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The PC Green

P.C. Goes to D.C.!

In the cold of early February, P.C. went to D.C.! A combined group of middle and upper school Green Club members took the bus to D.C. to work with the Friends Committee on National Legislation. F.C.N.L's "nonpartisan, multi-issue advocacy connects historic Quaker testimonies on peace, equality, simplicity, and truth with peace and social justice issues" ( This faith-based group also works with Quaker schools to engage students directly in our political system, teaching them how citizen lobbying can be an effective communication tool with our elected leaders. After an afternoon discussion of current environmental issues and legislation, we role played to practice our lobbying techniques. Specifically, we would be lobbying on behalf of the "Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill," which is a win-win-win in terms of jobs, money savings, and CO2 reductions.

That evening (a VERY cold, windy evening) we walked to Union Station for some dinner, bonding, and shuffleboard. After another brisk walk back to the William Penn House, a wonderful Quaker "hostel" on Capitol Hill, we practiced our "stories." These "stories" were the students' personal connections, passions, and interests that drive their environmental advocacy, and would be focal points in our lobby sessions.

The next morning, we hustled out early for some final practice before heading to the Russel Senate Building. We met with legislative aids from Senator Toomey's and Senator Casey's offices, and then met with Congressman Fattah himself. The students were incredible! They spoke so articulately, passionately, and maturely about why the environment matters and why the Shaheen-Portman Bill deserves passage. The students were in charge of the entire meeting; us faculty could sit quietly and admire their poise. 

A nice, quiet bus ride back, and the P.C. lobbyists returned with valuable lessons in environmental stewardship, civics, lobbying, and shuffleboard. I hope this marks a new tradition of direct environmental advocacy and action!


Posted by on Thursday February 19, 2015
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Donate your Recyclebank points!

It's a start, but we've got a lonnnnnngggg way to go! Please take some time to help our funding grow. It's easy, free, community-building, and fun. 

Here’s how the program works:

  • Sign up at
  • Earn points on their site—it’s pretty easy and the things you learn about are really useful.
  • Donate your points to our school. We’ll get $1 for every 250 points we raise.  You can find our school at  
Please email me with any questions, and start earning (and donating) points!
Posted by on Friday January 23, 2015 at 01:26PM
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Recycle Bank Green School Grant!

Good tidings in the new year: Penn Charter was selected as a Recycle Bank Green School grant recipient again this year! (You may remember that last year we earned $2400 toward a grant for trash/recycling bins.) This year, we're raising money towards purchasing a high-end reusable Penn Charter water bottle for every student and employee. This will support our end goal of phasing out single-use bottles on campus in the near future. 

It's the same deal as last year: we earn our own grant money by donating Recycle Bank points to our project. Recycle Bank's mission is to increase recycling efforts in Philadelphia, raise awareness about waste and recycling issues, and ultimately help reduce the amount we all put into a landfill.

If you’re not already a member, here’s how the program works:

  • Sign up at
  • Earn points on their site—it’s pretty easy and the things you learn about are really useful.
  • Donate your points to our school. We’ll get $1 for every 250 points we raise.  You can find our school at  
Please email me with any questions, and start earning (and donating) points!


Posted by on Thursday January 8, 2015 at 02:28PM
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Penn Charter Environmental Sustainability Workshop

On a beautiful late-summer Saturday in September, a dedicated crew of Penn Charter community members came together for a full day of intense eco-brainstorming.  Penn Charter hosted the Penn Charter Environmental Sustainability Workshop, a gathering of diverse school community members brought together in the name of environmental sustainability. The group was challenged to brainstorm the sustainability-related goals outlined in the Strategic Vision, which calls for Penn Charter to “create an environmental plan that fosters a culture of environmental stewardship and develops systems and processes to ensure all decisions are evaluated in light of their environmental effect, with consideration of affordable and sustainable alternatives.”

