USBGC Colorado Discusses How to Build 21st Century Schools at 2014 Green Schools Summit

In the eighth iteration of its signature event, The Colorado Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) welcomed nearly 400 participants including teachers, administrators, designers, architects, developers and construction professionals to its 2014 Green Schools Summit on Friday, Nov. 14, to discuss how to build 21st century schools. The event continues to experience growth with audience increase of more than 15%. Partner participation increased 50% with over 40 sponsors.

According to keynote speaker Karl Fisch, Director of Technology at Arapahoe High School, the unusual mix of Summit attendees share a mission: “Architects and teachers both build for the future. We’re not just building for today,” he said.

In the Summit’s opening session, educators and members of the building community heard from representatives of Colorado state departments that offer schools resources to grow sustainably.

Eric Heyboer, Recycling Grant Program Administrator at the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, described his office’s Recycling Resources Opportunity grant program and Supplemental Environmental Projects. Past recipients of these funds include a food scraps collection program at 15 sites across Denver Public Schools and Florence High School, which recently installed a micro wind turbine.

Next Christian Williss, Director of Programs and Initiatives at the Colorado Energy Office, introduced the Energy Office’s new Energy Savings for Schools, which upon launch will pull together current program offerings, statutory obligations and funding sources into a comprehensive approach to K–12 energy efficiency. He also outlined Colorado’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Schools and High Performance Schools programs. These programs help schools complete energy improvements, and while they are available to all schools in Colorado, Williss said his office focuses on rural schools.

Scott Newell, Director at the Colorado Department of Education’s Division of Capital Construction, outlined their Building Excellent Schools Today Program, a grant program that has helped 19 schools achieve some level of LEED certification with 32 more to come. Newell said projects that relieve health and safety concerns and overcrowding will be prioritized in the upcoming grant round.

Finally, Fisch delivered the Summit’s keynote address on 21st century teaching, stressing that most schools today are built for a different time, and a different set of demands on learning. While most classrooms today are designed for print media, and individual learning, Fisch said that the world is part of students’ classrooms today, and they should be gaining the skills to access and create collaborative, networked knowledge.

Moving on to issues of curriculum and instruction, Fisch shared with the educators and building professionals in the room his aspiration to move beyond standards to a mode of learning that enables students to find and pursue their passions.

“Should we be preparing our students for our world when we were 18 or what the world is going to look like when they’re our age?” he ended by asking.

Photos and video will be available upon request. For more information about USBGC Colorado’s green schools initiatives and upcoming events or to schedule an interview with a representative, please contact Shawna McGregor at [email protected] or 303-455-9292.

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