Families Matter: Involving Parents and Caregivers in Green Schools

Early in my career as an educator, I had the pleasure of connecting with a parent who happened to be a camp counselor. When her child was in my third-grade class, I worked with her to plan an overnight camp outing. It was a fun, successful event. The following year, however, the same parent was hesitant to plan another overnight, mostly because her child was no longer in my class. I invited her to sit and talk with me about her concerns. I shared how the overnight benefited the previous year's students and that she played a critical role in making that experience possible. This conversation empowered her to not only maintain her relationship with me and the school as a resource, but to become an advocate for out-of-school experiences during school time for children in Illinois.
This story highlights an important point. Parents and families are critical, but often overlooked partners for schools. They are deeply invested in their children's education - they are our students' first teachers and want to see them succeed in all areas of their lives. How schools engage parents and families has changed considerably over the last few decades. In-person interactions are being replaced with digital communication. When it comes to fostering trust and building a positive rapport, schools must be intentional about building relationships with parents and families. This is especially important when it comes to communicating the importance of green, healthy, and sustainable schools. Many parents and caregivers went to schools without a focus on sustainability. Thus, it's incumbent upon us to help them understand how a school's sustainability initiatives support their children, family, and community.
This month, GreenNotes shined a light on how schools and school districts are involving families in and out of the classroom, with stories from Oak Park Unified School District, Common Ground, High Marq Environmental Charter School, and Carson City, Nevada's Empire Elementary School.
Feature Articles

Embracing Gender Diversity at Oak Park Unified School District

Family Engagement: How It Looks Different (and is the Same) at a Green High School

Parent Engagement Fuels High Marq Public Presentation Nights

Overcoming Barriers to Increase Family Engagement at Empire Elementary School 

Creating Earth Adventures: Self-Guided Programs to Connect Children with Nature

Reprinted with permission from Green Teacher magazine. 
Learn with Green Schools National Network

2020 Green Schools Conference and Expo

When: March 2 - 4, 2020
Where: Hilton Portland Downtown, Portland, Oregon

Don't miss this opportunity to learn from and network with educational leaders, green building professionals, nonprofit partners, and others who are passionate about the future of green schools. Five tracks of programming will be offered:  

Track 1: Healthy School Environments
Track 2: Driving Cultural & Behavioral Change
Track 3: Kickstarting Sustainability Programs in Schools
Track 4: Designing Schools for the Future
Track 5: Engaging & Empowering Students

Make plans to attend today! Both full and daily passes are available.  Become a Green Schools National Network member and receive discounted registration pricing.  Learn more about becoming a member.

RSVP for the Green Schools Friends and Family GatheringThe event will take place on Sunday March 1, 2020 from 6:00 - 8:00pm at Cerulean Wine Bar and Bistro ( 1439 NW Marshall St, Portland, OR 97209 ). 

Sustainability Leadership: A Road Map for Driving Innovation Through the Triple Bottom Line

Who: Executive Level and Building Level School Leaders
When: March 30 - 31, 2020
Where: Old Donation School, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Cost: Catalyst Network Members: $100
          GSNN Members: $200
          Non-Members: $250

Register at this link.

Join Green Schools National Network and 2018 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Award recipient Virginia Beach City Public Schools for a 1.5 day exploration of
Sustainability Leadership: A Road Map for Driving Innovation Through the Triple Bottom Line . This site seminar is designed for Executive Level and Building Level leaders who are interested in learning how sustainability can help their districts reduce expenses while decreasing their ecological footprints; improve the health and well-being of those who work, learn, and play in their schools; and prepare students for college and careers in a future that will require new ways of thinking and learning. The site seminar will highlight how sustainability leaders, informed by Harvard University's Executive Education in Sustainability Leadership program, have developed purpose-driven ideas to drive innovation in organizational culture, operations and management, and teaching and learning.

Preparing Students for Green Careers

When: 4:00pm - 5:00pm ET on May 11, 2020
Cost: Free!

Growth in careers within environmental and sustainability fields is expected to trend upward for the foreseeable future. It's vital that educators prepare students to be leaders and innovators in these fields by equipping them with the skills needed to ideate, design, adapt, take risks, learn from mistakes, and collaborate with others. This webinar will feature two school districts that are giving students opportunities to hone these skills. Whitefish School District in Montana will share how their Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship offers students a fast track to a green future. Carson City School District in Nevada will discuss their strong CTE program and how it connects to many of the district's and city's sustainability initiatives.

Exploring the Legacy of Wangari Maathai in Kenya

Who:  K-12 Educators
When:  July 14 - 27, 2020
Where:  Kenya, Africa, including stops in Nairobi, Nyeri, Nakuru, and Masai Mara
Cost:  $5,575 (based on a minimum of seven participants). Cost includes meals, accommodations, and activities as indicated in the itinerary; in-country transportation; full-time guide for the duration of the program; bottled water on the bus; and carbon offset. Does not include international airfare, estimated at $1,625 from Orlando, gratuities, or items of a personal nature. Other departure cities are available.

Exploring the Legacy of Wangari Maathai is a 13-day adventure designed for educators that follows the footsteps of the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate. This field-based learning experience incorporates themes of cultural exchange, service-learning, and sustainability. Participants will receive transdisciplinary learning experiences that will deepen their understanding of the complexities that surround global environmental issues and inspire action. This professional learning experience provides the following opportunities:
  • Learn about Wangari Maathai by visiting her birthplace and the foundations, institutes, and programs that continue to advance her work;
  • Live and work with members of the Green Belt Movement;
  • Design curriculum for your classroom that integrates Wangari Maathai programs and ideas; and
  • Explore one of the world's most important and unique natural resources - the African Plains.
Green Schools National Network | in fo@greenschoolsnationalnetwork.org