Wynn Calder, a nationally recognized expert in Education for Sustainability within independent schools, facilitated the workshop. Wynn and I worked together to frame the workshop and its goals into a forum that balanced a desire for broad, creative brainstorming and practical, targeted planning. Think “double-rainbow guy” meets “Spock” and that’s the duality for which we strove. The list of participants was quite diverse - representatives from all three divisions, parents, students, administrators, board members, and local partners - and yet was small enough to allow for focused discussion. Almost every participant brought a unique combination of roles, experiences, and perspectives to the group. For example, one participant was an OPC, a PC Parent, an AT thru-hiker, and an environmental lawyer. Combining both small and large group discussions, we spent the day generating ideas and themes to answer the question: What should an environmentally sustainable Penn Charter look like in 5/10/50 years?

I’m happy to report that the event was a terrific success, measured not just in the quantity and quality of the ideas generated, but also in the connectivity of the attendees. United by common interests in environmental issues, education, and community-building, the workshop participants developed a common language that will be helpful as we move forward into the next steps. Those next steps involve finishing the workshop report, assembling appropriate meetings/committees, drafting a plan, and saving the earth. No biggie.
Posted by on Friday October 31, 2014 at 12:25PM
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Green Club Goes Camping!

Campfires, s’mores, fireflies, tents, hikes. The US Green Club is finally scrubbed clean after a weekend of camping in Ralph Stover State Park. Though we were less than 1.5 hours from campus and were “in the wild” for just 26 hours, it felt like we were on a different planet for days, IN A GOOD WAY! We took a hike down to the raging torrent of the Tohickon Creek, which was dramatically flooded due to a huge storm the night before. Though the raging river blasted our fishing dreams, it was awesome (in the truest sense of the word) to behold the power in that river. We also took a hike to High Rocks, one of PA’s premier rock climbing destinations, to scout out possible future climbing trips. And after a vegetarian camp dinner (do NOT knock tofu-dogs until you’ve tried one of ours with the works!), we sat around a campfire eating s’mores and laughing. It was magical. The group bonding and natural beauty inspires us to aim higher and further next year; we hope to undertake a 3-day trip in an even more pristine wilderness. I’ll let the following pictures tell the rest of the story.

Posted by on Thursday May 22, 2014 at 10:14PM
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Fracking! Controversy! Democracy!

     I asked a senior to hold a fat stack of envelopes addressed to various elected officials and asked “do you know what that is?” The senior replied with a confused “huh?”. “That’s democracy!” I exclaimed with gusto.

     I recently finished up a unit investigating the process, politics, and impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, in an upperclassmen elective called “The Science Behind It.” I team-taught this course with colleagues Beth Glascott and Corey Kilbane, who presented units on tsunamis and lunar-landing simulations, respectively. In the fracking unit, we read articles, watched relevant video clips, and watched Gasland II, a documentary focused on the potential environmental and health impacts of this controversial method of natural gas extraction. We used what we learned from these materials to discuss this extraordinarily complex environmental, economic, social, health, and political issue (especially in Pennsylvania!).

     Fracking is a method of extracting natural gas by 1) drilling thousands of feet down, 2) drilling thousands of feet horizontally, and 3) pumping a mix of chemicals and water into a shale formation (the Marcellus Shale around here) under high pressure to fracture the shale. The natural gas stored in these shale deposits then flows in the well pipes and up to the “frack pad,” where it is collected and trucked away. Here’s a good video illustrating the process.

     The controversy exists in the typical Economy vs. the Environment trade-off. The Marcellus Shale and fracking can provide a huge supply of domestic natural gas, a fuel that is cleaner than oil and gasoline when burned. But the fracking extraction process has some really troubling environmental consequences: it has been linked to awful ground-water pollution, earthquakes, accidental methane (a big-time greenhouse gas) release, chemical spills, leaky retainment ponds (of the toxic fracking fluid), damage to rural roads and community infrastructure, and significant air pollution, just to name some of the potential threats.

