Thursday, December 27, 2007

Private college nation's first carbon-neutral campus

* College of the Atlantic has become the nation's first "carbon-neutral" campus
* The private college has 300 students and only one major -- human ecology
* They have offset emissions of 2,488 tons over the past 15 months
* The college is buying carbon offsets through The Climate Trust of Oregon

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another Great TED Talk

Don't miss this 16 minute slideshow by Frans Lanting: A lyrical view of life on Earth.
Nature photographer Frans Lanting narrates The LIFE Project, a collection that tells the story of how our planet evolved.

Sustainable Architecture in Chicago

Don't miss this exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago: open through January 7, 2007

Learn about works in progress in the Chicago area, which emphasize creative approaches that are not only environmentally sound but also aesthetically significant.
This exhibition features environmentally-responsible and ethical approaches to land use, materials, and energy-efficient practices with specific examples of how such ideas are being applied locally.

One of the really interesting projects done by Studio Gang Architects is the "Bird Nest" building at the Ford Environmental Center in Calumet, IL. Using salvaged steel, a basket like mesh on the outside of the building prevents migrating birds from flying into the large glass windows. Almost 100 million birds die annually by crashing into glass. This environmentally sound design includes geothermal heat pumps, earth tubes, a bio mass boiler, wind turbines, and water collection systems.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Juicy Geography's Google Earth Blog

I think we can all get ideas on how to use Google Earth from the lessons at Juicy Geography I personally liked the lesson on "Locating a Wind Farm" which makes use of Google Earth to identify wind energy sites. Part two suggests that students can make use of a wide variety of accessible online data to choose a site for a wind farm. The task includes suggested locations in high resolution detail and a 3D model that can be used to build a virtual wind farm.

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard is a 20 minute movie teaching about the connections between many environmental and social issues. It promotes the idea of sustainable production and consumption. Keep up with activist efforts at the The Story of Stuff Blog.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Activist Idea

These Come from Trees blog is hoping to save a couple hundred thousand trees per year. Did you know:
Quick Facts about "These Come From Trees"
* Testing shows a "These Come From Trees" sticker on a paper towel dispenser reduces paper towel consumption by ~15%
* A typical fast food restaurant with two bathrooms can use up to 2000 pounds of paper towels a year
* The average coffee shop uses 1000 pounds of paper towels a year
* A single tree produces around 100 pounds of paper
* A single "These Come From Trees" sticker can save around a tree's worth of paper, every year
* Roughly 50,000 fast food restaurants in the US
* 200,00 gas stations in the US
* 14,000 McDonalds' in the US
* There are 10,000 Starbucks in the US
Seems like a simple, but effective activist idea.

Why Can't We Grow New Energy?

If you don't know about TED talks you should. They are usually quite interesting and informative. I've been doing some research for my new Integrated Global Studies School and I ran across this one which seems to intersect with growing the algae for energy.

Juan Enriquez presents the lecture,"Why Can't We Grow New Energy?". He wrote one of my favorite recent books, As the Future Catches You, which I've been especially recommending to all young adults.

Juan Enriquez offers a glimpse of some ground-breaking research to explore the potential of bioenergy. Our current energy sources -- coal, oil, gas -- are ultimately derived from ancient plants -- they're "concentrated sunlight." He asks, Can we learn from that process and accelerate it? Can we get to the point where we grow our own energy as efficiently as we grow wheat?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Focus the Nation

Focus the Nation is coordinating teams of faculty and students at over a thousand colleges, universities and K-12 schools in the United States, to collaboratively engage in a nationwide, interdisciplinary discussion about “Global Warming Solutions for America”.

On January 31, 2008, a national symposia will be held simultaneously at over a thousand campuses, places of worship, businesses, and other venues across the country. On that day, each Focus the Nation team will invite local, state and federal political leaders to come to campus and participate in a non-partisan, round-table discussion of global warming solutions. US Senators and members of congress, state representatives, mayors and city councilors, all will be receiving dozens of invitations to speak about global warming, from over a thousand institutions nation-wide.

Every campus will also vote on their top five national priorities for global warming action, producing a campus-endorsed policy agenda for the 2008 elections. This is an opportunity to catalyze the country, and indeed, “Focus the Nation” around a non-partisan, reasoned, campus-lead discussion of this critical 21st century issue.

