Field Note: Student Workshops Teach Sustainability Fundamentals

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The U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles’s Green Schools program helps students and teachers understand the role of sustainability in our daily lives.

To: Bluedot Living

From: Elizabeth Christy, Sustainability Program Manager at USGBC-LA

Subject: Student Workshops Teach Sustainability Fundamentals

Consistent with its mission of transforming Southern California through the built environment into a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable region for all, the U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles (USGBC-LA) has helped fund small school projects for a number of years. For the past two years, Green Schools has become one of the region’s most popular youth programs, offering a free Sustainability Fundamentals Workshop to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, both virtually and in person. Classes are led by guest speakers from the USGBC-LA member base of architects, engineers, and sustainability professionals, and any school or teacher can request the class. More than 2,182 students have participated since 2021.

The concept of sustainability can be broad and specific at the same time, as it is applied to different areas ranging from social systems to law, engineering, public health and natural ecosystems. As today’s children will grow up needing to adapt to the implications of climate change, students benefit from developing a general understanding of sustainability in order to learn about and apply solutions. 

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Student working on a project at Green School workshop.
Green Schools encourages students to use their creativity and newfound knowledge from the workshops to reimagine ecosystems, create art with upcycled materials, and plan urban design.

The Green Schools workshops introduce students to the goals, principles, and practical applications of sustainability, covering topics that include air quality, waste management, water, climate, energy and transportation. Students examine the energy systems and resources that we rely on to power our world, the effect that carbon emissions from production and human activities are having on our environment, and methods humans can use to increase the prospect of a sustainable future.

Workshops run 90 minutes, usually broken into two sessions, and are organized around learning objectives that can be applied to real-life situations. Children work with interactive toolkits (developed by USGBC-LA in collaboration with the Two Bit Circus Foundation) that encourage students to use their creativity and newfound knowledge from the workshops to reimagine ecosystems, create art with upcycled materials, and plan urban design. First put to use in 2022, the kits are tiered to three different age groups, with upcycled terrarium kits for elementary school students, upcycled urban design kits for children in middle school, and vertical gardening toolkits for high school students.

Each lesson ends by giving students a set of questions that they can reflect on and discuss among themselves. Instructors leave a hands-on kit in each classroom for students to work on at home or in class with their teachers. 

Green Schools’ goal is to have students leave the Sustainability Fundamentals Workshop feeling hopeful about the future of climate solutions, aware that their voices are valued in environmental discussions, and inspired to participate in shaping their own communities.

Get Involved

If you know a school that would be interested in a Green Schools workshop for the upcoming school year, contact Elizabeth Christy, USGBC-LA Sustainability Program Manager at [email protected].

USGBC-LA is transforming Southern California through the built environment into a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable region for all. We inspire leaders throughout our communities to take action on climate change, public health, and environmental justice, developing and empowering a diverse talent pipeline through training, mentorship, and direct engagement. Our programs promote innovative and impactful policy solutions to address the urgent environmental and social challenges of our time. 

For more information on our Green Schools Program or how to get involved as a volunteer speaker or on our Green Schools Committee, click here.

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