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Living Labs, Ego Districts, Atmospheric Water, Free Electric School Buses

Schools Sessions Cast a Wide Net

It’s no secret that California is home to many who think “outside the box.” It’s a state where “alternative” isn’t assumed to mean second best.

In the world of education, the “boxes” can include the buildings in which students and teachers spend their days, strategies for managing resources, assumptions about a school’s role in the community and more.

The Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit, which will mark its tenth anniversary in November, was established to highlight sustainability goals for the state’s education sector and the best practices and strategies for achieving those goals.

The 2016 conference comes to the Pasadena Convention Center Nov 2-3.

At the heart of the Summit is a two-day program of education sessions, led by experts and innovators who are setting the pace for green school efforts in the state and beyond. They provide valuable opportunities to re-imagine approaches to school programs.

In Transforming Ego-Districts into Eco-Districts, architects Eric Corey Freed and John Diffenderfer will explore the ways in which green programs can transform the role of schools in their communities. “In this session we recognize that collaboratively, developers of different types, including school Districts, can achieve more together than separately,” they say. “Eco-Districts are neighborhood scale public-civic and public-private partnerships that strengthen the economy and reduce environmental impacts while creating a stronger sense of place and community.”

John Perlin, a research scholar at UC Santa Barbara and the author of Let it Shine: The 6000-Year Story of Solar Energy, will examine the development and application of solar techniques throughout time. The “solar literacy” that comes from awareness of this history can contribute to a better understanding of the current state of the technology and its potential, and an awareness lessons learned that can prevent a repeat of costly past mistakes.

A session with the name ZEV School Buses - They're Here & Possibly Free evokes more than one enticing prospect. In it, the Clinton Global Initiative EV School Bus Team will provide an overview of the ways in which electric school buses can benefit student health and air quality, support the California utility grid and pave the way for electrification of other types of heavy-duty vehicles. True to its title, the session will also cover grant programs to pay for the buses.

As anyone who attended the Summit’s 2015 keynote session featuring JPL climate scientist Bill Patzert would have learned, there is no long-term escape from drought in California. Solving the Water Crisis on Your Campus, led by longtime sustainability consultant Ryan McEvoy, will examine strategies for dealing with unreliable water supplies and uncertain water quality, including atmospheric water generation.

Windowless classrooms have been soundly rejected as ideal learning environments, supported by growing scientific evidence of the benefits of daylighting. It doesn’t stop there, however. There is growing awareness of the power of outdoor learning. In Cultivating Successful School Gardens: A Guide for Secondary Schools, Andra Yehoian and a team from Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High School will describe the lessons learned in 15 years of work to “dissolve the walls between the classroom and the natural world.”  The schools Living Laboratory offers students “a dynamic model of environmental restoration, ecological agriculture, and sustainable systems.” As they put it, session attendees will receive “practical tips for engaging students in farming small, dreaming big, and planting native at your own school site.”

This is just an inkling of what the Summit program has to offer. For a complete schedule, or to register, click here.

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