Interdisciplinary Education Using Carvey

By Felicity Moffett

The K-12 program at Eden Hall believes in the importance of interdisciplinary learning. This is why we are so excited to announce a new technology that we will be incorporating into our lesson plans. Inventable’s Carvey is a 3D carving tool that gives students hands-on experience with STEM technology. While the Carvey is capable of carving many materials we are planning on using wood. Wood acts as a sustainable option compared to plastic and gives students the satisfaction of being less wasteful while looking at the bigger picture of sustainability. We are currently incorporating Carvey into one of our garden lesson plans so that students have the opportunity to carve plant marking signs after deciding which plants they would like to add to our garden. Through Easle, a free online program, students can design their signs in advance, sign in on our computers, and then carve the signs using our machine. Both Carvey and Easle are easy to learn which make them the perfect introduction to 3D technology for students of any age. Our first print, a draft of what students will be doing, is shown below. Our staff is having fun using this technology and they are excited to share it with students!


Carvey in Action!


The finished product.



Rural Economic Development and K-12 Schools


Hello everyone! I’m Connor, the K-12 Social Justice Educator and Project Support Coordinator. I’m an MSUS student with interests in environmental justice and transitions to sustainability. I first became interested in environmental issues while studying photojournalism in undergrad after seeing a professor’s documentary work on communities impacted by unconventional natural gas development. I began to seek out similar stories to tell with my camera but wanted to learn more about environmental issues, their social impacts and what can be done for them. These questions led me to Chatham, where an internship gave me the opportunity to find the answers.

A photograph I took while freelancing for PublicSource of residents of Jeannette, PA at the natural gas well across the street from their home.

Reimagine! Beaver County is a grassroots community organization that gathered community members over the past couple of years and asked them what kind of development they would like to see in their communities. Attendees to their workshops were asked to think big, and they delivered cutting-edge ideas such as eco-industrial parks and solar electric car infrastructure, with a broad focus on developing energy, green chemistry/manufacturing, agriculture and recreation/tourism sectors. Part of my job with Reimagine is figuring out how Beaver County can begin to turn those ideas into reality with the resources currently available in the county. The first requirement is interest, and as we saw in Reimagine’s workshops, there’s a clear widespread desire for sustainable development in Beaver County towns like Aliquippa, Beaver Falls and Center Township. A need for jobs is also important, and is evidenced by other development in the area. A third critical element is the ability to create meaningful partnerships for achieving the shared community goals. For example, partnerships with higher education institutions or labor unions can help develop a workforce to meet the needs of proposed development, like eco-industrial parks.

A map from one of Reimagine! Beaver County’s visioning sessions.

The goal of all this effort is to create a green, diversified local economy and do so equitably. Some rural and semi-urban towns in Pennsylvania such as Connellsville and Monaca have begun developing around sustainable business models and enacting sustainability policies, proving big cities aren’t the only places that can be sustainable. On our new Rural Economic Development tab on our resources page, you can find key information on the subject such as the UN’s decisions and recommendations on the matter, guides on developing sustainable counties and towns, and tools to help you support local solar and agricultural businesses. For teachers and students, an all-grades explainer on hydraulic fracturing from Science Friday can be found, along with links mentioned in the explainer on classroom activities such as a board game centered on the concept of ecosystem services.

My hope is that these resources can be of use to students, teachers and lifelong learners in understanding the options and possibilities that are available to rural parts of the country. Although resource extraction and related industries have provided for Southwestern Pennsylvania and Appalachia for hundreds of years its social, environmental and health impacts have shown a need for transition. As I continue to study transitions toward sustainability at Chatham I’m available to mentor classes on Project Based Learning (PBL) units focused on rural economic development and sustainability. Topics can range from connecting communities to parks and trails, to developing cultural resources and art projects, to reconnecting communities to food systems. I look forward to learning with you!

Connor Mulvaney


Al Gore’s Climate Conference Attended by Three Members of the K-12 Team

Wow, what an amazing opportunity that we had and never shared! Time for a throwback post. Last October, three members of the K-12 Team attended a 3-day conference hosted by the Climate Reality Leadership Corps in order to gain more knowledge about climate change. The Climate Reality Leadership Project is an organization founded in response to the climate crisis that our currently world faces. Former Vice President Al Gore founded the Climate Reality Leadership Project. Over 1,400 people from Pittsburgh and all over the world convened for this event. The Climate Reality Leadership Project aims to train everyday citizens on how to best tackle climate change through becoming effective climate communicators.

