Sustainability Leadership Academy 2017

This August, 15 high school leaders came together for the second year of our Sustainability Leadership Academy residential, week-long program. This year, we were excited to have participants who traveled from as far as China to learn about careers in sustainability (we miss you, Steve)!

After a first evening of icebreakers and teambuilding games, we jumped right in on the first full day, starting the morning with a leadership studio with Chatham’s Career Development Office. The rest of the day was filled with tons of time in the fields and woodlands of the Eden Hall Campus – starting with an applied woodland ecology session with Professor Linda Johnson and ending with an epic group game of capture the flag.

Applied Ecology with Dr. Linda Johnson of the Falk School of Sustainability

Day 2 was full of green building tours! We started at the new Frick Environmental Center, where Maureen Olinzock, Sustainability Coordinator, and Taiji Nelson, Naturalist Educator, both with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, showed us around the Living Building’s features. We spent the afternoon at Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes and even met up with their high school interns in the SEED Classroom. We were pumped to end our day with our first night out in Pittsburgh at Kennywood theme park!

Kennywood Night!

Day 3 was food day! After a morning spent harvesting mushrooms, greens, zucchini and more with Tony on the Eden Hall Farm, we took the whole afternoon to learn how to cook from Chef Chris, who manages all the great food that comes out of the campus dining hall. We fileted and prepared our own fish with vegetables. It was a good challenge out of comfort zones for some, but well worth the taste! The day wound down with a game night – including corn hole, Frisbee, and board games like Exploding Kittens and Taboo too.

Cooking class with Chef Chris from Parkhurst Catering at the dining hall.

Day 4 was focused on social justice and planning. In the morning, we toured downtown Pittsburgh’s walk/bike infrastructure and public transit projects with Sean Luther and Phoebe Downey from Envision Downtown. The afternoon was spent in Homewood, where we toured the Sankofa Village Community Garden with Ayanna Jones and the Oasis Farm & Fishery with Casey Clauser. For most of us, seeing sustainability in action to drive social change on the neighborhood scale was the highlight of our week. That night, after some free time to play soccer and use the rock climbing wall on the Shadyside Campus, we had our second night out in Pittsburgh – an escape room! It was great teambuilding, even though neither team managed to escape in time.

With the garden interns at the Sankofa Village Community Garden in Homewood.

Our last full day started with a green building tour around downtown Pittsburgh by kayak with Isaac Smith and Mary Schrag from the Green Building Alliance. Everyone had been looking forward to this all week and we were so glad the weather held out! In the afternoon, we had a follow-up leadership studio and then wrapped up the program with outdoor pool time, a campfire and some group closing and bonding time.

Green building kayak tour of Downtown Pittsburgh with GBA.

All week, each young leader worked on their own project idea to implement in their home communities, starting as soon as they left this program. Projects range from getting local businesses to eliminate use of plastic bags to inventing new technologies and improving the effectiveness of their high school’s environmental club. We look forward to catching up with the whole group over the next 6 months or so as we conference call to check-in on project successes and stories.

Thanks to all the young leaders and to the community partners involved for a great week! We couldn’t put it better than some of the leaders themselves:

  • “I learned a lot more about sustainability than I knew before and also realized the connection between sustainability and social justice. I realized a possible interest in urban planning as well.”
  • “I enjoyed learning more about sustainability in Pittsburgh because even though I’ve lived here my whole life I had no idea how many green buildings are here.”
  • “This week I learned that working with the environment is what I want to do with my life for sure.”
  • “Thanks for a great and empowering week!”

Eden Hall Campus Hosts First Year of ‘Seeds of Change’ Project Conference for K-12 Students

On Tuesday, March 7th, 2017, the first annual K-12 sustainable student project conference, called “Seeds of Change: Igniting Student Action for Sustainable Communities,” was held at Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus. Over 100 students participated, representing 12 schools, 7 different school districts and ranging from 5th through 12th grade. The conference was planned as a collaboration between South Fayette School District, Fort Cherry School District and Chatham University. It was possible thanks to the generous support of Remake Learning, Opterra Energy, and Luma Institute.

The day started with an inspirational keynote from Michelle King, the Learning Instigator and an educator at Environmental Charter School. She implored everyone to remember that “We need each other,” to accomplish the difficult work of community transformation and sustainability. She challenged conference-attending students to talk to those from different schools, and those of different ages or of different races at the conference today. She asked “How might we listen and talk to each other?” Michelle also had students up out of their seats and practicing the skills of listening and talking with new faces with some fun warm up questions, including, “Would you rather live without the internet or without heating and air conditioning?”

