By. Jenny Wiedower and Anisa Baldwin Metzger, U.S. Green Building Council, Center for Green Schools


The Green Schools Conference and Expo, which will be held from March 31 – April 1, 2016, brings together thought leaders and champions of green schools, including educators, administrators, nonprofit and corporate partners, and elected officials.


As in previous years, the 2016 conference will feature five Solution Summits designed to foster meaningful and productive discussion around current and pressing topics relevant to all attendees. Sessions will focus on five key issues: setting an agenda for school health research; measuring the impacts of green schools on people and the planet; planning and implementing green projects in schools; initiating, launching, and maintaining advocate coalitions; and defining best practices in environmental and sustainability education. The goal of these work sessions is to generate ideas that will actualize our collective vision of bringing green schools for all within this generation.


All Solution Summits will take place on Thursday, March 31, 2016 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the LEED Platinum David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The following includes a preview of what you can expect to learn at each of this year’s summits.


Developing a Health Research Agenda

Surely nothing is more important to parents, teachers, faculty, and caretakers than the health and well-being of the children in their care. In 2006, the National Academies published a paper called “Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning,” which laid the foundation for some of the most impactful research on school health. In 2011, the Center for Green Schools co-published an update detailing the progress that had been made since the paper’s release. A decade after the original publication, now is the time to revisit those findings and identify focus areas to inform research for the next decade and beyond. Participants will join the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, the Center for Green Schools, and the AIA Committee on Architecture and Education for a lively discussion about relevant trends and research, and come away with important next steps for this field. The conversation will be informed by a school health research update from Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment. Results of the group discussion will be incorporated into a research agenda for healthy schools, which will be published in the summer of 2016.


Measuring our Impact

For organizations and school leaders working toward greener schools, success is typically evaluated through a variety of input, action, and outcome-based measures. There is much more work to be done to help schools and stakeholders demonstrate how much progress has been made toward effectively measuring – and improving – school environments. In 2015, 67 organizations and school districts throughout the United States pledged to come to a consensus on straightforward, standardized measures of success to enable focused investment, improved engagement, and community action. Thousands of separate framework elements and questions from participating organizations were analyzed and then compared to evidence-based research on school buildings’ impacts on humans and the environment. The intent of this collective work is to compile critical outcomes that should be measured in the nation’s school environments. This summit is an opportunity to join the effort by contributing thoughts and opinions during this guided forum.


Planning and Executing your High-Impact Green Schools Project

This summit is designed for those green schools champions looking for resources and tools to help create the next high-impact school improvement project. Launched in 2012, the Center for Green Schools’ Green Apple initiative provides an easy-to-deploy framework for planning and executing sustainability projects at schools worldwide. Green Apple’s goal is to build awareness and engage the public in the collective mission of empowering individuals, organizations, and businesses to transform schools into healthy, safe, and efficient learning environments. An incredible network of volunteers power this initiative, organizing school improvement projects that reduce environmental impact, promote student health and performance, and increase eco-literacy. In the last three years, the Green Apple Day of Service has inspired more than 12,000 projects, commitments, and events in 73 countries and all 50 states, engaging more than 700,000 volunteers. Collectively, these efforts have impacted more than 7 million students worldwide. Participants in this summit will share their own experiences and learn hands-on skills to implement volunteer projects to support green schools.


Advocate Coalitions

Successful advocate coalitions in local and regional communities around the world are typically made up of leading green schools champions, both individuals and organizations, working to advance the shared goal of green schools within this generation. While united in this common mission, each coalition draws upon its unique strengths, relationships, and opportunities to advance green schools where they are able to make the most impact. Informed by a deep understanding of the needs of their respective communities, advocate coalitions advance commitments, organize service projects, and serve as advocates and advisors to school leaders, key decision makers, and elected and appointed officials. This summit will focus on the necessary steps to initiate, launch, and maintain coalitions and the specific resources that exist to support this local and regional action. Discussion will be facilitated by the Center for Green Schools, with support from successful coalition leaders.


Best Practices in Environmental and Sustainability Literacy

This summit is an ideal opportunity for teachers, school leaders, scholars, and students to report on the most effective strategies and tactics for getting students closer to environmental and sustainability literacy. A clearer picture of best practices will inform a common understanding of the characteristics that, when present, result in higher academic gains, increasingly effective teaching, and more sustainable schools and communities. In this session, attendees will work in small groups to share what they see working (and, in some cases, not working) in schools that are implementing efforts to increase environmental and sustainability literacy. Equipped with a basic briefing on existing frameworks and their associated research, attendees will identify and deconstruct the practices, principles, and projects they know to be having a positive outcome on students. Results of this session will contribute to an ongoing effort across the green schools movement to define common measures of success, and ultimately, provide resources for schools to adopt, prepare, implement, and measure effective programs.


About Jenny Wiedower and Anisa Baldwin Metzger


Jenny Widower is the K-12 Manager heading the Center for Green Schools’ efforts to develop its K-12 education platform, Learning Lab. She works to convene stakeholders, deliver tools, and advance public awareness around sustainability concepts in a school’s educational program so that all students graduate high school educated for a sustainable future within this generation.


Anisa Baldwin Metzger is the School District Sustainability Manager for the Center for Green Schools. She oversees the Green Schools Fellowship program and provides resources, tools, and research to a growing number of sustainability staff at school districts across the country.