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.