From the Executive Directo r: Let's Leverage Technology to Co-Create a More Sustainable Future

Technology is a double-edged sword. As a society, we have come to rely on computers, smart phones, tablets, even smart furniture and homes to make our lives easier, more efficient, more connected. Our cars are going driverless, our refrigerators tell us when we are low on milk, and we are just a tap and a swipe away from messaging friends and family. Technology is solving problems too, notably in healthcare, infrastructure, and energy. However, technology has a dark side. It's altering brain development and changing how we think and behave, from shortening our attention spans to reducing our ability to communicate effectively with people in-person.
 
Young people are particularly malleable when it comes to technology. The millennial generation are often referred to as "digital natives" having grown up in a world where technology plays an integral role in our daily lives. In some ways, this gives them an advantage. Their brains are still developing, and this flexibility makes them better able to multi-task and adapt to the rapid pace of technological change. Yet, there are downsides here as well. Too much multi-tasking can stress and fatigue the brain and socializing in the age of social media is changing how (and quite frankly whether at all) young people acquire the skills needed to interact with people face-to-face.
 
Perhaps most disturbing is that the more we rely on technology to meet our needs, the further away from nature we become. We spend more time staring at a screen (computer, TV, phone...take your pick!) than we do outside, and on the occasion we find ourselves out-of-doors, it's not uncommon to see people staring down at their phone rather than at the natural beauty that surrounds them. This is troubling for so many reasons. We need nature to thrive...and nature needs us as well. How else are we to solve our greatest environmental challenges if we cannot engage with the nature that is right outside our doors and windows? More importantly, how can we expect our children to care about the world they will inherit if they don't look up and take in the wonder of nature?
 
Despite its drawbacks, technology offers real promise for addressing environmental problems. This issue of GreenNotes explores how technology is being used to support environmental and sustainability literacy. You will learn how Captain Planet Foundation's latest initiative, Project Hero, is helping students connect with and protect their local ecosystems ; how the U.S. Green Building Council's Learning Lab platform is helping educators to integrate technology with sustainability literacy; and how a theater troupe embraced technology as way to bring their environmental education messages into K-12 classrooms.
 
Technology is here to stay and it's up to us to be more mindful of its use and how we apply it to support and advance ecological and sustainability literacy. When used to bring about positive change, technology has the potential to open many doors...including those to a healthier, more sustainable future.
 
Jenny
Captain Planet Foundation's Project Hero: Pairing Students with Technology to Protect Local Ecosystems

Courtney Kimmel and Leesa Carter-Jones of the Captain Planet Foundation describe how an educator's "a-ha moment" led to the Foundation's latest initiative: sending students on Quests, guided by a web-based, student-facing, project-based learning framework, on behalf of local species and ecosystems.
The Intersection of Technology and Sustainability: Using Learning Lab to Support 21st Century Skill-Building

Jenny Wiedower, K-12 Education Manager at the U.S. Green Building Council, provides an overview of the possibilities and challenges of integrating digital learning in 21st century schools and shares how three Learning Lab lessons effectively bridge technology and sustainability literacy.
Harnessing Technology to Increase Environmental Engagement

Vanessa LeBourdais, Executive Producer and Creative Director of DreamRider Productions, shares five core principles that guided development of Planet Protector Academy, a digital-led teaching resource that inspires students to be environmental superheroes.
To Unplug or Plug In

Adopting the right mobile digital technologies to enhance environmental education. Reprinted with permission from Green Teacher magazine and originally authored by Justin Hougham and Steve Kerlin. 
GSNN Educator's Toolbox: Professional Development, Resources, Grants, and Awards for May

The latest news on professional development, resources, grants, and awards for May.  
Read the Spring 2018 Catalyst Quarterly!

Net zero is the future of school design. The Spring 2018 issue of the Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly explores what net-zero is, how it is being implemented in schools and districts across the country, and its implications for the future of school design, operations, management, curriculum, and instruction. Articles cover the latest research, case studies of exemplary schools and districts, evidence-based resources, and how schools and districts can apply the lessons learned by others to bring net-zero to their facilities. 

Carry the Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly wherever you go!  Download the app from  iTunesGoogle Play, or Amazon  today.  

Green Schools National Network on Go Green Radio!

On March 30th, Jenny Seydel was a guest on Jill Buck's Go Green Radio show! Jenny joined the Center for Green Schools' Anisa Heming to discuss the upcoming Green Schools Conference and Expo, the work that they are currently engaged in, and the status of the green schools movement.

In Other News...

