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The Reuse Corner

~Resources and ideas for the thrifty and creative teacher.

Green Schools Conference Notes

I was fortunate enough to attend the Green Schools Conference in Pasadena in early December. (

The sessions I went to were quite good and I wanted to share my take on the presentations with others. These are the sessions I attended.

GSC- Thursday Keynotes

Notes from the Green Schools Conference

Sarah Laimon, works with Environmental Charter Schools and has started a Green Ambassadors program.

She stated that eco-literacy is the single biggest need for students to face the future. She believes that students need to understand the entire picture and that humans are part of the universe. Students need to see the universe, find the trend and then base their future around that trend. The Green Ambassadors program gives students a chance to learn while earning university credits.

Norma Williamson is the solar energy coordinator for La Mirada High School.

The indoor air quality at her high school was so bad that teachers brought their own air filters. However, after an extensive modernization remodel, indoor air quality was significantly improved. She believes that it is the role of high school students to keep teacher honest because they challenge teachers constantly. She shared the process of modernizing her own home which includes dual pane windows, insulation in the ceiling and walls, skylights and solar tubes, dual pump hvac system, Energy Star appliances, solar system which produces 220 watts of power, back up battery system and even an electric car. All of these improvements turned a 1970's track home into a net zero home, producing more energy than it uses. She encouraged all high schools to look for the CDE's grants to implement Green Academies, to produce the next generation of green workers.

GSC - "Student Actions to Reduce Your School's Environmental Footprint- Eco Audits and Hands-on Inquiry-based Projects"

Notes from the Green Schools Conference

Deborah Moore's session introduced the topics quite well. She shared with the group a short video about her organization, Green Schools Initiative. The 4 pillars of a green school are:

  1. Strive to be toxics-free
  2. Use resources sustainably
  3. Create green spaces
  4. Engage students in the process of change

She also went through the 7 steps to create green schools (see  for more information.) She outlined the multiple benefits of hands-on education. David Sobel, Center for Place Based Education has found that schools that have strong environmental education programs out-perform those schools that don't. She outlined the key elements of Inquiry-based learning: active learning, formulating questions and finding answers. Steps include introducing the topic, doing a school audit, collect information, compile data and results and empower students to reach out to education the community. Many schools have put their outreach projects on her website as case studies.

At this point, she had workshop participants go through an audit, using her materials. Each group shared their results. She also encouraged schools to publicize audit results school-wide as events such as Earth Day celebrations, assemblies, Service Learning events, and through clubs and councils. A school year plan can significantly help teachers implement any changes without feeling overwhelmed. Los Angeles Unified School District is giving money back to schools that save energy. Sample school board policies can be found on her website. She also encouraged all participants to visit for excellent resources.

GSC- "Greening Curriculum: From Boardroom to Classroom"

Notes From the Green Schools Conference

Moderated by Duke Graham, featuring:

  • Jay Gonzalez, LA Unified Office of Curriculum and Instruction, who encourages educators to start with the world as your classroom, engaging students and working within your community.
  • John Zinner, CHPS coordinator in LA Unified, believes that the building itself can be the basis for curriculum.
  • Jim Bologna, LEED Coordinator for Windward School, a private school in LA was able to involve students and received Gold rating through LEED.
  • Allison Suffet-Diaz works for Lawndale schools, shared some of the improvements at her site including urbanite amphitheatre, rain barrels and incorporation of a river that runs through the site. She strongly believes in the importance of turning the inside of a school into the outside.

The panel commented on several questions posed by the moderator. "Is teaching Green curriculum mandatory?" EEI is coming soon for k-12 students but it is not Green curriculum is not mandatory. 65% of water used at a school is used for irrigation and can be used to teach rational functions, an algebra standard. Leverage LEED certification data gathering to be completed by students. Work with community partners to see what they can "bring to the table" and connect with history's Industrial Revolution to define progress, developing progress on campus. Most schools don't even know how much they spend on energy and water. Schools can develop a baseline and then find ways to reduce consumption.

"What organizations and/or resources have been helpful for you?" Recommended resources include:

GSC- "Tomorrow's Energy Leaders: The Role of Education in Solving the Climate Crisis",

Notes From the Green Schools Conference

Ethan Burke, Lead Educator, Alliance for Climate Education (ACE)

This was an outstanding presentation using animation, which constantly bring the message of climate change back to high school students. Concepts such as why it is important to act now and what they can do to change the future are covered in depth. He can deliver the presentation to high schools. He asked if 90% of scientists believe that climate change is man-made why only 52% of the American public would pass a climate change class, if there was one. ACE's mission to educate students to inspire change. ACE offers DOT, or Do One Thing, a pledge for students attending presentations, to make one change. So far, 35,000 pledges have been collected. He encouraged teachers to contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Katie Landeros, Program Associate, Alliance to Save Energy

She stated that the mission of her organization is to increase energy efficiency as it is the quickest way to improve the environment. Schools participating in her program save between 5 to 15% of energy costs. Improvement starts with behavior changes, many very small but thoughtful. Leadership is fostered by training students in audit procedures. They use a team approach, student driven, school based, project based using hands on learning techniques. Her organization provides tools to measure watts, load, temperature and other energy use factors. At this point, she presented a case study, Sultana High School in Hesperia. Six students presented a PowerPoint presentation. Through their efforts, the high school saved $27,477 from a $379,701 electrical bill. These efforts were so impressive, the district office implemented the program and saved $110,000.

Matt Willard, teacher, Vista Murietta High School

He started and leads a Green Academy for low performing students. The students perform environmental audits at their school site. They engage in vertical training with elementary and middle school students. They also work with the community to help organize audits, making connections with the organizations outside school. Students develop critical thinking skills to solve problems such as "Why is the electrical bill so high?" Students serve as fresh eyes to find and solve problems. Students have a righteousness that is hard to ignore when presenting data to School Boards. Students also present information and audit results to the businesses. Outreach effects can be exponential. The focus of the Green Academy is to get students to move towards a career in energy. Matt is working with the USGBC to develop a training program for students to become a certified Associate.