Our 4th Annual Healthy Schools Summit was our biggest gathering yet! With over 60 educators, school administrators, parents, school board members, school facilities and custodial staff and community partners – we were so happy to host members representing each part of our growing network of healthy school advocates.
Erika Eitland, a PhD candidate and Program Manager of the Harvard University School of Public Health’s national laboratory for Schools for Health, was our keynote speaker. She shared the research linking the importance of healthy school buildings to student health, student cognition, and student academic performance. She also shared how making investments in school buildings can bring large, impactful returns on student wellness as a whole.
We also invited local leaders in school sustainability to join us for a Panel Discussion on what it takes to build healthy schools. Christine Schott, parent and Sustainability Coordinator for the Steel Valley School District shared her stories of success advocating for outdoor and garden education for all students in the district, as well some big wins for a district-wide recycling program! Jake Douglas, Food Services Director at Deer Lakes School District, discussed how the district makes it a priority to reduce waste in the lunchroom and support local farmers in their purchasing. Cassandra Brown, a school nurse at PPS Arsenal K-8 got a round of laughs and applause when she discussed her “Be a Thinker, Not a Stinker” program to improve personal hygiene education and access to a growing international student body population – bringing together innovative partnerships into the school to meet student needs in an empowering way. Vicki Ammar, a high school teacher at PPS Perry High School rounded out our panel, sharing an educator’s perspective for bringing partnerships and starting new initiatives within a school.
We had a networking and fun-filled working lunch, with Tracey Reed Armant, Program Officer at The Grable Foundation, presenting on “How to Write a Successful School Grant” from a Funder’s perspective.
In the afternoon, we split into workshops to dive more in-depth. Katie Modic, of Communitopia, led our Educator Workshop, “Teaching Resiliency in the Classroom” which focused on hands-on climate education and bringing environmental justice into the classroom. Donnan Stoicovy, of State College Friends School, shared her school’s Zero-Waste journey and engaged participants in an interactive decision-making game for different school sustainability initiatives. LaKeisha Wolf, Director of Ujamaa/ Collective, and Monte Robinson, Community Schools Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Public Schools co-led our Parent and Partner Workshop on Engaging Parents and Partners for Healthy Schools. We all come to this work from different ways, and building on our shared goals has been central to pushing initiatives forward.
We left the Summit feeling excited for new connections, inspired by local rolemodels, and re-energized to continue the work towards building a healthy school for every child in our region!
To see presentations and workshop handouts from the Summit, please email Kara Rubio at Kara@WomenforaHealthyEnvironment.Org