After warming up their listening and questioning skills, students 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 “Energy, Water and Infrastructure,” “Food and Agriculture,” and “Aquaculture and Aquaponics.” Elementary students asked questions about high school student projects and vice-versa. Student presenters covered their material with practiced confidence and timeliness to fit into their short allotted presentation window. One student reflected afterwards, “It was fun to share our ideas with each other and just be able to talk about our ideas.” Others said, “I enjoyed listening to others’ ideas,” “I have lots of new ideas for my project,” and “I enjoyed being around new people and learning new things.” One educator in attendance reflected, “I enjoyed the casual yet authentic approach. It was nice to connect with other schools and be inspired by initiatives happening around the area.” Another teacher said, “Very exciting and encouraging to see the level of interest and enthusiasm that these students have. Great ideas and networking opportunities.”

After lunch, the day ended with campus tours and a team scavenger hunt for information on other projects. Those who completed the scavenger hunt were entered into a prize drawing for living wall planters, aquaponics kits and other cool prizes.

We applaud all of the below participants for their ongoing work and courage in sharing with their peers during this conference:

  • Brashear High School – “Our Future Neighborhood”
  • Environmental Charter School – “Stormwater”
  • Hampton High School – “Instillations”
  • Mt. Lebanon High School – “Cutting the Crust off of Energy Consumption: Living Sustainability Through Effective Energy Practices”
  • Manchester Academic Charter School – “Landscape Design”
  • South Fayette Middle School – (5 projects) “Solar Panel,” “Living Wall,” “Compost,” “Aquaponics,” and “Orchard and Outdoor Classroom”
  • Mt. Lebanon High School – “Sustainable Agriculture in Schools”
  • Avonworth High School – “Earth, Wind and Fire Sustainability PBL: Trout Harvesting”
  • Claysville Elementary School – “The Next Generation of Sustainable Agriculture”
  • Fort Cherry High School – “Maintaining Optimal Living for Tilapia in an Aquaponics System”
  • Fort Cherry Elementary Center and High School – “Ranger Vertical Garden”
  • Winchester Thurston School – “Aquatic Habitat Pond Improvement”

We can’t wait to host “Seeds of Change 2018” 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 2018 conference information to be announced in late summer/early fall 2017.

Michelle King addresses all students at the conference during her morning keynote.

 

Students from Brashear High School present their project for a community-integrated technology center in Beechview.

 

Environmental Charter School students present their project, in which they are making design changes to their schoolyard to improve stormwater flow.

 

Students from Claysville Elementary School present their aquaponics project as Roy Weitzell, Eden Hall’s Aquaculture Lab Director, provides feedback.

 

Students from South Fayette Middle School present their composting project.

 

Students from Manchester Academic Charter School present their landscape design project.

Sustainable Saturday: Go Fish!

 

Saturday, February 4th, we welcomed 30 guests to campus to learn how we can reduce water and energy to grow food in our homes year-round. Each family used an assortment of reused materials to build their own mini-aquaponics system, including a 2-liter bottle and an old wash cloth. With some help from a friendly betta fish, each system will soon grow basil for their own kitchen using zero energy! Families were also toured through our aquaculture lab, solar high tunnel, and living green wall to see other unique ways we grow plants on campus. Be sure to check out our Sustainable Saturdays website to learn more and register for our final event in the Sustainable Saturdays series, Solar Superheroes.

Now Offering Integrated Pest Management Field Trip Activity for Grades 9-12

Chatham University uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control the insects that do damage to our environment. In a new program option now offered during Eden Hall field trips, students explore and learn about IPM in agriculture through discussions, activities, and reflections. Students develop and apply knowledge to distinguish when bugs are considered beneficial or pests, and put into practice some of the most important steps of IPM.

This newest activity includes defining and developing the “IPM pyramid” and researching evidence of pests in either the solar high tunnel or the on-campus farm. Photographs taken during these activities are uploaded to the larger Eden Hall IPM Evidence Database, and will contribute to a much larger scientific database and tracking system that benefits the overall health of the Eden Hall environment.

This IPM program was piloted during a food-themed visit from Hampton High School this November. Check out some photos from the program below. In addition to documenting pests found on campus, Hampton’s field trip itinerary also included a family style lunch and a food-focused campus tour (highlighting the aquaculture lab, vertical gardens, and all campus growing spaces). Stay tuned for future blog posts on our new lunch program, and an extension of the IPM activity into lower grades.

Hampton High School students look for and document evidence of pests in the solar high tunnel at Eden Hall.

A Hampton High School student and teacher look for and document evidence of pests in the solar high tunnel at Eden Hall.