     My goal in developing this unit was threefold: 1) educate the students, 2) have the students educate the school community, and then 3) have the students draw their own conclusions and express their opinions to elected officials. To that end, these well-informed students created posters for our hallway and drafted personal letters, citing environmental and economic factors, to two elected officials. I must admit, I was really excited and proud to observe students directly engaging democracy and applying their knowledge to a current, real, local, and challenging issue. What more could a teacher ask for?

    If you’d like to know more about fracking, here are some links:

Posted by on Saturday May 10, 2014
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Quaker Environmentalists Go to D.C. - FEEN 2014

Last week, I was delighted to attend the annual Friends Environmental Educators Network (FEEN) conference in D.C. with my colleagues Joel Eckel (2nd grade) and Steven Wade (LS Science). FEEN was the first peer network group established through the Friends Council on Education and has been meeting annually for over 15 years to discuss environmental stewardship and sustainability issues in Friends schools. This was my fourth year attending, so even beyond the inspirational and educational work we accomplished, it was just great to see old friends from Quaker schools!

     This year FEEN was focused on connecting grassroots efforts to global issues, and it was phenomenal. We began with a presentation/discussion with Dr. Terry Cooke - an expert in international foreign, economic, and environmental policy, Wilson Center Scholar, husband of Overseer Grace Cooke, and parent of Phil (OPC '11) and Todd (OPC '08). Click here for his fascinating bio on the Wilson Center (where Mr. Cooke is a current Fellow) website. Dr. Cooke's talk presented the challenges and opportunities in addressing domestic environmental policy/action in the context of a rapidly developing Chinese economy. Dr. Cooke drew on his vast understanding of history, economics, politics, and environmental issues to make the case that we must understand China's cultural, political, and economic perspectives if we are to make any real progress in global environmental challenges. 

     We also spent a morning at the Friends Council on National Legislation, a Quaker organization whose "policy positions and ... approach to lobbying are grounded in Quaker principles of simplicity, peace, integrity, compassion and equality." This is a truly amazing organization, and I encourage you to visit their site and learn more (click here)! We heard from teachers at Carolina Friends School and Friends School Haverford about bringing students to FCNL to train in effective lobbying techniques. The student groups (both MS and US) then applied their knowledge and skills by actively lobbying elected officials on issues of extreme importance to their communities. They presented an inspiring story, and I hope to find avenues to pursue such Quaker and civic practices at Penn Charter. After getting all riled up about environmental issues, the Pennsylvania teachers amongst us went to both Senator Casey's and Senator Toomey's offices to lobby against the XL Keystone Pipeline and for the bipartisan Sheehan-Portman Energy Efficiency bill. We were grateful for this wonderful opportunity and empowered by the direct engagement with democracy. I was so inspired, in fact, that I brought the lobbying spirit back to a group of PC seniors studying "fracking." Look for the imminent post about our efforts!

     Complicated issues demand committed communities, and the FEEN conference was affirming, connective, inspirational, and educational for the community of environmental educators present. I am already looking forward to next year's meeting! 

Posted by on Thursday May 8, 2014 at 12:17PM
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Tags: FEEN, lobbying, Quaker

E-Waste Event a Big Success!

As our final celebration of Earth Day/Week, the US Green Club ran the 5th annual E-Waste Drive on Sunday 4/27! The beautiful weather helped make it a wonderful day. Though I won’t have the official totals for a little while, I’m pretty sure this electronics recycling drive was out most successful in terms of the number of PC families who participated. Thanks to everyone who came out! We collected a HUGE pile of electronics, batteries, and CFL light bulbs.

     For those of you interested, we worked with E-Force Compliance, a Philadelphia recycling company who has been a leader in environmentally-friendly electrical and industrial recycling for decades. They have every certification an e-waste handler can get.