Following opening remarks from the CEO of the Climate Reality Leadership Project, we heard Mayor Bill Peduto speak passionately about the city of Pittsburgh by outlining Pittsburgh’s resilient past and how the steel city is laying the foundation for a resilient future. Pittsburgh is a city that has reinvented itself by adapting to change and is continuously transforming to align with a greener, more sustainable world.

Former Vice President Al Gore lead multiple discussion panels on climate change. Attendees heard from world renowned scientists, like Dr. Michael E. Mann and Dr. Jennifer Francis, who both discussed cutting edge climate science.

The first panel held on the first day of the Conference, the social justice panel, was the most memorable. The climate and social justice panel helped set the tone for the whole conference by demonstrating climate change (or sustainability) is not just about being “green”. Attendees learned more about local environmental justice issues from three social justice leaders in Pittsburgh, including Fred Brown, who was the President and CEO of the Homewood Children’s Village at the time.

Conference attendees witnessed Al Gore’s famous slideshow presentation, you know, the one that was featured in “An Inconvenient Sequel.” In the presentation, Al Gore went over both the current and future issues surrounding global climate change. Some of us are familiar with rising tides, droughts, and increased forest fires as harsh realities of climate change, but did you know that significant precipitation events are also a result of anthropogenic climate change? We learned more about the deadly impacts of storms and climate change, including the devastating hurricanes that had just hit Puerto Rico, the Caribbean Islands, Houston, and Florida earlier this year.

The last few slides of Mr. Gore’s presentation ended on an uplifting note, inspiring attendees to continue the fight towards reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Humans across the globe have managed to exceed previous expectations regarding renewable energy generation, proving mitigating climate change is possible. Likewise, Al Gore’s presentation demonstrated that CO2 emissions have begun to stabilize, offering a window of opportunity for global citizens to reduce their carbon footprints and decrease overall greenhouse gas emissions.

One great aspect of the conference involved the breakout sessions available. Each attendee had the opportunity to learn more about climate change related issues in depth. For example, attendees could choose to view presentations on fossil fuel development and health, organizing communities for renewable energy, or climate change presentation tips.

By attending the conference, each attendee is responsible for 10 separate acts of leadership on fighting climate change. Acts of leadership include writing letters to newspaper editors, organizing climate action campaigns, and mimicking Al Gore through presenting slideshows on climate change. Each Conference attendee has access to Al Gore’s presentation slides at his/her disposal. Now is the time to have climate change conversations with your family, especially with the holidays approaching. Speak to your cousins, your aunt, or your uncle about why climate change is important to you, and how we have the tools to solve it.

The Climate Reality Leadership Conference was hosted at the David Lawrence Convention Center (a LEED Gold complex) and was sponsored by the Heinz Endowments. Importantly, each day of the conference had plant-based food options available, because of the environmental implications surrounding the consumption of meat. Additionally, the Climate Reality Conference stressed waste management, as seen through the numerous composting bins located throughout the event.

The K-12 Team is incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to learn more about climate change and interact with 1,400 other like-minded individuals. The K-12 Program will look to incorporate more climate change knowledge into our activities following this awesome event. Each member of the conference now has the tools to help solve climate change, so the next step involves educating others about the knowledge gained.

Members of Chatham University gathered and took a picture outside of the entrance to the Climate Reality Leadership Conference tables.

A Sustainable Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with loved ones and reflect on what you have to be thankful for while filling up on turkey and pumpkin pie. But, did you know that it is also one of the most wasteful times of the year? Americans on average waste 6 billion turkeys (which take an estimated 100 billion gallons of water to raise) every year at Thanksgiving. How can you make Thanksgiving more sustainable, and work on some of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals while you’re at it? Follow the tips and tricks below!