Focus the Nation will stream a free, live, interactive webcast called The
2% SOLUTION. Join Stanford University climate scientist, Stephen Schneider, sustainability expert Hunter Lovins and green jobs pioneer Van Jones and youth climate leaders, for a discussion of global warming solutions. Audiences can weigh in with cell phone voting. The goal is 10,000 screenings—and a change in the course of history. Why the title? To hold global warming to the low end of 3-4 degrees F will require cuts in global warming pollution in the developed countries by more than 80% below current levels by 2050. Put another way, we need to cut roughly 2% a year for the next forty years.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Spill Your Green Beans is a video sharing website and a powerful aggregator of green-related media content for anyone and everyone to access on-line. The diverse community of users (people, organizations, and companies) can upload video content, connect with each other to share media, and find the most relevant green-related video content from and the rest of the web.


Thursday, November 29, 2007


How do ideas spread? How do powerful ideas change attitudes? Take a look at the TED clearinghouse which offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. In 1984 it began as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). Almost 150 talks from their archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted. Click on this sample of themes inspired by nature. View the video of David Keith's surprising ideas on climate change.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Did You Know?

This June 2007 video is an official update to "Shift Happens" created by Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod. It includes new and updated statistics, thought-provoking questions and a
different design. For more information, and/or to join the conversation, please visit

Friday, November 9, 2007

Dot Earth Blog

Our Science librarian at Northfield, Deborah Lazar recently found this excellent resource for teachers and students.
Reporter Andrew C. Revkin's blog on Climate Change helps us to face the reality that by 2050 or so, the world population is expected to reach nine billion. Those billions will be seeking food, water and other resources on a planet where, scientists say, humans are already shaping climate and the web of life. In Dot Earth, Revkin examines efforts to balance human affairs with the planet’s limits. "Supported in part by a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Mr. Revkin tracks relevant news from suburbia to Siberia, and conducts an interactive exploration of trends and ideas with readers and experts." Dot Earth also includes a "blogroll" to other blogs dealing with news, earth and environmental science, poverty, development & design, media & environment, sustainability, analysis & policy, freemarket advocates, industry views, and youth activism. Quite a gold mine. Thanks, Deborah.

The Energy Challenge

Articles in this New York Times series examine the ways in which the world is, and is not, moving toward a more energy efficient, environmentally benign future. Mulitmedia clips and useful weblinks are included: The Home Energy Saver; Climate Information From Grist Magazine; BP's Carbon Footprint Calculator.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

This video began as a brainstorming exercise, thinking about how students learn, what they need to learn for their future, and how our current educational system fits in. Using Google Docs to brainstorm ideas, Professor Michael Wesch’s cultural anthropology students at Kansas State University made hundreds of edits in the course of a week and students submitted answers to a class survey.

At first glance this video might seem to be a critique about too much time spent online. However, the subtext of the film sends the message that our traditional classrooms (“Teacher as Sage-on-the-Stage” format) are outdated. We need to pay attention to how students learn in the 21st Century. In just 3 weeks since this was posted on YouTube there have been 700,000 viewings, so it appears that this is indeed happening.

The Power of Web 2.0 Tools

Wanted to share this YouTube video recommended by David Warlick which has a humorous take on tech support.

Warlick educates teachers and librarians about literacy in the 21st century which is being redefined due to the nature of information itself. He says, "It is changing in what it looks like, where we find it, what we look at to view it, what we can do with it, and how we communicate it."

As a result of learning with David Warlick yesterday, I learned that along with librarians providing those feeds, we should also be teaching students to control their own information worlds by selecting relevant RSS feeds for their research needs. This will bring information automatically to them.

With blogs, podcasts, wikis, and RSS, we can connect, share, respond, and grow knowledge anytime, anywhere. Librarians know that access to information is changing and David is a master teacher in breaking it down for us. He patiently demonstrates new ways to view it, what we can do with it, and how we can communicate these changes to our peers and to our students. See links to a variety of resources about RSS.

