Annie Donnelly is the Best of Green Schools 2014 honoree in the Moment for the Movement category. Annie recently authored a children’s book titled 'Willow Watts and the Green School Wish.' Her story teaches children about a wide range of sustainability measures from vegetable gardens, to clean construction, to energy efficient heating and cooling.
In the book, Princess Smog has a special wish for her birthday but her grandfather, King Smog, is hard to convince. With help from her pen pal Willow Watts, Princess Smog teaches her grandfather why a green school is the perfect gift for her and the students of Smogville.
Here, in her own words, Annie tells us her story and what it means to her to embody a moment for the green schools movement:
In 2011, I attended a Green Schools Seminar in Boston hosted by Rachel Gutter. I had recently joined the Community Affairs team at United Technologies Corporation (UTC), and attended the seminar to become familiar with the mission and work of the Center for Green Schools and UTC’s partnership with the organization.
That seminar made a lasting impression on me. I was inspired by the passion of Rachel and her team, intrigued by the research and advocacy work being conducted by the Center for Green Schools, and impressed by the data which determined green schools improved student health and performance.
Fast forward one year and I was organizing a Green Apple Day of Service (GADOS) project for UTC employees at an urban K-8 school in Hartford, Conn. At this GADOS project UTC volunteers weeded, trimmed and planted new perennials to improve the landscaping at the entrance to the school. It was a wonderful experience. The students were eager to be involved and took great pride in helping to give their school curb appeal.
Residents of the neighborhood stopped to admire the improvements and inquired about the purpose of the project. During recess, the younger elementary students were curious about the project and wanted to know why we were there. In that moment I recognized that there was an opportunity to educate people of all ages about the benefits of green schools, and I wanted to do this in a creative and accessible way.
I decided that a fun way to tell the green schools story was through a children’s book filled with characters who would educate readers about the benefits of green schools. I read dozens of research papers and articles about the features and benefits of green schools. At the time I was also training for my first marathon—on my long training runs I would think about the story and characters. Within weeks I had a manuscript. I partnered with Venessa Kelley, a talented illustrator from Washington, D.C., who brought my vision to life.
In September of 2014, two years after my 'aha moment’ at that GADOS project, Willow Watts and the Green School Wish was published by Great Books 4 Kids. It may have taken me two years, but I never doubted the project. Over the book’s two year journey it became more than a side project, it became a labor of love, inspired by the team at the Center for Green Schools and the incredible work they do.
I am honored to be recognized as the “Moment for the Movement” honoree in 2014. I hope this moment will have a lasting impression on people of all ages and that Willow Watts and the Green School Wish will inspire others to support the Green Schools Movement.