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Eden Hall Campus: A Hub for K-12 Sustainable Education Efforts

Eden Hall Campus was envisioned as a beacon for current and future generations who wish to work toward a more sustainable way of living. Today, Eden Hall Campus delivers this vision through bachelors and masters-level programs and an unparalleled range of opportunities for sustainability-themed experiences for K-12 students in the Pittsburgh area.

Powered by grants made possible by both the Grable Foundation and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Kelly Henderson, LEED AP O+M, is finishing her second year as Eden Hall K-12 Education Coordinator, and the Sustainability Leadership Academy Director.

“Our hope is to empower and inspire students to create real change in their schools and communities by exposing them to new ideas and technologies, connecting them to the natural world, and making what they are learning in school come to life with purpose,” said Henderson.

With these programs, Chatham University aims to help students and educators become confident in their passion for sustainable initiatives and less overwhelmed about the question, “where do I start?”

One of the places students can start is the upcoming Seeds of Change: Igniting Student Action for Sustainable Communities conference scheduled to take place at Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus on Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 from 10am – 1:30pm.  The conference will feature up to 100 students from 20 local schools sharing their work on an ongoing or current project that is helping to make their school or community more sustainable.

The Eden Hall K-12 Education program includes field trips, K-12 educator programming, special projects and overnight programs.

FIELD TRIPS TO THE EDEN HALL CAMPUS have been incredibly successful with more than 2,000 visitors from school districts in the tri-state area over the past 2 years. Field trips are designed for fourth through eighth grade students and ninth through twelfth grade students and include exploring topics in sustainability through activities involving:

Built Environment

  • Rain barrels and green infrastructure
  • Wastewater filtration
  • Passive solar design challenge
  • Solar thermal design challenge
  • Materials, products and air quality

Sustainable Agriculture

  • Aquaponics
  • Integrated pest management
  • Mushrooms
  • Food products
  • Farm service

Ecology

  • Biodiversity survey
  • Watersheds and macroinvertebrates
  • Geocoaching

Through Eden Hall’s K-12 EDUCATOR PROGRAMS, teachers can experience the pedagogy and practices behind Project Based Learning (PBL) through partnership programs.  They will also discover how they can take those same principles of sustainability content into their classrooms to create opportunities for student-driven learning through meaningful projects in their communities.

Pine Richland, South Fayette, Fort Cherry, Falk Lab School, Pittsburgh Schiller STEAM Academy 6-8, and others have produced or are in the process of creating school and community-based, student-driven projects. These projects range from school recycling and compost system overhauls to designing and installing micro-scale renewable energy systems to launching awareness campaigns to get teachers to utilize existing outdoor spaces on school grounds during class time.

At Pine Richland’s Eden Hall Upper Elementary, among the many ongoing projects the school is developing in collaboration with Chatham, the Sustainable Architectural Design Challenge, facilitated by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, has been a popular one with their past two years of sixth graders. This year, students were asked to create a model (using a 1/2-inch scale) showing how a storage barn on Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus can be converted into a place where kids their age could come in the summer to learn about sustainability.

“This project allows students to get a first-hand perspective and application in a real-world setting of sustainable and meaningful architecture and daily living,” said Eden Hall Upper Elementary’s Joanna Sovek. “The project ties into all parts of our curriculum: math, science, ELA, social studies, and art – which fully encompasses our district’s vision of the STEAM initiative.”

The work that begins in the elementary years continues through high school and right into college with the SUSTAINABLE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY (SLA). The SLA is open to rising 10th, 11th and 12th graders, as well as students who have just finished 12th grade. Participants become immersed in a robust hands-on experiential learning program for a full week with faculty in the field where they explore Pittsburgh during day-long guided tours of the city’s sustainable highlights, meet local leaders in sustainability and green building, develop the leadership skills needed to be a change agent, and make like-minded friends from across the country.

“Participating students discover a world of opportunities, not the least of which is that they’re meeting people with shared interests, passion and commitment to global health,” said Henderson.

High school students interested in sustainability also have the ability to apply for the RACHEL CARSON HEALTHY PLANET AWARD, which will be awarded to one deserving student nominated from each high school and community college throughout the United States, who embodies the spirit of Rachel Carson in his or her dedication to sustainability and community development. Healthy Planet Award recipients will also receive preferred consideration for the RACHEL CARSON SCHOLARSHIP, a full-tuition scholarship to attend Chatham University.

With more than 100 programs completed, work in the realm of K-12 education is continuing at Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus, creating a new hub for sustainability education.

“With the Eden Hall Campus K-12 programs, I anticipate our students taking away a more dynamic view of sustainability in terms of understanding what it encompasses; the impact of sustainable systems on a regional, state, national and global level; and an appreciation of the resources available in our region,” says Dr. Trisha Craig, Director of Curriculum & Instruction at Fort Cherry School District.

“I hope that the opportunity presents to them a more diverse viewpoint of sustainability. Students need to see that there is more beyond their backyard and local community.”