Sustainable Systems Seminar Series with Peter Donaldson
Recommended for grades 6-12 in Civics, History, Economics, Business, Marketing, Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science, Careers and Leadership.
All seminars are lively, inquiry-based, and interactive, with rich slide presentations that can be shared with the teaching team.
Fees are determined on a sliding scale depending on the level of partnership and shared cost through grants and sponsorships. The base rate is $150/Seminar or $500 for a day, up to 5 sections.
GUEST SEMINAR SERIES
Flexible Seminar Formats
Single period - single class seminar: Up to five sections a day.
Block period - combined class seminar: 2-3 classes attend together in a double classroom, lecture hall or library for an extended learning experience.
Two part seminar: An extended version of the seminar over two days. The first day immerses the students in big systems inquiries and the second day follows with systems solutions. It’s ideal to schedule 3-5 days of student research between each seminar.
Assembly combination: Each of the classroom seminar topics can also be offered in combination with our Sustainability Assembly Program.
A lively, interactive foundation on systems thinking with a focus on the biggest possible systems to think about, the integration of ecological, economic and equity outcomes past, present and future. Students will gain a personalized understanding of what a sustainable future looks like based on the world-wide accepted definition: “meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.” The seminar concludes with a call to action and a list of Student Impact Project Ideas.
CLIMATE SCIENCE - CLIMATE SOLUTIONS
Interactive, honest and inspiring, this introduction to climate change focuses on what we can do at home, at school and in collaboration with our city government. Climate change is a pretty big challenge. We will have to adapt, even as we are figuring out the most effective ways to draw down carbon from the atmosphere. Economists suggest that solving the climate challenge is a $23 trillion business opportunity. Let’s get going. But where is the best place to start? Who is already working on it? And how would we be able to demonstrate that we are making progress? The seminar concludes with a call to action and a list of Student Impact Project Ideas.
THE 2050 THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
This brain-teaser is an exercise in future scenario mapping. Assuming the goal is a healthy, vibrant, sustainable future and that we can make significant progress right here in our bioregion by the time students reach the age that most of their teachers are now, what can we learn from the past and what are the most promising trends into the future? Students practice systems thinking by analyzing 3-4 plausible scenarios for the year 2050, determining the most desirable combination of potential forecasts and then backcasting to identify the smartest policy steps we can implement today. The seminar concludes with a call to action and a list of Student Impact Project Ideas.
THE HISTORY OF OUR FUTURE - PROTOTYPES AND TIPPING POINTS
Students draw an elaborate timeline of prototypes and tipping points unpacking our assumptions about sustainable systems from the time of our great grandparents to the time of our great grandchildren. Through compelling examples, everyday props and facilitated discussion, students gain insights into the patterns of our past and project the most desirable scenarios into the future. The seminar concludes with a call to action and a list of Student Impact Project Ideas.
WATER SYSTEMS THINKING
Critical concepts explored in this seminar include watershed geography, groundwater, surface runoff, water cycle, the difference between weather and climate, and the systemic impacts of a warming atmosphere including, loss of snowpack, water supply challenges, flooding, droughts and forest fires. Students puzzle over the integrated water systems of Singapore and the international space station, and apply these principles to design a net zero water home or school. The seminar concludes with a call to action and a list of Student Impact Project Ideas.
STORMWATER POLLUTION SOLUTIONS
A playful, poignant introduction to the biggest challenge facing our Puget Sound Bioregion. The seminar integrates four frameworks that support students in using primary source materials to drive inquiry learning and community problem solving: (1) systems thinking, (2) stormwater pollution, (3) stormwater solutions and (4) stewardship actions. Students gain an understanding of the legal obligation their city has to reduce polluted stormwater runoff in their jurisdiction. No one entity can do this alone. It’s a community challenge requiring a systems approach. The seminar concludes with a call to action and a list of Student Impact Project Ideas.
GREEN BUILDING SYSTEMS
The Pacific Northwest leads the world in proving the case for green buildings. We are not only constructing them, we are designing the performance criteria, and driving a new industrial revolution in materials and engineering. Students will gain an understanding of the range of green building systems including current city green building codes, Built Green, LEED, the Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol and the Living Building Challenge. The seminar employs a case study approach using the Bullitt Center, the greenest commercial office building on the planet, right here in Seattle. TThe seminar concludes with a call to action and a list of Student Impact Project Ideas.
SOLAR ENERGY AND ECONOMICS
Peter Donaldson teams up with special guest Edwin Wanji. Ever since Edwin’s company, Sphere Solar Energy, installed solar panels on Peter’s house, the two have been building a student team of Solar Power Ambassadors to educate everyone on the moral, technical and financial case for rapidly shifting to solar. This seminar covers Edwin’s early years growing up in Kenya, his personal and professional career path, the physics of solar power, planning a solar installation, neter meeting with the grid, new battery storage technology, and the economic incentives that are only getting better as the price of solar panels continues to drop. We explore the question: “What are the local and global implications of going solar from your house, to your city, to a mud hut in Kenya? The seminar concludes with a call to action and a list of Student Impact Project Ideas.
ZERO WASTE AND THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY
The City of Seattle has established a policy framework for eliminating the concept of garbage from our lives. If Nature doesn’t waste a single resource, cycling every molecule, one way or another, it just seems inefficient not to follow nature’s example. Seattle defines “Zero Waste” as a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Our current economic model is linear, assuming that extracting, manufacturing, distributing, marketing, consuming, and then throwing away what's broken or used is the only way to conduct human affairs. Here’s the question at the heart of the Zero Waste Seminar: “Where do you start when you want to build a circular economy? The seminar concludes with a call to action and a list of Student Impact Project Ideas.
SALMON SCIENCE AND GREAT WRITING
Students interact with a range of writing genres to expand their own skill in structure, audience, word choice and sentence fluency. With Salmon as the keystone species for the health of the bioregion that we also depend on, there is no shortage of great writers and great writing on the topic. The seminar will be anchored in the cultural voice and indigenous science of local tribes with additional writing samples to include poetry, prose, journalism and informational. The seminar concludes with a call to action and a list of Student Impact Project Ideas.