An Eco-School Network (ESN) is composed of parents leading projects at separate elementary schools (K-5 level) within the same school district. Their shared goal is to introduce sustainable practices and raise eco-awareness within the overall daily experience of the children at school.
The ESN model was developed by the Center in 2008 as a structure to train and provide ongoing support and resources for parents in local schools. Sister ESNs now exist in Portland, Beaverton, and West Linn. The Center has established a separate Eco-School Network website, which includes more detailed information and a members-only online space.
The Roles of Network Parents
The ESN structure has five modes of activity for Network parents:
1. First step – take training
Parents in each network share a common skillset and experience from the Center's no-cost, four-session Eco-School Leadership Training. During the training, each parent solidifies a vision for change at her school and gains the tools and strategies to be successful in moving toward that vision. In addition to creating a complete plan for action, core skills gained from the training include recruiting others to your cause, creating an engaged core group, setting and reaching goals, and maintaining project momentum.
2. Initiative at school
The Eco-School parent leads earth-minded projects at her elementary school. Examples:
- Green School certification
- School yard garden
- Earth Day activities
- Durable trays and forks in cafeteria
- Party packs for each classroom
- Student nature club or green team
- Food scrap composting
- Waste-free lunches
- No-Idling campaign
- Walk and bike to school trains
- Book, clothing, and costume exchanges
3. Peer-to-peer network
Each ESN is a closely knit community of parents who share resources and motivate each other. They generally organize face-to-face meetings and field trips, and they share an online members-only portal to ask questions, post events, and access project files.
4. District-wide initiatives
Some ESNs choose to tackle district-wide initiatives, such as the Portland ESN's successful campaign to petition Portland Public Schools to switch from Styrofoam to washable trays in school cafeterias.
5. Annual overnight retreat
Each October an overnight retreat is held for parents from all ESNs. In addition to educational workshops, the retreat provides time for parents to network, spend time in nature, and get re-energized for their efforts in the new school year.
Why We Do This
The Eco-School Network has grown to be a vibrant project of the Center. Within our mission to mobilize citizen leadership to forge a sustainable future, we see no more fertile site for citizen leadership than in the school where children learn daily norms for life that reflect care of Earth. What they learn has an immense ripple effect at home and in the broader community.