The third annual Detroit Public Schools “Go Green Challenge” launched with tremendous enthusiasm at the DPS “Go Green Kickoff” event on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. The event was held at Detroit College Preparatory Academy at Northwestern with 62 teacher sustainability coordinators in attendance representing the 57 DPS schools that entered in this year’s competition.
While the motivations to volunteer to be a school sustainability coordinator vary, many were surprised to learn that an evaluation of last year’s program showed monetary awards ($25,100 shared by 43 DPS schools) were far from the most powerful motivator. Emile Lauzzana, Director of Energy and Sustainability for DPS, said that the awards were less important than the hands-on projects for students, social connections, community engagement, and school pride. Many of the sustainability coordinators also found that being a part of the DPS Go Green Challenge enhances their teaching.
The Kickoff event served as a forum for sharing the many successes schools have worked to accomplish over the year. Last year, 43 schools completed 458 Go Green projects that include recycling, energy and water conservation, gardening and healthy eating initiatives. Schools are also encouraged to submit innovation projects of their own design. The participating schools saved DPS over $300,000 in utility costs – while completing projects that enhance student achievement through project based learning experiences.
For the second half of the event, attendees divided into five breakout groups with other schools from their area of the city to discuss strategies for implementing recycling, sustainability patrols, and building strong green teams. It’s a rare opportunity to share stories and learn from each other. The discussions also focused on new Go Green School Benchmarks, which help schools evaluate their progress along a continuum from pioneering, emerging, strong, and exemplary. While many of the schools are still at the pioneering or emerging level, the DPS Go Green Kickoff provided a spark of inspiration to carry this dedicated group of sustainability leaders through the year.