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Center's K12 Team Finds Inspiration at NSBA Conference

Emily Knupp

Emily Knupp, K12 Associate, Center for Green Schools

Last week I had the privilege of attending the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 71st Annual Conference in San Francisco. What a weekend! Jenny Wiedower, Center for Green Schools K12 Manager, and I were joined by more than 5,000 other conference participants for three full days of attending education sessions, visiting with exhibitors and listening to inspiring keynote speakers. The conference was kicked off with motivational words from NSBA Executive Director Anne Bryant, a great friend to the Center for Green Schools and NSBA’s representative on the Coalition for Green Schools Executive Committee. Anne set the tone for the school board members, superintendents and other administrators and educators in attendance, reminding us all that it is our responsibility to provide students with top-notch public education experiences.

On day two, Jenny and I attended an education session hosted by Learning by Design , a biannual publication highlighting leadership and innovation in education design. The session, “Learning By Design: 10 Ways to Create Schools Where Students Thrive,” introduced the audience to three incredible green school facilities, School Without Walls in Washington, D.C., Rosa Parks Elementary in Portland, Ore., and Bioscience High School in Phoenix, Ariz. The architects behind each project described how each school represents not only the educational goals of its community, but also a snapshot of how rethinking the school facility is reshaping 21st century education. John Weekes, Principal with Dull Olson Weekes Architects, gave us some great food for thought when he proposed that “no project type has progressed so little as the American school house in the last century,” explaining that a hundred years ago schools were designed for a single teacher to teach one subject to 25 students who sat in rows of desks in a box of a classroom. “Even today, schools are being designed this way. In an era where how students learn is changing, the facilities they need should be very different.”

On day three I was joined by two of our dynamic Green Schools Committee Chairs , Pauline Souza (USGBC Northern California) and Peggy Kinsey (USGBC Colorado), to present a session on how schools can connect with local resources and initiatives to green their schools. Peggy and Pauline shared success stories of how their chapters are working with local schools, and the three of us provided information on the myriad ways school communities can go green, from Green Education Foundations’ sustainability curriculum resources to the Green Existing Schools Toolkit. The result was a lively conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing school districts today.

Whether in conversations in the expo hall or networking outside of educational sessions, it was exciting to meet so many school district leaders who are actively engaging in the green schools movement. After another great outing to NSBA’s annual conference, we’re already looking forward to 2012.