As David says, “we train the information to come to us”. He refers to his bookmarks as his “personal digital library”. I also learned about bringing someone else’s tags in as an RSS feed. He demonstrated Netvibes as a way to cluster your aggregators into one web page to build a “personal learning network”.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Power Shift 2007

At the end of next week the first national youth summit devoted to the climate crisis will take place in Washington D. C. Their goal is to respond to the challenges of the 21st Century with a vision to achieve energy independence. At this conference, young adults are focused on establishing a national voice and send a message to 2008 U.S. Presidential candidates and Congress to take global warming seriously.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It

Environmentmentalist Paul Hawken's new book is on my list of purchases to support the IGSS. It gives us an intriguing history of our perception of nature and human rights and assesses the roles of indigenous cultures play in the human quest for ecological responsibility. Hawken believes that we are living in a time of unprecedented activism working toward ecological sustainability and social justice.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

This American Life - Mapping

According to cartographer Denis Wood, "we live in the Age of Maps: more than 99.9 percent of all the maps that have ever existed have been made in this century". Host Ira Glass interviews Wood who tells us how maps are not impartial reference objects, but instruments of communication, persuasion, and power. Every map is a world seen through a different lens.

I plan on purchasing Wood's book, The Power of Maps for the IGSS. It should work as a resource for the questions "Where am I?"

Judy Gressel, librarian

Monday, October 22, 2007

Visions of Concern

Tara Donovan, Maya Lin, David Opdyke and Margaret Wertheim will explore environmental concerns through installation, sculpture, illustration and fiber works in conjunction with the Chicago Humanities Festival. "Visions of Concern" will be shown at the David Weinberg Collection.

One of the themes of this year's festival is the "Climate of Concern". The festival will feature over 120 programs examining global environmental and ecological disruption, one of the most important long-term issue facing civilization today. View all programs which run October 27 - November 11, 2007.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Digital Fluency

I like the Illinois Math and Science Academy's (IMSA) Digital Fluency Model.
Our job as librarians increasingly involves teaching students how digital information is different from print information and then giving them the skills to use a variety of tools for finding digital information,and knowing how to operate in a digital information environment. Our 2st Century researchers are truly "hunters and gatherers" and not note-takers in the traditional sense. The important thing for us as teachers is to ask the right kinds of questions (and teach them to ask questions) to focus their research.

Judy Gressel

Personal Geographies and other Maps of the Imagination

I am ordering a new book called You Are Here : Personal Geographies and other Maps of the Imagination by Katharine Harmon. You can explore it in Google Books--

Tom Lau, our new art teacher, has a wonderful lesson on Identity Mapping using examples in Harmon's book.
His questions:
Where do I fit in the landscape?
Where shall I go?
What values will I pack for the trip?
What culture of knowledge allows me to know what I know?

Harmon says, " The coded visual language of maps is one we all know, but in making maps of our world we each have our own dialect." Further, Stephen S. Hall, author of Mapping the Next Millennium (1992)says, "It is hard to look at a map without sensing, in our bones, private hopes and secret fears about change."

After hearing Mr. Lau's wonderful lesson, I could imagine students wanting to build an elective on Mapping, which could include not only geography and orienteering, but all kinds of mapping, such as genetic mapping. Maps are a way to show our belief in exploration and how humans relate to the planet --mapping is usually a way that we "make do" with incomplete information as we make choices and decisions. Hall, says Perhaps the most important things maps show is "all the things we still do not know".

Judy Gressel

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Artivist Film Festival

The 2007 Artivist Film Festival will be held in three cities: London, Lisbon and Hollywood.

"Artivist" is the first international film festival dedicated to addressing Human Rights, Children's Advocacy, Environmental Preservation, and Animal Rights. Their mission is to strengthen the voice of activist artists and raising public awareness for social global causes.

Each year, more than 70 Producers, Associate Producers, and Assistants volunteer their valuable time to bring the Annual Artivist Film Festival and The Artivist Awards to reality by "merging art and activism for global consciousness". In the past 3 years, Artivist has screened more than 200 international activist films from 35 countries.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Our Climate Matters

Be sure to check the schedule of the Four-day Symposium on Global Warming October 18-21, 2007 at the Glenview Park Center. Open to the public and admission is free.

Think Global, Map Local!

Just thought I'd just jump right in and start exploring some resources more publicly to give students and parents a chance to get a better idea about IGSS. I found this resource while search for visual mapping resources for one of our art teachers. It's called Green Map System which promotes inclusive participation in sustainable community development around the world, using mapmaking.

Local Green Mapmakers are able to create perspective-changing community ‘portraits’ which act as comprehensive inventories for decision-making and as practical guides for residents and tourists. The mapmaking teams use local knowledge and leadership to chart green living, ecological, social and cultural resources. The mapmaking process promises to have some tangible benefits which include spreading the word about local initiatives and expanding the demand for healthier greener choices.

We may want to give this a trial! Judy Gressel

New Trier Organic Garden