Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sustainability Leaders

We had the opportunity for some wonderful sharing and learning at the E3 Sustainability Conference on Friday.  Unfortunately, we are right at the end of the semester and finals are upon us at all our secondary schools so our teacher leaders and most of our student leaders were unable to attend.  We were so fortunate that our high school student president of the Sustainability Ambassadors was able to arrange her schedule to attend!  Cassandra was the only student in attendance in a huge room of adults and we can be so proud of her poise, confidence, and knowledge as she shared about the work happening in our system and specifically some of what is happening at our high school.

In the morning session, Peter Senge, shared key elements to effective collaboration and what it takes to move together in changing a system.  In his presentation he talked about the importance of paying attention to three key elements for effective collaboration:  
  • convening
  • conversation
  • community building.  
It was powerful for me to have the chance to listen to Cassandra as she shared her insights and takeaways from Peter's presentation.  It certainly highlighted that we are truly supporting learning at a deep level in our system for students.  It also caused some dissonance as she shared that some of these concepts would make  a big difference to support the thinking of our student leaders as they engage with their teams back at school.  Our Sustainability Ambassadors are working to effect change on a large scale - difficult change at the level of everyday habitual behavior for adults and students.  Do we turn off the lights when leaving a room? Do we throw something in the garbage, recycle, or compost?   Is a purchasing decision made based on sustainable options? Struggling with mental models like,  "Is being "green" nerdy?"

This challenged me to think about whether we need to revisit our definitions (indicators) of effective collaboration.  How might we better support learning for our student leaders?  We are learning much in the work we are doing with our teacher leaders and administrators in our system.  Are we applying that learning to what we do with students?  In my position in Teaching and Learning I know the answer to that is a little but most of what we are learning is not yet embedded in learning for students.  I have new insights into some of the work we could be doing to position our students to not only be amazing learners, but also to give them a skill set to be even more effective as both a member and possibly a leader in teams that are working to effect change.  

Awesome day and so many opportunities for Tahoma to help illustrate how this is coming alive in our system.  Thanks to our administrators, staff, and student for the amazing work happening in each of our schools and with each of our teams, both at the organization learning level as well as our sustainability curriculum, student leadership and operational practices.

Post by Dawn Wakeley, Teaching and Learning

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Student Leaders Pitch to School Board

Four of our student leaders from across the system made a pitch tonight to the school board for their support in co-sponsoring Waste Free Wednesdays.  The students did a great job presenting to the board and explained some of the promotions they have already been doing at the school level.  If the school board decides to co-sponsor with the Green Teams this will help our students take this individual school effort to a whole new level.

The school board will have to consider the implications their endorsement and support of such an initiative would entail.  Our student leaders are hopeful that the school board will actually make this an action item for formal co-sponsorship.  Imagine an entire school system setting goals connected to reducing waste one day a week.  Our students' theory of action is that focus weekly on one day helps build habits that, over time, can influence behavior every day.  By just reaching out consistently to our students, staff and parents through this initiative we will touch more than 16,000 people in the Maple Valley area in a way that has the potential to make a difference!

As our students leaders said to the school board tonight, "As leaders let our actions match our words".

Thanks so much to Brooke (SLES), Kathryn (TJHS), Jayaram (TSHS) and Cassandra (TSHS) for your wonderful presentation tonight!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

First Wednesday of New Year is Nearly Waste Free for GPES!

Our students at Glacier Park are taking their Waste Free Wednesday's to new heights with the start of the new year.  We came back from break on January 2nd and this was also the first Waste Free Wednesday of the new year.  Our lead custodian, Connie Jo Erickson reported that students did an amazing job generating only 3 bags of compost, 2 bags of recycling, and 1 bag of garbage when all the lunches were finished.  This is very impressive for a school of more than 900 students.

In the words of our lead custodian and green team leader, Connie Jo Erickson on this amazing first day back.  "All I can say is WOW!"

Thanks so much for this special recognition post provided by Green Team Leader Connie Jo Erickson

GPES - December Recycling Award

Glacier Park continues to lead the way in recycling efforts.  They were recognized by Terracycle as the winner of the Great Drink Pouch Derby.  Our elementary students at Glacier Park have collected the most drink pouches in the state of Washington during the month of December.  Let's keep those drink pouches coming in so they can try for being a national winner.

This is a wonderful program sponsored by Terracycle, keeping drink pouches out of the waste stream.  TerraCycle upcycles and recycles traditionally non-recycable waste (including drink pouches, chip bags, tooth brushes and many more) into a large variety of consumer products. These products keep waste out of our landfills and contribute to a cleaner world. TerraCycle products are available at a wide range of major retailers from Wal*Mart to Target as well as online.

Thanks to Green Team Leaders, Cathy Haws and Connie Jo Erickson and the Green Team at GPES!

Crossing our Fingers for Green Ribbons

We pushed the button yesterday afternoon on three applications for the Green Ribbon Schools award!  We applied for recognition for two of our schools, TSHS and GPES and for recognition as a school district.  These are lengthy applications asking for specific data and evidence of the school and district work in three pillar areas:
  • Pillar 1: Reducing environmental impact and costs.
  • Pillar 2: Improving the health and wellness of students and staff.
  • Pillar 3: Providing effective environmental and sustainability education, incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways.
While pulling together the data and writing the applications is a huge amount of work it also allows us pause for a moment and realize the sheer quantity and amazing quality of the sustainability work we are doing in our system.  Even if we aren't formally recognized for our efforts, first by the state, and then hopefully at the national level, our students and our community really are the winners in our work. 

Thanks so much to all the amazing work happening in all 8 of our schools and in our food service, maintenance, transportation, and technology departments.   There isn't any area of our program that isn't doing their part to examine our practices and work to increase our sustainability.    Here is the lead off sentence Kevin wrote for the district application.  "Imagine an entire school district where environmental sustainability is part of everyday life, from lunchroom recycling to core curriculum to the operations of the school system in every department."  We submitted over 35 pages in the applications detailing that work that we are doing in our system and it is pretty awesome!

Thanks so very much to everyone who worked on this project - they put in many, many hours of hard work in pulling together data and crafting language:  Lori Cloud, Kevin Patterson, Dawn Wakeley, Nancy Skerritt, Terry Duty, Cindy Barnhart, Cathy Haws, and Connie Jo Erickson.