Climate Action: “How To Talk To Kids About Climate Change”

Original post from NPR: Life Kit – 

By Anya Kamenetz, October 24, 2019

A few months ago, I was standing at the sink in the kitchen. Suddenly my daughter, who’s seven, said, “You’re lucky you got to have your adulthood before the planet was completely destroyed by climate change.” I didn’t know this was on her mind. I hadn’t spent all that much time talking to her about it.

And the worst part, somehow, is that her voice wasn’t full of emotion. It was completely matter-of-fact. Like, oh well, we don’t have time to stop for ice cream, and I don’t get to grow up in a world with a functioning ecosystem.

How do you comfort a child when the science suggests she’s correct? These six tips form a guide to parenting through a slow-motion emergency.

  1. Break the silence
  2. Give your kids the basic facts
  3. Get outdoors
  4. Focus on Feelings
  5. Take action
  6.  Find Hope

When I think about the options available to me as a mother in 2019 trying to cope with a global crisis while also paying my mortgage and packing lunches, I don’t see “hope” as a landing place or a single destination. I see myself facing the facts, taking action, and offering comfort when I feel stronger, and taking breaks, reaching out for support, and looking to others to carry on when I get tired. It’s all a cycle, or in DeMocker’s words, a dance.

GreenExpo was a Great Day to Connect Students and Adults

The booth School Connections shared with Students for a Greener World was busy at the 2019 GreenEXPO on Sunday, October 20. Thank you to all who stopped by and especially to our student volunteers who helped to spread the word about Green Teams and actions everyone can take every day for the environment.

  • Children added leaves to our tree of ideas about how to fight climate change and  made pine cone bird feeders. 
  • We were lucky to have the Newton South Farm as our neighbors.  The high school runs a robust farm program, with enthusiastic students. They were selling beautiful vegetables at the fair.
  • We learned about gardens that we didn’t know about at Lincoln-Eliot and Franklin. 
  • Bike Newton expressed interest in connecting the Newton South and Newton North bike clubs to do activities together.
  • We heard that the Climate Action group at Newton North (who promoted the March 15th March) is planning another climate action in Boston the Friday after Thanksgiving. They are set to connect with Newton South so both schools collaborate.

It was a great day to connect and confirm that together we are building a more sustainable school community in Newton.

GreenExpo-2019

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School Sustainability Working Group

Newton Public Schools have installed a School Sustainability Working Group (SSWG), which seeks to promote and increase sustainable practices within the Newton Public Schools. Partnering with Green Newton School Connections, the SSWG will work to improve sustainable practices in the areas of transportation, energy, recycling, and food services.

The School Sustainability Working Group includes the representation from NPS administration, facilities, educators, school committee members, Whitsons (food service partner), City of Newton Department of Public Works and Department of Sustainability. 

Green Newton School Connections initiative provides an opportunity for families to collaborate with the district in bringing sustainable practices and environmental education directly into the Newton Public Schools.

So far, SSWG has worked on:

The groups goals for 2020 are:

  • Promote recycling efforts at individual Newton schools
  • Identify feasible methods for reduce single-use plastics, especially at school cafeterias
  • Coordinate with Food Service Advisory Group (FSAG) on actionable waste reduction goals
  • Promote more active and sustainable transportation to school
  • Support sustainable use and sourcing of energy, including solar panels

More at NPS > Families > Buildings & Operations > Sustainability

For a full, detailed description of the School Sustainability Working Group, please download this document: SSWG Purpose, Structure, Objectives, and Timeline.

Student Voice: Biking to School

By Arshia Verma (Newton South, Class of 2023), Oct 2019 – 

What is a fun alternative to going to school independently, that is healthy and fun? Biking! Biking to school in Massachusetts is safe according to the state rankings by League of American Bicyclists, since our state is ranked fourth in the U.S. Newton encourages biking by students, and Newton Public Schools (NPS) have shown it by adding bike racks at its schools, which supports healthy habits and climate action. 

The increase of bike racks in 12 out of the 21 schools in Newton has created a lot of buzz, since biking can address climate issues, fix overcrowding buses, and is a healthier option for getting to school. This active transportation has become more supported in students lives due to the increase in bike racks installed in Newton by NPS. Bike Newton – a non-profit 501C3 organization that aims to promote bicycling as a viable method of transportation in Newton – helped paying for bike sheds at the two High Schools.  

A few years ago, Newton embarked on a strategy to make bicycles a desirable option of transportation, be it for commuting or pleasure. Bicycle parking facilities have provided at nodal centers such as major institutions, villages, public buildings, and key transit locations. Now, schools have more options to park their bikes in schools too! Students, of any age, can ride their bike to school and lock them up safely in their designated areas and commute back on their bike when school is over with no hassles. The bike racks creates a feasible way to keep bikes at school and it ensures their safety. 

