Eco-Schools USA: Charting the Course to Excellence

Charting the Course to Excellence” was the theme for the 2010 National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Area Conference in Baltimore.  The conference on science education brought together K-college teachers, administrators, and curriculum specialists to provide opportunities to deepen their content knowledge, strengthen their pedagogy, and network with peers and others in the educational profession.

“Science provides the motivation, activating attitudes and producing dependable skills and essential understandings for coping with practical problems, new challenges, and career development,” NSTA president Alan J. McCormack said in his welcome address.

Taking McCormack’s message to heart, off I went with directives from the captain at the helm. The conference sessions were divided into four strands one of which is titled, Embracing the World from Our Own Backyard. The focus of this session is to learn to think green and teach green. So I charted my course looking through the many environmentally focused sessions that would tie in with the goals and objectives of Eco-Schools USA.

I started the day with Ocean Energy, presented by the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project. Happy to hear their goal is to tell the whole energy story. I created a wind turbine that I tested to see which wind speed produced the most consistent spin for the generation of electricity. It may not be what you think.

Next I was off to see Bill Nye the Science Guy, the conference keynote speaker. I couldn’t contain my excitement – I had shared Bill Nye’s work with my students in the past and followed his environmental efforts for years. Now I was in the same room with one of my environmental education heroes! Nye characterized this generation of students as the climate generation stating that “as our students come of age, they’ll learn to recognize problems and the process they can use to solve them.” The Science Guy’s message from beginning to end was short and simple yet loud and clear: “CHANGE THE WORLD!”

I ended the day just as I began it – proud to be an educator and proud to be a steward of the environment. Empowering Youth to Reduce CO2 Emissions in Their Community was lead by Lynne Cherry. I couldn’t believe the author and illustrator of such books as, A River Ran Wild and The Great Kapok Tree, was also the presenter.

I have used Cherry’s books throughout my years in the classroom and with my own children. As I listened to her talk about her newest book, I realized that the author’s focus was not on the doom and gloom that is so often blasted to society in various ways, but on solutions. Not just solutions researched and reported by scientists, but more importantly the solutions that students worldwide are contributing.

In the infamous words of Bill Nye…Science Rules!