On Friday, March 9th, 2018, the second annual K-12 sustainable student project conference, “Seeds of Change: Igniting Student Action for Sustainable Communities,” was held at Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus. 13 different schools and organizations participated, representing 7 different school districts and ranging from 5th through 12th grade. The conference was possible thanks to the generous support of the Heinz Endowments with transportation funding also provided by the Grable Foundation. You can watch a highlight video from the whole day online.
The day started with a keynote from Ayanna Jones, Director of Sankofa Village Community Garden in Homewood. She emphasized that, “change starts with your mind,” and encouraged students to, “go by what you know, not what you hear,” when deciding how to treat or make assumptions about people of different races, ethnicities and cultures. Students then broke into three groups to share their work and get feedback from their attending peers during 3-minute presentations. Break-out groups for 2017 included “Community Building,” “Food and Agriculture,” and “Aquaponics and. Hydroponics.”
After lunch, the students were joined by a group of adult leaders, including elected officials, who were invited to the conference as VIP guests to dialogue with youth participants. Adult and youth leaders sat in small circles and answered the question “How can youth voices lead our region to a more sustainable reality?” The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals guided the discussion, with a special focus question on these goals: “No poverty, ” “Gender Equality,” and “Reducing Inequalities.” This dialogue session was new to the conference this year, and will be repeated in future years. All of our adult leader guests expressed gratitude for this open forum and a desire to participate again next year. We thank them for their attendance and for making sure all students felt deeply heard. Adult VIP guests included:
- Jennifer Liptak, Office of the County Executive, Chief of Staff
- The Hon. Randy Vulakovich, Senator of the 39th District, Allegheny County
- Melissa Girty, Senator Vulakovich’s Chief of Staff
- The Hon. Edward Gainey, Representative of the 24th District, Allegheny County
- Melvin Hubbard El, Representative Gainey’s Staff
- Shelly Danko+Day, Urban Agriculture and Food Policy Advisor, City of Pittsburgh Resilience Office
- Ariam Ford, GTECH Project Manager
- Jim Price, Sustainable Community Coordinator, Sustainable Pittsburgh
- Anita Prizio, County Councilwoman
- Ashley Comans, Wilkinsburg School District Board of Directors
- Lance Harrell, Sankofa Village Community Garden
At the end of the conference, Chatham announced a “Seeds of Change Challenge” for conference participants to have the chance to win $300 towards project implementation. As part of this challenge, teams must submit an action plan that takes their project to the next level by incorporating as many UN Sustainable Development Goals as possible, in a meaningful way. Submissions are due April 13, 2018.
We applaud all of the below student participants for their ongoing work to transform our community and their bravery in sharing their honest ideas with our adult leader guests:
- Brashear High School – “Community Garden”
- Schiller STEAM Academy – “Aquaponics”
- Hampton High School and Highlands High School – “Room to Grow”
- Manchester Academic Charter School – “Sustainability at MACS”
- Phipps, Learning for a Greener Future Interns – “Increasing Seasonal Food Awareness in the Pittsburgh Community”
- Mt. Lebanon High School – (2 projects) “Think Green, Think Big!” and “The Sustainable Classroom”
- Shaler Area High School – “Sustainable Winter Agriculture”
- Pine Richland Middle School – “Aquaponics Monitoring Device”
- Fort Cherry High School – “Maintaining Optimal Living for Tilapia in an Aquaponics System”
- Shaler Area Elementary School – “Hydroponics in the Classroom”
- Westinghouse High School – “Student Envoy Leadership Project”
- Operation Better Block – “Urban Green Practices”
We can’t wait to host “Seeds of Change 2019” next year! We hope to see those who joined us this year back again to share progress and look forward to having new teams involved as well. If you are interested in participating, please contact Eden Hall’s K-12 office at (412)365-2416 or stay tuned for the 2019 conference information to be announced in late summer/early fall 2018.
During this event, Chatham also announced the creation of a new “K-12 Student Sustainable Communities Advisory Group.” Any K-12 students interested in participating, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.