Reflecting on our accomplishments – and taking a vacation!

This has been a very active and dynamic semester for Next Generation. Since August, we have had a successful leadership transition, transitioned in two other new staff members, initiated a strategic planning process supported by members of the community, expanded our new Board of Directors, moved offices, and expanded to have 5 green school sites this year (up from 3 last year). Wow! And that doesn’t even speak to the difference we made in the schools! We’ve mentored school clubs, worked with students in school gardens, taught lessons about environmental issues from water to litter to energy to rainforests, consulted with administrators as well as students about greening their operations, and led assemblies and puppet shows for entire schools. It can sometimes be hard to see the difference we make on the planet — individually, as an organization, and as a movement. Sometimes, we can get down and focus on the “bad” things (from the big picture, like all the environmental problems we are still facing, to day-to-day personal things, like the items we throw “away” to a landfill, or actions we didn’t accomplish or that perhaps could have been done better). Focusing on these things can cause us to lose sight of our accomplishments. This photo is a reminder that each lesson, club, and assembly is composed of individual students whose lives we are influencing, perhaps for many years to come. As Next Generation wraps up our first semester this school year and readies for our two-week vacation, we are proud of all of our accomplishments and excited to hit the ground running to expand our reach and effectiveness even further in the new year....

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Staff Field Trip!

Friday we took a staff field trip to the amazing new Academy of Sciences. Perhaps the biggest highlight is its sustainable design and “living roof” with 1.7 million native plants growing on it! These plants convert CO2 into oxygen, capture rainwater, and reduce the building’s energy needs for heating and cooling. They also provide a home for insects and birds! We also saw an amazing iMax movie about our planet and the unimaginably vast number of other planets, stars, solar systems, and galaxies. The Academy also had a large section on global warming and what we can do to help, which we appreciated! Find out more about the amazing features this facility has to offer: http://www.calacademy.org/ This was a fun day of staff bonding and learning!...

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Sustainability and Schools, from Center for Ecoliteracy

Sustainability and Schools The Center for Ecoliteracy has based most of its work in schools. The values, habits, and worldviews of individuals are often set, and hard to change, by the time that people become adults. Society gives schools the responsibility for passing on cultural values. The “hidden curricula” of schools convey the values that are really important to the school, even when they contradict the lessons of the classroom (for instance, a soda machine in the hallway can speak louder than any number of lectures about nutrition). Schools are systems, and they are communities. Schools are themselves important nodes in the web of institutions that constitutes society. Whatever happens in schools will have profound effects on the rest of society. CEL has also identified a number of qualities and practices that characterize schools that are most effective in educating for ecological literacy: Schools as communities The most effective schools are often communities that model the traits of sustainable societies: – They know that children’s ability to learn, and what they learn, are greatly affected by the vibrancy and health of the culture of the school and the quality of the relationships within it – They function as “apprenticeship communities” in which leadership is shared and members of the community see themselves and others as both teachers and learners – They recognize that “the curriculum is anywhere that learning occurs” (whether or not it is intended or directed by educators) Practices of effective schools These effective schools often incorporate one or several of the following practices: – They connect children with the natural world through programs and projects outside the classroom, such as school gardens, habitat restoration, and communicating their experience in nature through painting and poetry – They practice place-based education that teaches students about the people, history, culture, and natural features of their local community and region – They practice environmental project-based learning, involving students in local projects that are meaningful and make real contributions to their communities – They integrate in-class learning with hands-on experiences and with all of the activities (including, e.g., lunch) of the school – They address whole children, recognizing that children’s ability to learn is affected by their health and well-being, and that these are in turn affected by such factors as nutrition, exercise, and the health of the natural environment – They employ the best current understandings of how brains and minds develop and how children learn. They attend to children in all their dimensions, including cognitive, emotional, and aesthetic Transforming education Implementing this kind of education often requires changing educational institutions, relationships, and practices. Because schools are expected to pass on cultural values, they are among the more conservative of...

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Beware of the Litter Lion!

We did another Reduce, Reuse, Recycle assembly today — this time at Dixie School in beautiful Lucas Valley. (The picture to the right is from the same assembly we did at Edna Maguire in case you’re familiar with Dixie!) It was Marijanna’s first time as Ms. Stuff! Nora (having mastered the role of goofball litterbug Ms. Stuff at Olive School last time) had the Environmental Action Club at Davidson at the same time, so it was also our first time doing the RRR Assembly with just three people, but by all reports it went great. That’s really good for us to know so that we can reduce the staff time needed for each assembly — which makes it easier for us to schedule too! — though the assemblies are a fun thing we all enjoy. Yes, that is our handsome (and willing to do anything for the cause) executive director in the Litter Lion costume. You should hear him ROAR if you don’t recycle!!...

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Pollution Soup

Yesterday, Rebecca and Marijanna did a water lesson at Laurel Dell. During the lesson, we do an activity we call “pollution soup.” We show the students a bottle of clean water and then, one at a time, start putting “pollutants” into the bottle of water — like soapy water symbolizing run-off from washing a car and raisins symbolizing dog poop. Then we ask the students to write a story about how the pollutant could have gotten into the water. We thought we’d share this cute story from a 4th grader at Laurel Dell....

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