Newton South High School, one of the two high schools in Newton, has a trial pedestrian path, which is a pathway for students going to school by walking or biking safely. The school is prioritizing students safety and this is another significant reason to travel by bike. According to NPS facilities, “A Phase 1 Trial of safety and circulation improvements was completed at Newton South using flex posts and paint. The trial includes the addition of a separated bike/walk lane from Brandeis Road and also shrinks the entrance and exits with flex posts at the main parent drop-off area to create a more controlled environment. This will be monitored closely and we will look to make further improvements in the future. Principal Stembridge will be handling the communication with staff and students about these improvements.” (Source: Facilities Memo to School Committee – 9-04-19). 

The aim is to ensure the safety and selected spots for bikes and bikers, to decrease emissions released into the air, creating a cleaner atmosphere, and to promote a healthy transportation alternative. 

The bike racks installed in Newton Public Schools have followed the “signs of success” Massachusetts thrives in to follow their criteria for what “biker-friendly” looks like. It’s efficient for parents and students, and makes a better impact in the atmosphere. Give a kid their independence, give them a bike.

How to Decrease Idling around Schools

By Jenn Martin, Newton Safe Routes to School Task Force – 
 
53 new Blue Zone signs (below) went up beginning of October at most Newton elementary schools and  two middle schools. At the bottom of the sign, in large letters on red background it states: “NO IDLING PER STATE LAW“. This is a big improvement from the previous hodgepodge of signs – thank you NPS and DPW! 
 
Schools that have signs: Burr, Cabot, Countryside, Franklin, Horace Mann, Lincoln-Eliot, Mason Rice, Memorial Spaulding, Ward, Williams, Zervas, Oak Hill and Brown.
 
The best way to decrease idling around schools is through parent and student education about the health impact for those in and around cars and the environmental impact of idling. 
 
 
If there are areas that could benefit from additional “No Idling” signs, like bus loops, Mass Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) offers free signs to schools. Each school must order their own signs. Here are instructions on how to do this. Please check with your school’s green team (and principal) first as SRTS presented this information to green teams in the School Connections August meeting, and some green teams are working on having them installed. 
 
Mass DEP also has free pledge cards, windshield decals, bumper stickers, and information bookmarks you can order. Check with your PTO and Principal on the best way to start a campaign. A few ideas of who could help implement one: 1) an already-existing student green team or environmental club; 2) 5th grade student council (if your school has one); 3) or the elected School Council. Student-made posters or banners near the Blue Zone work well as a reminder. 
 
With the new Blue Zone signs, Newton Safe Routes is promoting a series on “No Idling” on their Facebook page, which can be shared widely. 
 

More on car pollution and health

 

Transportation: New Bike Racks at Schools

Over the Summer, new bike racks were installed in 12 Newton schools by the NPS Facilities department.  The schools include: Underwood, Franklin, Horace Mann, Ward, Countryside, Burr, Bowen, Oak Hill, Day, and Bigelow. Thanks to the efforts of Nicole Freedman and Nina Wang with the City in this process. 

At Newton North and South high schools, bike shelters were installed by the City in September. They were paid by Bike Newton, thanks to a grant from People for Bikes and donations from the community. 

Covered bike parking at Newton North High School. Photo by: City of Newton.

Day of Fun and Sustainability for the Whole Family at the GreenEXPO on October 20

School Connections will have a booth at the 2019 GreenEXPO. Come join us!

Original post from Green Newton –  

The GreenEXPO is less than a month away! On Sunday, October 20 from 10am-4:30pm in the Newton Center parking lot, over 40 businesses and community groups focused on sustainability will show how we can make a positive impact on our homes, communities, and the world. Bring family and friends for a day of fun and inspiration!

  • Take a drive in an electric car.
  • Take a spin on the Magic Energy Bike and make your own electricity.
  • See the electric race car.
  • Feel the cool and hot of an induction cooktop.
  • Talk to electric car owners.
  • Find out how to save Thousands of $$$ on an electric car
  • Find great products to help make your life more green.
  • Find out about solar panels for your home.
  • Try a Lime electric bike or an e-scooter.
  • Learn about the ease of a home composting service.
  • Ask your recycling questions.
  • Kids will find plenty to do and learn at the exhibits.
  • Get a free reusable drinking straw and cleaner set when you sign up for a Green Newton membership!

Go to www.greennewton.org/greenexpo2019 to see the list of exhibitors.

Volunteers needed: email [email protected] if you can help for a few hours at the GreenEXPO!

School Committee Candidates will join our 10/10 meeting

Come talk to School Committee candidates about environmental sustainability in Newton Schools. On Thursday, October 10th, candidates will join our regular monthly meeting to share their views and answer questions.

Please RSVP[email protected]

School Committee members are in a position to impact sustainable practices in school facilities – including energy savings, waste management, and promoting a healthy environment for all – and to create opportunities to strengthen the environmental literacy of our students and staff. How can they do it?

