By Jay Horton
The Green Schools National Conference, held February 27-29 in Denver, Colorado, boasted the most comprehensive assemblage of educational professionals to ever attend an organized forum dedicated to improving the environmental framework of American schools.
Addressing a host of different though complimentary issues that ranged from ensuring older buildings meet modern energy efficiency requirements to wholly revamping lunch programs with an eye toward nutritional sustenance provided through local ecosystems, a blend of teachers, administrators, and concerned parents came together to examine an array of practical designs for substantially reducing utility costs and lessening the effect their own districts may have upon the health of the planet.
More than twelve hundred men, women, and children from throughout the continent took part in a series of seminars and lectures intended to share information and discuss future plans for limiting the carbon footprints of their own institutions at the same time as they attempted to instruct others about the importance of ecological ventures. The conference strictly limited its focus to K-12 education because, planners noted, the colleges and universities of North America have been at the forefront of “green”-oriented academia.
Specifically, the increasing popularity of students remotely getting a degree online has enormously aided the environmental impact of traditional models of matriculation, and many schools have taken lessons from the success of the online Bachelor’s degree and online Master’s degree programs and implemented their own virtual courses to be partially directed over the internet.
Among a broad selection of speakers that included top government officials and captains of industry, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attracted the largest crowds with an inspirational message about the challenges facing Twenty-first century schools.
The Secretary presented an introduction to the Department of Education’s new Green Ribbon Program, which singles out the most innovative and effective combinations of ecological motives and scholastic achievement. As the Secretary made clear through several examples demonstrating the proportional relationship between environmental accomplishments and decreased expenditures, revising outdated practices to engage energy efficiency should foster monetary rewards for schools above and beyond the benefits to the Earth.
“Through the Green Ribbon program,” Secretary Duncan said, “we intend to shine a spotlight on the work of a hundred or so exemplary schools. But our real aim, and I think the aim of the field, must be much more ambitious. We don’t seek pockets of excellence. We want success to be the norm. We want to encourage all schools to provide a sustainable education.”
Although the collected faculty, administrators, and scholastic professionals who attended the conference were careful not to pinpoint any singular strategy that would be certain to eliminate the troubles plaguing our planet, the open rounds of dialogue and bold new approaches to recurrent dilemmas nevertheless invigorated the participants’ commitment to the highest standards of formal learning under green conditions.
Time and again, the symposium speakers reminded the crowds that the triumphant results of the ongoing environmental revolution have actively saved millions of dollars for the budget-starved school districts courageous enough to initiate such projects.
All that truly seems to be needed for profound change is the spread of information in accordance with the steadfast will of society at large, and the recent conference greatly aided that cause.