Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the 3rd Annual Seeds of Change: Igniting Student Action for Sustainable Communities conference at the beautiful Eden Hall Campus of Chatham University.
The Seeds of Change conference brings together students from schools across the region to share, collaborate, and reimagine a more sustainable world. Class projects organized around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals showcase students’ skills in bridging interdisciplinary knowledge. A keynote lecture by Ariam Ford, a city planner consultant, set the tone for the uplifting and inspiring conversations that were to come.
From the group of students I was invited to learn from, I heard about:
- how a school building can be used as a tool for learning and practicing sustainability (Eden Hall Upper Elementary School – Pine Richland School District),
- how a workforce development program through Operation Better Block helps provide high schoolers with skill-building and community engagement (Homewood and Braddock communities),
- how community art initiatives can bring people together to help reimagine what development in their neighborhood could look like (Nazareth Prep),
- how 5th and 4th graders can bridge their disagreements and work together to make their very own pallet garden (Manchester Academic Charter School), and
- how high schoolers at City Charter school are envisioning a way to make home and community gardening more accessible to folks in their communities.
And these were only 5 of the 18 excellent presentations given that day, to adults working in industries as varied as public transportation, community art, facilities management, higher education, and local government.
Pictured above: Two poster boards on the Ohio River Watershed and Wildfire Prevention.
We ended the day with a listening session, where students explained to the adults in the room what their vision was for a sustainable Pittsburgh, and a sustainable world. Every day, these students are learning how to think through impossible problems, and break them down into ways they can act locally. They are problem solvers. They are goal-setters. Most importantly, they are committed to leaving this planet better than how they found it – and we adults have a lot to learn from their example.
In our day to day work, it can often feel like holistic, equitable, and impactful sustainability is just beyond our reach. Fighting for change can be a real uphill battle. But these students remind me that we have a responsibility to act. We have the power lift each other up. We have the ability to work together, racing towards our shared vision of just, green, and equitable world. These lessons move beyond the classroom and have the power to change our relationships with one another, and with our planet.
I want to thank Chatham University, Eden Hall Campus for the opportunity to be able to attend and moderate a session of the Seeds of Change conference. To learn more about Chatham University’s K-12 Educational Programs, click here.