Green Schools National Network's blog shares timely stories and news from Catalyst Network Schools and School Districts, Network sponsors and partners, and others involved in advocating for green, healthy, and sustainable schools. Check out some of our most recent blog posts below!

W rite for GreenNotes!

Green Schools National Network's newsletter, GreenNotes, focuses on one overarching topic each month. We will consider articles for the month that best matches the topic. Have a question about an upcoming theme? Contact cmerse@greenschoolsnationalnetwork.org.
 
We are looking for a variety of articles for GreenNotes, including:
  • Case studies of schools and school districts doing exemplary work in environmental and sustainability initiatives.
  • Profiles of leaders and advocates in the green schools movement.
  • News and current events of interest to the green schools movement.
 
Themes for the next three issues include:

Promoting Lifelong Fitness/Recreation in the Outdoors - July 2018
Submission deadline: June 29, 2018

Being active outdoors is a positive lifestyle choice for all ages. However, physical activity in the outdoors benefits more than mind, body, and soul. It has the potential to connect people more deeply with the natural world. More and more, schools and school districts are realizing that PE need not be confined to the gymnasium. This issue of GreenNotes shines a light on innovative fitness and recreation programs that are not only getting students out of the classroom and into nature, but exposing them to recreational opportunities they can partake in for a lifetime.  
 
Social-Emotional Learning in Green Schools - August 2018
Submission deadline: August 3, 2018

Green, healthy, and sustainable schools nurture not just their students' physical health and well-being, but their social and emotional health as well. These schools embody a culture that promotes respect, trust, empathy, integrity, and compassion for those within and outside the school community, humans and non-humans alike. This issue of GreenNotes highlights schools and school districts that are implementing social-emotional learning best practices that lead to whole child development: not just the mind, but the heart as well.

Green Schools Addressing Grand Challenges -- October 2018
Submission deadline: October 5, 2018

In 2008, an international committee identified 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century. Many of these challenges address issues that are pertinent to sustainability and a healthier environment, including access to clean water, alternative forms of energy, restoring balance to natural systems, and improving infrastructure. Since then, K-12 schools have used these challenges as the foundation for curricula that span all core subjects and engage students in solving real-world problems. This issue of GreenNotes will introduce you to schools and school districts that are tackling these Grand Challenges in their classrooms and equipping students with the skills they need to overcome these challenges for a more sustainable future.
Work with Green Schools National Network!

Green Schools National Network's professional development and coaching services are designed to help schools and school districts adopt sustainability practices that align with their strategic goals. Our work is guided by the GreenPrintâ„¢ for Green, Healthy, and Sustainable Schools and its five core principles: curriculum, stewardship, facilities and operations, health and well-being, and leadership. Along with our professional development collaborative partners, we are positioned to help schools and school districts adopt a culture of sustainability that permeates every aspect of education: planning, policy development, program implementation, finances, curricula, teaching, learning, assessment, and administration.

So...what can Green Schools National Network do for you? Check out this brief summary and testimonial from Geoff Deigan, Executive Director of Prairie Crossing Charter School.


With the help of the GSNN Catalyst School and District Network, Prairie Crossing Charter School (PCCS) is taking their commitment to environmental education to higher levels by working to incorporate Education for Sustainability deeper into their daily instruction. "GSNN's Catalyst Network is supplying the tools and resources that may be beyond our direct access," says Geoff Deigan, the school's Executive Director. "One of our value statements is 'the environment at the center of everything we do' and through time that can become in need of a reboot. While we are proud of what we have accomplished (Best of Green Schools (2017), U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School (2012), and Blue Ribbon School (2013)), we understand that growth internally and externally is essential with public schools of choice like Prairie Crossing."




For their 20-year anniversary, PCCS will unveil a comprehensive 3- to 5-year work plan that will utilize GSNN's expertise and their Catalyst Network to expand their environmental focus of a more integrated curriculum, invest in professional development opportunities for their staff, and create a more cohesive, common language when defining what terms like "sustainability," "Service-Learning," and "Project-, Place-, and Problem-Based Learning" mean to PCCS.

"We are excited to reinvigorate our staff's commitment to Creating Natural Leaders and see the help of GSNN and the Catalyst Network as essential to accomplishing this important initiative for the school," says Deigan. "It will improve the quality of education for our students, increase the quality of teamwork through our staff, and increase the quality of life for our community."

Prairie Crossing Charter School is an award-winning free public K-8 charter school in Grayslake, Illinois. It uses the natural environment to help provide a personalized education where children learn the value of community and environment.


Ready to get started?

Contact  jseydel@greenschoolsnationalnetwork.org for more information on the range of professional services that Green Schools National Network has to offer schools and school districts.




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