Recycling electronics keeps harmful or toxic materials out of landfills and gets more life out of the raw materials found in these items. As you go through the year, put your e-waste aside so that you can dispose of them responsibly. And remember, of the “reduce-reuse-recycle” mantra, the first two are the best! So consider whether you really need (or even want) that gadget before you buy it, and consider donating still-useful items to one of many services that can use them. Here is a link to a good list of recycling resources in Philadelphia.

Posted by on Monday April 28, 2014 at 10:08AM
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Earth Day Highlights and Pictures!

Happy Earth Day to everyone! I hope you were able to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather, and I hope you were able to give back even just a little something to the earth too. I’m delighted to report that there is a lot going on at Penn Charter this week to celebrate Earth Day/Week! Here are some highlights and pictures from today...

  • The US Green Club hosted a screening of No Impact Man, a poignant, funny, and thought-provoking documentary about a family trying to go zero-impact for a Manhattan. Students and faculty alike agreed it was an excellent movie in general, not just for a Green Club. Put it on your Netflix queue (and there’s a “clean language” version as well)!

  • The LS classes are going on hikes in the Wissahickon this week.

  • The 1st grade is collecting an assortment of materials to “upcycle” through their TerraCycle campaigns. (a future blog posting will be devoted to this awesome project).

  • The Green Club practiced setting up tents to prepare for our camping trip in May.
  • The pre-K looked for signs of spring in Chigwell today (very, very cute!).

  • The US Green Club is leading a hike through the Wissahickon for all interested students, faculty, and families on Friday. Meet in the front loop at 2:40.

  • The US Green Club is hosting it’s annual E-Waste Drive on Sunday. From 10:00am - 2:00pm, bring your e-waste to the MS lot and rest assured that your electronics will be recycled/disposed of responsibly.

Hope you all have a terrific week!

Posted by on Tuesday April 22, 2014 at 10:07PM
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Jamie Cloud and Education for Sustainability (EfS)

Last week I went to the inaugural meeting of the PAISBOA Sustainability Affinity Group. (PAISBOA is an association of 180 independent schools that shares best practices and makes collective purchases, and of which Penn Charter is an active member.) This new Sustainability Affinity Group will bring teachers, administrators, and facilities managers together to discuss environmental stewardship, education, and opportunities. I know that words like “consortium” and “affinity” and “collective purchases” don’t inspire much enthusiasm, but our first meeting was awesome. After some chatter about how the group could be organized, progressive, and useful, we got to the main event...

Jamie Cloud spoke to the group about Education for Sustainability (EfS). Jamie is the Director of the Cloud Institute, one of the world’s foremost authorities on sustainability curriculum, and is a master of articulating the excitement, pedagogy, methods, creativity, and neuroscience bubbling around sustainability education these days. She's been one of the visionaries in this movement for decades now. Some of the more interesting/helpful (to me) notes that I took:

  • David Rock’s SCARF brain-based model for collaborating and influencing people. This model helps us understand how to encourage people to move “toward” (as opposed to "away" from) an issue/challenge by honoring their hard-wired reactions to certain intellectual stimuli. Want to rally a community behind a challenge and get community buy-in around environmental issues? Find ways to keep them in a "toward" state. (Secret: Rock's model is NOT specific to environmental issues, so you may want to visit the link and use the SCARF model at the dinner table!).

  • There is no “away”! The first law of thermodynamics relates to the conservation of energy (and matter). Since matter and energy can’t be destroyed, then you can’t really throw something “away.” There is no “away”!

  • Borrow from the pedagogical model of “backward design.” Think about the world that we would like in the future, then design our education systems to get there!

It was a fantastic discussion and I hope to engage the Cloud Institute to help PC faculty design and implement some Education for Sustainability in the future. 

Posted by on Monday April 21, 2014 at 01:36PM
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Penn Charter

A Friends School for Girls and Boys, Pre-K to 12

3000 West School House Lane Philadelphia, PA 19144 215.844.3460
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