This past November, our country witnessed a hotly contested election that has left our nation deeply divided.  Since the election, I have had many conversations with teachers and principals concerned about the election’s outcome and what it means for them and their students.  My message to them has been to use this as an opportunity to engage their students in authentic learning by providing opportunities to study the issues they are most interested in and share their findings and solutions with their local and state leaders.


Becoming an engaged citizen requires more than just understanding how laws are passed and policies implemented.  It requires students to know how to collect and interpret data, how to use data to make a case or support a claim, how to effectively engage with people whose opinions differ from their own, and how to engage with community members (including local politicians and legislators) and support their opinions with facts. These skills, by the way, are the exact skills they need to succeed in college and in the workforce.


In this final GreenNotes of 2016, you will find a collection of articles from students, teachers, and others who will share how attending a green school or participating in real world experiences related to environmental and sustainability topics provide the foundation for college and careers.  We are excited to have a strong representation of student voices in this issue, some from students still in high school and others from students who have graduated from college and can link significant experiences in high school with their college and career success.  You will also learn how school districts in Michigan and Maryland are implementing programs to deepen student learning related to sustainability, and how the Association for Learning Environments’ SchoolsNEXT program is challenging students to rethink the school environments of the future.


When students have the knowledge and skills to be thoughtful and active citizens, they are prepared to face the unknown with courage and determination to do what is right.  I am confident that the young people of today will embrace their roles as tomorrow’s leaders and transform their fears and dreams into action that positively impacts their neighborhoods, our country, and the planet.


Until next year,