Welcome back, Natural Pod™ LIVE Episode Nine is available to watch!
About This Episode
Educating for a sustainable future is no longer an option; it’s a necessity. In this episode, our host, Bridgitte Alomes, CEO of Natural Pod is in discussion with Jennifer Seydel, Executive Director for Green Schools National Network, and Keith Reeves, EdD CSML CETL, Senior Instructional Technology Coordinator at Discovery Elementary School within Arlington Public School District, on becoming a trailblazer for whole-school transformation.
This episode was full of so much rich content and topics: from the necessity of the green schools’ movement, to diving into the newly released book, Trailblazers for Whole School Sustainability: Case Studies of Educators in Action, to the equity needs of educators and environments, and the leaders who are committed to sustainability for all. Watch to learn about what is possible when educators resolve to blaze a trail to re-imagine K-12 education for a just and sustainable future.
The conversation started with Jennifer Seydel describing the Green Schools National Networks (GSNN) role in educating and supporting systems change for schools, districts and educators: which perfectly illustrated why it was so important for the book Trailblazers for Whole School Sustainability to be created. It’s full of current case studies that highlight the need for this work, how certain schools’ can, and already have, revolutionized themselves, and the trailblazers who make it possible.
“We are educating for a sustainable revolution, not an industrial revolution, one that incorporates equity and justice as much as it does honoring and living in balance with the planet.” ~ Jennifer Seydel
Jennifer continued sharing that the work GSNN does begins with where educators and administers are at; starting with small, tangible initiatives that are clearly explained, which then can grow into bigger projects which lead to whole school sustainability and transformation.
“We listen, we spend a lot of time listening and exploring and learning with that partner [potential Green Catalyst School] to understand where their values are, where their interests are, and where their passion is.” ~ Jennifer Seydel
“When talking about Discovery Elementary as a revolutionary school; as we look at creating circumstances that are ideal for children we need to be able to challenge the status quo but to show that it can work within the existing structures.” ~ Keith Reeves
The importance of revolutionizing schools can’t be underestimated, with both Keith and Jennifer being very clear that they are the window into tackling climate change and sustainable living. But how to get there? Our guests are both leaders in their fields and are experiencing firsthand what it takes to create the systems change to revolutionize all schools: and it really comes down to people, their leadership and their commitment to the work.
“When we look at the scale of the problem [creating a sustainable future] we are talking about the most significantly sized problem in the history of the species, so scaling up from small needs to happen quickly and often. Being a revolutionary school leader is doing what’s best for the children, despite inconvenience. It’s doing the right thing. Not the easy thing.” ~ Keith Reeves
“If we do not look at education environments and schools as a solution to climate change we are missing a critical factor. Every child should attend an equitable and healthy school if we’re going to create a sustainable future.” ~ Jennifer Seydel
When talking about leadership, it was highlighted that this doesn’t solely refer to the folks at the top; but leadership with a common vision on every level. By providing the environment for educators to thrive and have the means and opportunity to have individualized relationships with their students, the students are then empowered themselves to be the change that’s needed.
“We can’t just talk about sustainability and expect everyone will buy into it. We need to find ways to engage in relevant and authentic pedagogy for each individual child. But that takes individualized relationships with meaningful and high-quality teachers; but policy after policy undermines our ability to hire them, to train them and lift them up, and denies them compensation and pay. A critical point is that we need to change the nature of the relationships that we have as a society with teachers, so we can facilitate those relationships that we know are essential between teachers and students – that means smaller class sizes, higher pay, and better working conditions.” ~ Keith Reeves
Schools that undertake this work then become a central hub that can transform entire communities. This is true of all communities, not just those that have been historically underserved; but is essential in those that have been consistently underserved. What’s really worth noting is research shows that across the board, any schools that commit to project-based environmental education result in achieving greater student engagement and improvement in other subjects as well, including math and reading.
“Revolutionary schools become the center of the community – becoming a transformational epi-center for every community, including underserved communities. They [revolutionary schools] should especially be at the center of these historically underserved communities.” ~ Keith Reeves
“All schools, including the historically underserved schools, when they develop project-based environmental education curriculum, are seeing an increase in reading and math scores and increases in engagement.” ~ Jennifer Seydel
When we talk about creating a sustainable, equitable future for all, what it really comes down to is considering the health and wellness of whole-school environments and communities, from the children, educators and staff, through to the pedagogy taking place, through to the very fabric of the school building itself. The stakes are very high if we are serious about considering our children’s future, and the future of their children, as well as the planet and all its inhabitants. The work needs to be done now, and by many.
“Every child should attend an equitable and healthy school if we’re going to create a sustainable future.” ~ Jennifer Seydel
Many thanks to Jennifer Seydel and Keith Reeves for their time, honesty and knowledge sharing in this episode. We hope it sparks renewed energy when it comes to revolutionizing our schools and people for the sake of creating a sustainable, equitable and healthy future for all.
About Jennifer Seydel, Executive Director for the Green Schools National Network
Jennifer Seydel is the Executive Director for the Green Schools National Network and editor of the Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly, the only peer-reviewed journal for the K-12 green school community. She has been an educator for over 40 years and has developed a reputation as a leader in bringing together thought leaders in sustainability and education to gather, synthesize, report, and generate the evidence-based resources needed to support equitable, healthy, and sustainable schools. Through GSNN, Seydel has convened a network of schools and school districts, known as the Catalyst Network, that are engaged in documenting and evaluating the impact of sustainability initiatives in their schools and school districts. This network is at the forefront of the green school’s movement and is working with GSNN to tell the story at scale of the impact that green, healthy, and sustainable schools are having on student health and well-being, social and emotional development, equity, and college and career readiness.
About Keith David Reeves, Senior Instructional Technology Coordinator, Arlington Public Schools
Educator, author, and speaker Keith David Reeves, EdD CSML CETL, currently serves as educational technology coordinator at Discovery Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, a revolutionary standards-based and zero-energy public elementary school, the world’s first and only LEED Zero school. He has taught every grade level, PreK through 12, in underserved and affluent schools in both rural and urban settings, as well as educational methods at the university level. He frequently presents and writes on the importance of authentic love for children, freedom for children, and the central importance of meeting every child’s every need.
About Bridgitte Alomes, Founder and CEO of Natural Pod
Bridgitte Alomes is a thought leader dedicated to better environments for play, learning and collaboration using sustainable furniture. In her work with Natural Pod, she has helped create over 15,000 learning environments throughout the world. She’s engaged over 40,000 educators through her workshops and presentations and has been dedicated to creating play-based pedagogy and sharing the importance of the learning environment design. Bridgitte also serves as President on the board of the Green Schools National Network, creating broad-based initiatives and successful strategies aimed at fostering healthy, sustainable K-12 schools across the United States.
About Natural Pod™ LIVE
Natural Pod™ LIVE has been created for, and by, our incredible community of educators, students, architects and anyone with a stake in creating better learning spaces and experiences. It’s an online streaming talk show where we interview education leaders who are sharing their personal stories behind the challenges and opportunities of creating exceptional learning environments. Join us as we explore the new approaches for what’s possible in the future of education with the people who are making it happen. This is your opportunity to learn directly from them about the challenges and successes and how they are approaching this work.
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