Hampton High School students look for and document evidence of pests in the solar high tunnel at Eden Hall.

by Dani San Filippo, Food Studies Grad Student and Eden Hall K-12 Farm & Garden Educator

Eagle Scout Project Adds New Outdoor Classroom to Eden Hall Campus

This summer, Matt Ferris,  an Eagle Scout Candidate in Boy Scout Troop 144, built an outdoor classroom for Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus.

On Saturday August 12th Matt delivered benches and a portable chalk board he made from scratch over the summer.With the help of his troop members, Matt carried a total of 8 benches down one of Eden Hall’s hiking trails to an open plot of land. A huge thank you to Matt for making this great resource for the campus! We look forward to using it with higher ed classes, K-12 field trips and family programs.

OC The finished outdoor classroom, photographed by Matt Ferris.

Eden Hall Summer Teacher Fellowship 2016

Thanks to generous support from the Benedum Foundation, this summer the Eden Hall Campus hosted five teachers for the Eden Hall Summer Teacher Fellowship. Over five days, educators came together to learn about sustainability content from Chatham faculty and build Problem Based Learning (PBL) lessons and unit plans to use in the classroom over the coming school year. This year’s participating schools included: Penn Hills Junior High School, Pittsburgh Public Gifted Center, Environmental Charter School, and Falk Laboratory School.

Faculty content sessions included:

  • Renewable Energy and Green Buildings with Mary Whitney, Director of University Sustainability
  • Sustainable Agriculture with John Taylor, Assistant Professor of Agroecology
  • Ecology and Biodiversity with Ryan Utz, Assistant Professor of Water Resources
  • Place, Health and Well-Being with Mary Beth Mannarino, Assistant Professor of Psychology
  • Aquaculture and Aquaponics with Roy Weitzell, Aquatic Laboratory Director

PBL training was provided in partnership with ASSET and fellows were also given time to visit with community partners relevant to their lesson planning over the course of the week. We are excited for all of these passionate educators to come back to Eden Hall with their students over this coming year as they pilot their PBL unit in sustainability!

Here’s what some of the Fellows had to say about the week themselves:

“This experience was incredibly enriching and definitely furthered my capacities as an educator. I am so thankful that I was able to take part in this and hope that it continues to grow and change education!”

“I enjoyed the real hands on time with professors/experts in the field of sustainability and the community of teachers who shared ideas, resources, and insight with one another.”

“I was fascinated by the professors talks and demonstrations. Just like our students, I loved the hands on learning of the moth watch, log inoculation, tour of the facilities, solar oven demo. I appreciated the time to explore community partners that were of interest to us (local farms). I enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow teachers, our brainstorming sessions and socializing.”

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Sustainability Leadership Academy 2016

This summer saw the inaugural year of the Sustainability Leadership Academy (SLA) out of Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus. This residential camp program for high school students exposed rising change-agents to topics and skills needed to lead in a sustainable field of work or study. From August 4-7, fourteen participants from four different states met young professionals in the field and Chatham faculty through hands-on activities and tours, both around the city of Pittsburgh and at Eden Hall.

Friday’s city day was full of adventure, starting with a public transit-oriented tour of Downtown Pittsburgh with Sean Luther and Phoebe Downey of Envision Downtown. After a picnic lunch near Point State Park, the group experienced Pittsburgh by kayak, facilitated by Isaac Smith of Green Building Alliance.

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The afternoon ended with a tour of Millvale, emphasizing needs and strategies for sustainable communities on the neighborhood and municipality scale with Zaheen Hussein, Millvale’s Sustainability Coordinator. Following dinner on Chatham’s main campus in Shadyside, the SLA enjoyed a night out on the town at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

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After a fun-filled and very active Friday, Saturday’s day on the farm at the Eden Hall Campus started with a session on soil’s role in sustainable agriculture with Assistant Professor of Agroecology, John Taylor. Associate Professor of Biology, Sherie Edenborn, brought microbiology to our taste buds with a chocolate and honey sampling and visit to the campus bee hives. After lunch and some breaks to catch updates in Olympics events on the large screen in the EBC, Assistant Farm Manager, Tony Miga, led participants in sampling water quality from a rainwater capture system he installed on campus. The last session of the day was on renewable energy with Chatham’s new Assistant Professor of Energy Systems, Iris Grossmann. The day ended with a movie night in the pool and group campfire. Everyone wasn’t ready to leave the next morning!

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The program was bookended with Leadership Studios, facilitated by Chatham’s Assistant Director for Career Development’s Kate Sheridan. During these sessions, participants examined personal values and mission statements while exploring what it means to be an “everyday leader.”

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We had a wonderful time meeting these young leaders and can’t wait for next year! Dates for next year’s SLA, which will be a week-long, will be announced soon. To learn more about the program and to register starting in January 2017, visit the SLA website.

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