Welcome back, Natural Pod™ LIVE, Episode Eleven is available to watch!
About This Episode
Each choice we make leads to an outcome, whether intended or not. That statement was the catalyst for this episode’s discussion: how we can make sustainable choices now, that have a long-term positive impact.
Don’t underestimate the title, this conversation went much deeper than how to grow vegetables and recycle better. Our returning, deep thinking guests: Keith Reeves, Senior Instructional Technology Coordinator at Discovery Elementary School within Arlington Public School District, and Jennifer Seydel, Executive Director for the Green Schools National Network, laid out many actionable concepts at the individual, family, community and planetary level, of how to make intentional, impactful choices today, that create a more sustainable tomorrow.
Bridgitte Alomes, CEO and founder of Natural Pod and host of the show, began the discussion from the agreed-upon perspective ‘that if we’re going to create a sustainable future, then ideally every child should attend a healthy and equitable school’. Which led to the initial question, what does an equitable school look like? Jennifer shared her view:
“A school influences us in so many ways, it influences how we think about ourselves and how we think about the future. So if in our schools, we are being oppressed, or we’re not being supported in our physical, social and emotional health, or the people around us are not modeling how to live healthfully and live in balance with more than human community, then we are limiting capacity for the future, we’re limiting people’s understanding of their individual impact and role in society and in the larger ecosystem.” Jennifer continued to outline the direct connection people have to schools, “one in six people go to work, learn and play in a school every day. When you expand the network of that, 50% of the people in this country [USA] are influenced by what happens in a school on a daily basis. And if we can shift what happens in schools, in relationships and how children and their families are beginning to see themselves as engaged ecological citizens as members of an equitable society, then that’s the tipping point. And we are still not doing that, we’re still creating schools for an industrial society based on cells and bells and controls. And that is not the future that is going to sustain humanity on this planet.” – Jennifer Seydel
These points then invited the conversation to shift to what’s possible when understanding schools have such an important role to play in their communities. Keith shared how he initiates change towards sustainable solutions at the school level in order to force a priority shift at the national level.
“I like to start with a budgetary and an organizational clean slate and make those sustainable priorities come out top of the list. We have to start from ground zero with a blank spreadsheet and say, “Where is my money going to go? Where am I going to invest my human resources and my capital resources?” and this can scale all the way up to division, state and nation levels. We need to start rethinking how we invest our resources and placing them first to make sure that our priorities are there.” – Keith Reeves
The questions then arose around how to get started in carrying out sustainable actions. The answers were all based around ‘you don’t do it alone!’
“I would encourage anyone to find your allies in your school system, bring them around the table and meet with them on a regular basis, not just for planning initiatives, but to nurture your spirit, and strengthen your will and commitment. So you can make the decisions and adhere to your values, which again, is another component of ecological identity – we cannot reshape and reframe our value system without having a social network that is supporting us.” – Jennifer Seydel
Keith agreed that positive impact is best created by working together, and pointed out that if school leadership teams have an idea or the will to make sustainable choices, there’s almost nothing that hasn’t been researched and tried. Organizations like Green Schools National Network have a deeply researched framework and support network readily available.
“One of the reasons I value Green Schools National Network is we’re able to synergize things across geography and across time and space, so that we don’t have to go it alone, we don’t have to reinvent this thing from the beginning. In almost every instance of the sort of transformational endeavors that we are seeking to do, someone has written the theory, and at least somebody has tried to put it into practice somewhere in the pantheon. If we consult the research, if we are rigorous about examining the literature, we are oftentimes just staring in the face the answers to the questions that we hold.” – Keith Reeves
There are schools and districts that are part of our Green Schools catalyst network who are exemplars; they are living this, they are modeling this, and we can provide tours for you in schools. We’re actually working now with architects and designers in early-stage design to help their communities understand what’s possible. There are people that are doing this. If you just have a desire, there is a community of practice that will open their arms for you and support you, and commiserate with you when you feel the strain. And that’s what we do for each other because this is change, and change is hard, but this is the future of what needs to happen for humanity and for the planet.” – Jennifer Seydel
Jennifer continued by sharing a wonderfully uplifting viewpoint – “I do believe that there is a revolution of love happening. I think that underneath the tension there is an army of people who are pulling together. Yes, we’re seeing fear-based reactions in public by people that have been emblazoned and empowered. But they are not the majority, they are the vocal minority. The silent majority have had their head down supporting and loving each other through the pandemic and holding things together as best they can to be able to keep the communities healthy as best they can, and I think that as we stabilize into a new normal, they will come back to life and will lift up their voices and elect a new way of being. We just need to help and create systems that allow them to focus it in ways that are going to get us where we want to go. I am hopeful that we will, in the end, bring forward the future that we want.”
Keith continued to share a positive, hopeful viewpoint – “one of the advantages of seeing children every single day is you get to see the very best in humanity. If we can marshal these resources and bring those silent voices up above, then yeah, we can absolutely win this thing. And I think we’ll all be very proud of our young people when we do.”
There were so many other valuable branches of discussion off from the main structure outlined here, so we encourage you to watch the episode. But we’ll leave you with Bridgitte’s final closeout… “We hope we’ve inspired you to keep going, as the impact that you’re providing each and every day as an individual, as a community, as a collective and as an educational body: it matters!
Many thanks to Jennifer Seydel and Keith Reeves for once again sharing their time, expertise and thought leadership. It was a very valuable discussion.
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 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.