Envirothon Teachers Learn about Eco-Schools USA Program

High school students and their teachers representing 64 counties convened at the University of Pittsburgh’s Johnstown campus on May 23-24, 2017 to participate in the annual PA Envirothon state competition. While students were at the Envirothon competition, their science teachers participated in a workshop on “greening” their schools. Representatives from the PA Green and Healthy Schools Partnership (PAGHSP), a collaborative group of non-profits, governmental agencies, and others who are committed to supporting healthy, environmentally friendly schools, introduced teachers to Eco-Schools USA. This international green schools certification program, hosted in the United States by the National Wildlife Federation, provides a clear framework and supporting resources to help schools become more sustainable and receive recognition for their efforts. 

Heidi Kunka, Director of U.S. Green Building Council’s Central Pennsylvania Region, and Holly Shields, Regional Education Manager at National Wildlife Federation, welcomed the teachers with an overview of the Eco-Schools Program. Robert Heinrich, Freshman Academy Principal at Greater Johnstown High School, which received the Eco-Schools Silver Award in 2012, provided some concrete examples of how his school reduced consumption and waste. The PA Department of Environmental Protection’s Heather Cowley challenged teachers to rethink energy and imagine what possible scenarios on energy use could be available fifty years from now. NWF’s Holly Shields and Mary Ann Boyer of Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants wrapped up the event with a workshop to help teachers get started on how to “green” their school. Teachers discussed how to get started with a “green team” of representatives from various departments and divisions including members of the facilities, cafeteria, and nursing staff. Participants then reviewed the Eco-Schools Environmental Checklist to help them prioritize which environmental topic (such as waste, water, energy, transportation, healthy schools, among others) they could choose to get started. According to Holly Shields: “NWF’s Eco-Schools USA program currently reaches 4,725 schools (112 in Pennsylvania), 2.7 million students, and 130,000 educators in the United States. With additional support from this project, we hope to increase the number of Eco-Schools in Pennsylvania by more than 30%.” The overall response from the teachers was positive. “I found the information on how to create an Eco-Schools very beneficial and informative!” reflected one of the teachers. For more information about the Eco-Schools program, please see Eco-Schools USA.

Submitted by Emily Tronson, a rising senior studying Ecology at the University of Rochester who is interning with Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants.