Giving Tuesday is here, offering a wonderful chance to join the global movement for giving that takes place each year after American Thanksgiving and Black Friday. This annual event celebrates our collective capacity to do good, unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. This year we’re proud to be joining together with Shaw Contract in our mutual support of Green Schools National Network (GSNN) in supporting their work in furthering green justice education.
What Is Green Justice Education: It engages students from communities that are disproportionately impacted by the effects of environmental injustice. Please see below the stories of the three Title I schools being supported through this year’s donations. Through authentic projects aimed at improving the communities in which they live, i.e. increasing green spaces by improving local parks; creating community asset maps to help alleviate health disparities by identifying places where they may buy healthy foods locally; working with city planners to eliminate transportation inequities; working with non-governmental organizations to advocate changes in policies to support their communities access to renewable energy; and other issues that lie at the intersection of environmental justice, public health and the built environment. Through green justice projects, students will develop critical life skills while taking action to support measurable differences in their own communities.
Why Is Natural Pod Supporting This Cause: At Natural Pod, we are deeply committed to creating better, sustainable education environments. Our goal is always to honor this by producing healthy, natural, and beautiful play and learning space furniture using environmentally responsible practices and methods. We’re a big believer and supporter of the green schools’ movement, and it’s why we support and are partnered with Green Schools National Network (GSNN), a committed leader of the movement. GSNN is a nonprofit organization that works with educators, government and non-governmental organizations and agencies, and private partners to create broad-based initiatives and successful strategies aimed at fostering healthy, sustainable K-12 schools across the United States. Natural Pod’s founder and CEO, Bridgitte Alomes, serves as President of the board for GSNN.
All students deserve to learn in healthy, equitable, and sustainable schools. They also deserve a healthy planet that can sustain them and future generations. We believe it’s critical to empower students to take a stand and advocate for green justice in their schools and communities. This #GivingTuesday, you can help us bring green justice to three Title I schools (see below) and support students as agents of change in their communities and for the planet.
This Giving Tuesday, You Can Help Us Bring Green Justice To These Title I Schools
Pine Jog Elementary School West Palm Beach, FL:
Students like Meredith Waldo inspire the dedicated Green Team of teachers at Pine Jog to continue transforming their school into a model campus for sustainability. As a member of the Teamwork USA Society during her last year at Pine Jog, Meredith helped spearhead the creation of a new club that’s focused on preserving and protecting the Everglades. Meredith is now in middle school, but her passion for the project spawned a legacy.
The new Everglades Club is one of many extracurricular programs at Pine Jog that revolve around sustainability and environmental education. And during the regular school day, Pine Jog’s fine arts program, guidance program, science club, and media technology program all work to interweave environmental stewardship into the curricula. But Pine Jog is ready to do more. As a LEED Gold school, they want to codify the best of their activities into lessons that can be shared with other schools.
The six teachers who comprise the core Green Team at Pine Jog know that now is the time to help new teachers bring more of a sustainability and equity focus to their teaching. In the past few years, some teachers have felt overwhelmed in their work to meet state and national standards for testing. This focus has competed with Pine Jog’s goal of being a model green school. By developing a Green Ambassador program with the help of Green Schools National Network, Pine Jog hopes to find new ways to better integrate their green school goals with state and national standards, expanding their capacity to nurture a passion for the natural world in their students, teachers, administrators, and the larger community.
Environmental Charter Middle School Inglewood, CA:
For many, the end of high school is a time to ask some big questions like, “What kind of life do I want for myself?” Evelyn Senior is at that point in her life now, and she’s doing research to determine if she can follow her heart and plan for a green career.
Evelyn was first introduced to the idea of green jobs by her middle school teacher Tashanda Giles. She took Tashanda’s Green Ambassador class all three years at Environmental Charter Middle School. In the program, sixth graders learn about natural resources and material systems, choosing a topic from current events as a lens through which to look at larger issues. They take a similar approach as seventh graders when they study ecosystems and biodiversity. And again in eighth grade while examining the Tragedy of Commons – a concept that highlights the conflict between individual and collective rationality, where shared resources are overused and eventually depleted.
Tashanda has been impressed by many kids over the years who tell her about starting a vegan diet or building a compost bin at home. However, Evelyn stands out because of how engaged she was as a middle school student, returning years later to talk with Tashanda about options for embarking on a green career. For Evelyn, her passion for green living became a thread that she followed through her high school years, informing her focus on how to create a fulfilling professional life. It’s exciting to see that the Green Ambassador program at Environmental Charter Middle School is having the kind of impact that inspires the next generation of environmentalists. Maybe that’s because as a key part of the program, Tashanda teaches students like Evelyn that it’s about decision making, saying, “No matter what career you go into, put on your eco lens.”
T.A. Brown Elementary School Austin, TX:
Diego Robbins started his student career as a homeschooler. His mom, Gina, was a teacher and she wanted her kids to have a healthy, integrated approach to learning. Now as a fourth-grader, Diego is enjoying school with his classmates because the learning environment provided at T.A. Brown Elementary School in Austin, Texas has gone through a recent transformation that the Robbins family, and the larger community, is excited about!
In 2016, the former location of T.A. Brown Elementary was shuttered due to structural issues. Principal Veronica Sharp was informed of the need to relocate the students on November 3, and by November 9, they had all been reassigned to two different schools in the area. A short time later, they moved again to a “portable city” of temporary trailers because the parents and students wanted to stay together as a school community.
These tremendous changes paved the way for planning a new campus and the opportunity to ask what direction they wanted to take as a community. They started to ask, “What does ‘modernize’ mean?” Questions like this brought them to placing sustainability and equity at the center of their mission in construction, policy, and curriculum. Through partnerships with EcoRise, Green Schools National Network (GSNN), and others, they were able to create a facility that has been granted LEED Gold certification since its opening on January 8, 2020.
Healthy changes in the cafeteria, like fresh fruit and vegetables, and problem-based learning are some of the changes that made the Robbins family decide to join the T.A. Brown school community. And with the help of GSNN, they hope to build a Green Ambassador program that will help them expand their outdoor learning and social-emotional development programs, enhancing their efforts to be a model school that will work to create a better environment for all.