  • The first step in reducing waste? Reduce the amount of food you buy! While it’s easy to get caught up in providing a feast for all your guests, take a minute to step back and think about how much you really need. This “Guestimator” developed by Save the Food Inc. will help you determine how much food you need to keep your guests full and happy.
  • You have the list of ingredients, the menu set, and now the only thing left to do is head to the grocery store, or a local farmers market. Local food producers and markets can be a sustainable choice when buying food, as these options tend to create CO2 emissions from the farm to your plate. It also helps support local farmers, so definitely a win-win situation.  If you don’t have a farmer’s market open mid- November by you, consider buying “ugly” fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, especially ones that will get mashed or put into pies, as these are the types of products that usually don’t get sold, and eventually are thrown out and wasted.
  • Dinner has been served on reusable dishware, and everyone is full as can be – but there are still scraps left on plates! Instead of throwing them away, think about starting a compost pile and get something useful out of those scraps. Click here to check out a guide that will show you how easy it can be to start a compost pile in your home. Live in an apartment with limited space, or just don’t have the need for fresh compost? Consider finding a communal compost bin near you.
  • Used the Guestimator but still have leftovers? Send some home with family and friends, or better yet, check out these leftover recipes to keep the Thanksgiving spirit going for the rest of the week! Invite your friends over to share in the leftovers and practice Sustainable Development Goal #11 – Sustainable Communities. Extra unopened cans of vegetables that never made it to the casserole? Donate those to a local food bank to practice Sustainable Development Goal #2 – No Hunger.

In fact, sustainable environmental interactions like composting and minimizing waste are deeply rooted in Native American traditions and those of other indigenous cultures. Organizations like the United Nations are studying and incorporating indigenous knowledge into plans for our global sustainable future. Check out this 2016 report: “Indigenous knowledge and implications for the sustainable development agenda.”

In that vein, it’s critical that we think about the social sustainability and responsibility of celebrating a holiday which marks the beginning of a dark and painful history for the Indigenous peoples of North America, especially the Wampanoag. Some Native communities recognize Thanksgiving as a Day of Mourning. Consider learning more about the land you live on this Thanksgiving – what Indigenous nation calls this land home? What is their history, what are their traditions, and what are their current activities? Visit your local Native American community center, and learn more about the people in your community whose ancestors were here long before the settlers landed on Plymouth Rock. To learn more about the native land you call home, click here.

Instead of rushing out to buy consumer goods on Black Friday, take time to recognize that the day after Thanksgiving is also National American Indian Heritage Day. How can you recognize this day, and the histories and modern truths of Indigenous peoples behind the American myths we tell, with your friends and family? Sustainability is also about reducing inequalities (Sustainable Development Goal #10). According to the U.S. Census and quoted in this research article on poverty and health disparities in Indigenous communities, over “one-quarter of the American Indian and Alaska Native population is living in poverty, a rate that is more than double that of the general population.” How might these inequitable conditions have started with the actual histories and be perpetuated by the related stories, myths and stereotypes we continue to tell around Thanksgiving? How might we be in a different place in our global environmental story if the western, dominant narrative had not suppressed indigenous histories and knowledge traditions?

We at the Chatham K-12 Program hope you can use these tools to have a thoughtful, warm, sustainable, and socially conscious Thanksgiving this year!

Chatham at the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Conference

Early this October, the 3rd annual Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference took place in downtown Pittsburgh. Many of Chatham’s sustainability students were able to attend and learn about ways to improve the environment of campus life on Chatham and to share ideas with other sustainability students from across the country.

The Student Summit on Tuesday opened up with a keynote by environmental scientist and sustainable policy expert Garrett Blad, who had a hopeful take on the current state of environmental affairs. Focusing on the extent of the power young people have over climate change action, he encouraged attendees to stand up for sustainable policy in everyday life by living a more sustainable lifestyle and supporting sustainable brands. As the executive director for the advocacy group SustainUS, Garrett Blad certainly has the experience to back up his talk. SustainUS offers youth-led training sessions for organizations, schools, and universities to educate and empower youth. More on these training sessions can be found here.

Chatham Sustainability Students at the Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh – Oct. 3rd.

The rest of the Student Summit was split into one hour long sessions led by the movers and shakers of sustainability movements across the country. Of the seminars attended by K-12 team member Morgan Block, one dealt with how Aramark, a food supply company for college campuses, is working to introduce more plant-based options at college dining halls. A diet that less meat-centered is better for the environment as growing vegetables requires less water and produces fewer carbon emissions than producing meat. An idea that Aramark and other universities came up with to promote a plant-based diet was “Meatless Mondays”, which failed on most campuses it was tried on, including Chatham. Not to be discouraged, Aramark found a way to reduce the amount of meat that needed to be prepared by simply arranging food courts so that students reached vegetarian options first, so they had less space for meat. This is a great example of working within limits that might be imposed on you by a budget, organization, or school culture to still make changes for a positive environmental impact. Aramark has a number of other sustainability programs in place for college campuses and K-12 school districts, which you can read about here. What sustainability initiatives do your food service provider have in place? How might students engage to help evaluate and enhance these initiatives?

