Learning For Change: The Green Schools Quest Inspires Good Stewardship Through Experiential Learning

By Eva Klein, USGBC-Missouri
Gateway Chapter Intern

When does learning happen? When does learning truly change how we act?

Real learning occurs when we can connect our experiences to have a better understanding of a whole concept, instead of just its pieces. When our whole bodies are engaged in learning, we remember more because we have truly experienced it. Teaching in and with the places around us shows students the real impact our actions can have. It assists in connecting classroom concepts to the world around us.

USGBC- Missouri Gateway Chapter supports place based education and educating for sustainability through their Green Schools Quest program. In this free sustainability challenge, school Green Teams are encouraged to create and implement a unique no to low cost sustainability project over the course of one school year. The Green Team can consist of a classroom, a grade level, whole school, or student group. Projects must be original or major extensions of current projects and should fit the particular school’s needs and resources. USGBC-MGC provides each school with a Green Mentor from the community who is best equipped to aid the students in creating something feasible but impactful.

The Green Schools Quest begins in October and concludes March 10th with submissions of projects to be impartially judged. Prizes are awarded to Green Teams that construct exceptionally creative, educational, service learning based projects.

This past year’s first place winner in the Elementary Category, East Elementary’s 5th grade class, did a waste audit in their cafeteria, went on field trips to different waste processing facilities, and then created and implemented action plans for reducing food waste, recovering food, composting, educating their peers, and helping the community. They worked with Green Mentor Kim Petzing and were able to change the silverware in their cafeteria from disposable to reusable, as well as start a composting bin and provide food for a small food pantry in the surrounding food desert, among other things.

This year’s focus will be Energy. Schools are encouraged to weave this theme into the overarching goals provided to guide each project. These goals include reducing our carbon footprint, lowering school operating & maintenance costs, promoting environmental stewardship in our communities, energizing sustainable curriculum in the school systems, and encouraging the school to be the community epicenter.

When teaching for sustainability, it is important to create a deep understanding of how our actions affect our world, but more importantly the people and places we interact with every day. The Green Schools Quest uses the school and surrounding community as a model for students to practice responsible decision making, leadership, and communication. This program offers Green Mentors and other resources to start a dialogue in the classroom, the school, and the school district about what sustainability looks and feels like. Registration to participate in Green Schools Quest is open until September 15th.

Green Mentors must register by August 31st, and can learn more about this opportunity at a mentor information session on August 22nd. Mentorship offers the unique opportunity to empower younger generations to be good stewards of the environment while simultaneously learning from them.

Visit online at usgbc-mogateway.org/green-school-quest to learn more and register to participate!