one garden, and many of them have a variety of garden areas around the campuses. Right now, as our students are back on campus in a hybrid learning model two days a week in smaller cohorts, these spaces are not only an opportunity for environmental literacy lessons, they also serve as a space for outdoor learning. Many schools are trying to figure out how to bring learning outside during COVID-19. Because of the incredible forethought of our former and current superintendent, our schools have natural outdoor learning spaces, and our teachers and students are used to spending time outside not just for recess and lunch, but for learning as well. Not all learning is taking place outside, but our teachers have the ability to make thoughtful decisions about how and when they might take learning outside naturally. Thanks to the great weather we have in Southern CA most of the time, this is possible to do most every day.
Thinking back to my nephew’s school, and so many other schools around our country, I hope that educational leaders can begin to think outside of the classroom walls and the concrete blacktops to create greener campuses that promote thinking, learning, and happiness for all students. They keynote speaker mentioned “sponge” schools, where students soak up what is around them. It’s up to us to bring our students to nature and nature to our students in authentic learning experiences.
Previous post(s) in this green schools series: