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Green Umbrella's Schoolyards Summit Shines a Light on Sustainability Education

While each CPS school may sport different colors, the District is committed to turning all building campuses green!

On June 5, 2024, Green Umbrella hosted its Greater Cincinnati Regional Schoolyards Summit at Aiken New Tech High School, bringing together CPS leaders, educators, environmental advocates, city officials and key Green Umbrella partners. This year's summit opened with a keynote address featuring notable speakers including Green Umbrella Executive Director Ryan Mooney Bullock, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) Board President Eve Bolton, Cincinnati Director of the Office of Environment & Sustainability Ollie Kroner, Cincinnati City Councilmember Meeka Owens, CPS Chief Operations Officer Chris Burkhart, Green Schoolyards Manager Cynthia Walters with a special excerpt from Walnut Hills High School Student Audrey Symon. 

Student Holding GoardVendors filled the halls showcasing their green products and services. Aiken High School students played a pivotal role in the event, serving coffee through their "Awaken at Aiken" project, adding a touch of hospitality and showcasing the school's commitment to hands-on learning.

The keynote address set an inspiring tone for the day, highlighting the importance of sustainability and community engagement in education. Board President Bolton emphasized the District's history and commitment to integrating green practices into the curriculum, while Ollie Kroner discussed the city's ongoing efforts to promote sustainability. Councilmember Owens and Cynthia Walters underscored the critical role of community partnerships in driving environmental initiatives.

Following the keynote address, attendees participated in various breakout sessions tailored to their interests. Topics included district sustainability and the role of facilities and maintenance in creating green schoolyards, led by CPS officials; removing barriers and building paths to green education, facilitated by CPS program managers; collaboration between local food businesses, school gardens and dining services, presented by CPS Student Dining Services; and addressing equity in green schoolyards through partnerships, led by representatives from Councilmember Owens' office and the Department of Environment & Sustainability.

Throughout the day, participants had ample opportunities to network and visit vendor booths, exploring products and services related to sustainability in education. A panel on garden-based learning, moderated by the Civic Garden Center, provided valuable insights into the educational benefits of integrating gardens into school curricula.

A farm-to-school lunch, hosted by CPS Students Dining Services, showcased the successful implementation of local, sustainable food practices. This meal highlighted the practical applications of the day's discussions and the direct impact on students' dining experiences.

In the afternoon, attendees rotated through sessions focusing on green industry career pathways, led by Alan Wight from the University of Cincinnati; the role of policy in driving change for sustainable schoolyards, presented by Isacc Smitherman, a CPS graduate and intern for Councilmember Owens; and navigating joint funding for green schoolyards, hosted by Savannah Sullivan, Senior Director of Programs & Climate Strategy at Green Umbrella.

The summit concluded with student-led tours of Aiken High School's community garden. These tours provided a firsthand look at the food safety measures implemented by students and the integration of farm produce into CPS, illustrating the tangible benefits of green schoolyard initiatives.

Green Umbrella's Greater Cincinnati Regional Schoolyards Summit successfully brought together a community dedicated to fostering a greener future. The event's diverse range of speakers, engaging breakout sessions and active student participation underscored the collective effort required to advance sustainability education.