Steph Leonard is a community engagement manager with USGBC Minnesota.
Working in support of the green schools movement offers a breadth and depth of realities, opportunities and challenges. On any given day, I could be touring a state-of-the-art, LEED-certified school whose teaching philosophy treats the space as a learning tool and is celebrated by the community, and the next I could be huddled in a windowless classroom talking to a school representative who is trying to develop a green team to push sustainability forward while being continuously met with challenges.
Both stories—and all stories in between the extremes—need to be told, celebrated and supported. Meeting and learning from green school changemakers on a national level is what I am most excited about at the Green Schools Conference and Expo. In addition to connecting with inspiring individuals, there are five top aspects of the conference I'm most looking forward to:
- Minnesota has a robust Green Schools Coalition. I look forward to sharing our coalition-building experience in a Solutions Summit with the Center for Green Schools on Thursday.
- After recently spending the afternoon tapping maple trees with the students at Minnesota’s Shakopee High School, I am excited to support two of their champion teachers in their session, Outdoor Classroom: Connecting Learners and Community through Environmental Science and Service Learning, and to hear more about how they started working together to combine science and social studies curriculum, as well as how they incorporate service learning into the classroom.
- Recently, I learned about timing challenges in elementary school lunchrooms and the related challenges that arise with serving fresh fruits and vegetables, making sure students get enough to eat and preventing or reducing food waste. To address these, I am excited to sit in on Greg Christianson’s presentation A New Dream for Food in our Schools.
- As a staunch advocate for outdoor, experiential—even playful—learning, I’ll be in the front row for STEM Among the Leaves and Speed Greening: Garden Spaces on Campus on Thursday. This will help in our work on our Green Apple Day of Service themes that celebrate schoolyard gardens and outdoor classrooms in Minnesota.
- Finally, I am still holding out hope that my travel schedule will allow me to join Jenna Cramer’s session on Wednesday, Cultivating a Culture of Sustainability in Schools.
The hardest part will be figuring out how to be in two places at once. Every time I revisit the schedule, I find a new session I want to attend. I hope our paths cross in Pittsburgh!