Nevada Green Schools Stem Summit

My Las Vegas experience was full of exciting firsts like watching street performers, walking through a casino (not gambling), and breathing in the desert air. My experience also included the Nevada Green School Stem Summit where I had the privilege to listen to skilled professionals speak about their experiences spreading the love of healthy food and nutrition to their communities and schools. 

Because of my previous research into surrounding educational programs, I was extremely excited to listen to Katie Decker from Green Our Planet Speak about her program. After the initial opening speakers finished, Katie Decker was the first speaker I listened to. I had looked into her program before when I was researching into building our network and it was exciting to hear what she had to say in person. She began her speech with the quote, "If you build it, it will grow." and I was already hooked. She began by revealing her simple steps of having a vision, getting support, having everybody help, and continuing to grow. The idea seems simple enough but when you see the work she put into developing the system as a whole, it is much more complicated but infinitely more successful. 

It was fascinating listening to her talk about the her experience as an extremely successful principal and the incredibly positive effect these school gardens had on her students, her programs, and the entire community surrounding the schools. She first elaborated on the idea of developing a vision and focusing on your main agenda. She discussed the benefits of hands of learning, learning healthy recipes, and overall engaging the entire community. She developed simple ideas like painting walls to make everyone feel like they are a part of the space to limit vandalism and becoming invested as an entire community. She also recycles everything and incorporates every little thing, like old tires and pipes that she has the kids and the community individualize and then hang as art within the gardens.  I learned a lot about the importance of labeling and specifying what's growing where and labeling the nutrition and purpose to keep the learning going and selling it with a specific intent. Her excitement for her schools and her projects made me extremely inspired for my own project.

Her speech led to me thinking how her school garden curriculum and set up could be developed and infused into a community gardens. It opens up the possibility for entire community involvement, businesses or families could sponsor garden beds or sponsor bricks and it would be an excellent way to make revenue. Another way to make revenue could be having local restaurants host events and have proceeds benefit the garden or even having certain menu items sales benefit the gardens, the possibilities are endless. We could also reach out and see what local businesses could donate to the area and see what kind of art we could make out of it. Any type of garden calms and area down and these community garden plots would soothe the overall atmosphere while also creating educational opportunities and community health for peoples minds and bodies by getting them outside doing something active. Listening to Katie speak about her journey and the lessons she's learned from her success and her failures really got me excited about creating a similar idea in my own design. 

The next speaker I listened to was Patrick Watson and Daniel Huard speak about water conservation and net zero landscape. They began with startling facts about the dropping water levels of Lake Mead and the importance to lower water usage and improve water-recycling programs. Next, they spoke about return flow credit and how more thank 95% of water used indoors is captured, treated, and reused, but most water used outdoors is lost. This led them into talking about how to conserve water and how to eliminate the dreaded loss of outdoor water with methods like water smart landscaping, which is slowing the water down, spreading it out, and soaking it in. And other methods like passive water harvesting, waterless urinals, and collecting water from roofs. All of these methods are simple processes that help the conservation of water exceptionally. They then concluded their speech with discussion on net zero landscapes and simple methods to make the landscape greener. For example, irrigation should be avoided, only plant native species, and only use artificial turf. They also discussed methods that could be incorporated into educational opportunities like using vacuum flush composting toilets that let people see how the system works and using native and adaptable plants as an educational opportunity. This lecture was extremely helpful in educating me on simple practices to create a greener sight with less of a negative ecological impact.

The next speaker to have a profound impact on me was Stephen Ritz. He gave an incredibly inspiring speech about his program, The Green Bronx Machine and the amazing impact it has on his students, the school, and the entire community. He inspired me to be more passionate about my ideas and put my whole heart into every design I make and develop. His positivity was infectious and I wanted to hear and learn more.

This desire to learn more was fulfilled when we all got to eat dinner with Stephen Ritz and many more professionals and learn about their journeys in their fields, ask questions about our projects, and brainstorm for the future. The environment was lively and enticing. It was so fun to hear these professionals speak in such a relaxed environment and hear their thoughts on my ideas and suggestions on how to move forward. I left the dinner feeling inspired to move forward with my project and ready to incorporate all of my new ideas.