Our regular meeting will go from 3:45pm to 4:10pm and candidates will join from  4:10pm to 5:00pm.  Each candidate will have 2 minutes to introduce themselves before we open the discussion for Q&A. 

Confirmed candidates: Emily Prenner, Tamika Olszewski, Margaret Albright, Kathy Shields.

Please RSVP[email protected]

Thursday, October 10, from 3:45-5pm in the third floor arc area of the Newton Free Library.

NOTE: Election Day is Tuesday, Nov 5. Residents can vote for all school committee candidates regardless of ward. Learn more about the School Committee here: www.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee
 

2020 NPS Systemwide Goals include Sustainability

Sustainability is now part of the Newton Public Schools Systemwide Goals for 2020, along with specific goals to improve transportation in the district. 

After three rounds of discussion, the School Committee voted unanimously to approve the FY20 Systemwide Goals which include “Initiate Development of School Sustainability Working Group” and a third Managerial Goal of Transportation on the 9/16/2019 meeting

Read full document here: FY20 Systemwide Goals

Sustainability

The first Managerial Goal for NPS regards School Facilities. It aims to continually update the plan for educational space both short-term and long-term. Five managerial goals were defined for this year, including (on page 10):

Targeted Action Steps Anticipated Outcomes
Initiate Development of a School Sustainability Working Group (SSWG) with the purpose to promote and increase sustainable practices within the Newton Public Schools (NPS) with an initial emphasis on improving waste diversion efforts. • Review SSWG goals and objectives with School Committee.
• Development of website section to highlight our mission and goals.
• Implement textile recycling bins at each school where feasible.

Learn more about the School Sustainability Working Group (SSWG) here

Transportation

Transportation is this year the third Managerial Goal, aiming to strengthen transportation practices to address students’ safety and health, traffic congestion, and impact of district
initiatives and elementary district boundary changes. (page 13)

Targeted Action Steps Anticipated Outcomes
Continue the work on the School Transportation Steering Group (STSG) planning to address policy development and transportation-related student safety and health, traffic congestion, and impact of district initiatives and elementary district boundary changes. Seek feedback on all proposals and communicate to stakeholders. • Submit draft Transportation related policy for School Committee review
• Review and develop plans for pilots (Horace Mann, Cabot and Newton South), and other identified schools
• Optimize district website for communication and parent engagement
• Adjust timeline for bus application process.
• Review and update practices for bus pass checks.
• Review Private School Bus Transportation Practices
• Work with the communication and IT departments to improve communication with families regarding transportation.
• More timely and efficient bus application process.
• Clear policy on bus pass checks at schools including procedure/ramifications for elementary and secondary students without a bus pass.
• Adjust Private School Transportation Practices based on review.
• Communication-enhanced ability for families to receive timely information regarding delays and other issues.

 

School Cases: Zervas encourages families to walk, bike, ride the bus or carpool to school

Original post from Zervas Walks – 

Zervas is celebrating international walk to school day on Friday, October 4.

GETTING TO SCHOOL

WALKWalking is the best way to get to school! Kids love to walk, especially with friends, and it gives them time to wake-up, socialize and expend a little energy so they arrive at school ready to learn. Walking home is a great way to wind down. We encourage all families to walk whenever possible. Zervas is designed as a walkable school.

BIKE – Biking is another great way to get to school! Children in grades K through 3 should bike with an adult. There are bike racks by the front door of the school and at the back playground.  The Newton Police will host bike safety training for Zervas 5th graders again this year.

BUSSchool buses help reduce traffic! If you live more than a mile from school you may be eligible for bus service. Go to the Newton Public Schools transportation website for more information and Zervas bus schedules.

CARParking is extremely limited. Drivers must use the Blue Zone (a “live” drop-off/pick-up zone) or park legally on the street. If you choose to drive, please read this guide and review the map carefully.

SCHOOL ZONE SAFETY

  • Slow down, hang up, and be patient!
  • Kids must always use the crosswalk even with an adult!
  • Never drop off or pick up from a traffic lane or a No Parking or No Standing area – only from the Blue Zone or a legal parking space. There are no parking spaces in front of the Blue Zone.
  • Beethoven Ave is Do Not Enter at drop-off and pick-up headed north. Stay on the east side of the street to allow for emergency vehicles.
  • No turning in driveways — kids are running down the sidewalk that you are crossing!
  • If the Blue Zone is full you cannot wait for spaces to open – it creates dangerous gridlock. Either circle the block or park legally.
  • Don’t back up to exit the Blue Zone – a child might step off the curb behind you!
  • Park legally. Observe all signs.
  • Do not enter the school bus loop or staff parking lot on Beacon St.
  • Never block (or park within 5ft. of, or park in) a private driveway.
  • Never pass a school bus with flashing red lights! It’s the law.

More on the Zervas Walks website