Another seminar attended by one of Chatham’s sustainability students was titled “Sustaining our Communities Through Care and Action”, lead by Western Washington University Sustainable Action Fund Education Coordinator, Kate Rayner-Fried. This presentation was about how “community care principles”, such as outreach in disadvantaged communities, can be incorporated into sustainability thought, organizations, and actions. Rayner-Fried explained that the only way to have a truly successful movement, in sustainability or otherwise, was to share knowledge and to empower marginalized groups. Time was given to participants of this session to brainstorm ways to apply these ethics to our own organizations, whether they be professional or our school community.

To read more about AASHE and their mission, click here.

Second Annual “Seeds of Change” Conference Highlights Student Voice

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

K-12 students dialogue with adult leaders at the Seeds of Change Conference 2018


State Representative Ed Gainey listens to youth ideas for how Western PA can achieve a more sustainable reality.


State Senator Randy Vulakovich and Chatham President David Finegold listen to youth ideas for our sustainable future.


Manchester Academic Charter School students present on “Sustainability at MACS,” which includes taking care of bees and other pollinators.


Mt. Lebanon High School students presenting on individual commitments they made to become more sustainable, including reducing meat intake and conserving water in personal consumption.

Get to Know the New K-12 Staff!

We’d like to introduce you to our four newest staff members! They come from a variety of backgrounds, and we’re so excited for what they’ll bring to the program. With their help, we’ll be developing more field trip activities and lesson plans, keeping our website full of important resources, and expanding on work from previous years. Be sure to say hi when you see them on your next trip to Eden Hall!

Hi everyone! My name is Kai Kyles, and I am excited to have joined the team as the Eden Hall K-12 Social Justice Educator and Project Coordinator. My interest in education and environmental  justice stems from my various experiences related to community organizing, food sovereignty, youth empowerment, and transformative pedagogy. Currently, I’m pursuing a Master of Arts in Food Studies (Food Politics Concentration) at the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment. I plan on supporting the creation of more culturally relevalnt material for various populations served, as well as work to deepen social justice frameworks used in our curriculum & for the broader K-12 paradigm. I look forward to meeting you!



Morgan is from Long Island, New York, and grew up with a fascination for the natural world. Morgan graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016 with a BA in History, and a Certificate in Leadership. Morgan then spent three weeks in the Galapagos Islands volunteering on a conservation team to protect endemic species like the giant tortoise. Upon graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Morgan worked for Grades of Green, an environmental education nonprofit in New York City. Morgan helped create, edit, and build Grades of Green’s environmental education activities. Additionally, Morgan loves to find ways to make environmental activities even more fun than they already are! Morgan is a Master’s of Sustainability student at Chatham, and will graduate in 2019. Currently serving as the Graduate Assistant for the K-12 Program, Morgan works on updating the K-12 Resources Page, and crafting new lesson plans/activities. Morgan is interested in how humans can learn from our past environmental mistakes to pave the way for a bright, and green, future. Sustainability education is immensely important, and can help our generation, and the generation below ours, learn the tools to effectively live sustainably within our planetary boundaries. Morgan enjoys camping, sci fi movies, exercising, astronomy, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Julia is a our Sustainability Educator.  She has experiences and passions for educating on farming, soils, waste management/waste reduction efforts (in particular with schools), eliminating litter, watershed education, and more!  If it has anything to do with the environment and people, Julia likes to get involved.  She is a Master’s student in the Sustainability Program at Chatham.  This year she hopes to help with getting more schools to be inspired to take waste reduction efforts they learn at Eden Hall back to their schools.





Hi I’m Audrey! I am in the Food Studies masters program here at Chatham, and am so excited to learn all about Pittsburgh and its surrounding areas. I am ready to work with people in the outdoors, as I enjoy exploring nature and learning how to open my eyes to all the cool things happening in the big wide world.  I have educated outdoors with ages ranging from 4 to 14 and am always excited to learn from everyone I work with.  I am developing lessons in orienteering, geocaching, soil, and low ropes team building.  

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.

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