Sustainability and Garden Forum

Check back for audio recordings and transcripts of the sessions soon.  Links to resources are below.

Thanks for your interest in our annual DPS Sustainability and Garden Forum. As a precursor to Earth Day, this year’s forum was five evenings of one-hour, virtual, interactive sessions. The forum connects educators, students and families with local experts and community partners who bring standards-based curriculum into classrooms and gardens to connect with nature and lead more sustainable lives.

This year’s forum features: DIY Home Energy and Waste Audits, Solar Oven Workshop, a Cooking in the Classroom demonstration, curriculum and support for integrating conservation, gardens and more into classrooms. Get inspired and connect with community partners, student sustainability clubs, resources, and opportunities for your students! The entire DPS community and beyond are welcome to join, connect and grow community.

DPS Sustainability Logo Circle
photo credit Vincent Ledvina and Unsplash
photo credit Vincent Ledvina and Unsplash
Denver Recycles Logo
Kids Garden Parade

Monday, April 12th – Welcome and Pecha Kuchas

Pecha kuchas are 5 minute fast-paced presentations designed to introduce a topic and organization before we dig into our longer workshops in the coming sessions.

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Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 917 4286 7263   Passcode: 9rNeTd

Nature-deficit disorder

Youth are spending less time outside today than ever before. This pecha kucha focuses on the impact of nature-deficit disorder on our children and the implications for education and mental health. Eric Punkay is a member of DPS’s Sustainability Team where he works on resource consumption and bringing sustainability education to our students. He has a background in conservation biology, education and energy efficiency.

Ecophyschology – Caring for the Environment and your mental health

An introduction to the field of Ecopsychology will provide you with some basic tools to cope with eco-anxiety, eco-depression, etc., based on research from the Northern Rivers Region of Australia.  Izzy Sofio is a recent graduate from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Environmental Studies program. She is a passionate environmentalist and works at Peak Facilitation Group.


If we only teach about sustainability instead of teaching through it, we will remain trapped in a cycle of abstract content delivery that produces young adults who are incapable of the paradigm shifts needed to rescue our species and world. Permaculture design offers a methodology to teach any subject in a way that models adaptive problem-solving based on regenerative natural patterns.  Creighton Hofeditz is passionate about place-based education, and after five years at Denver Montessori Junior High School, he is a founding member of the American Indian Academy of Denver, teaching Indigenized STEAM; he also leads yearly permaculture design classes for adults.

Recycling in Denver:

We will cover best practices and general knowledge about the overall recycling and composting process within the city of Denver and what you can do at your specific school to reduce waste responsibly.  Brad Paterson is a program administrator with the city of Denver. He works closely with DPS Sustainability to provide hauling services to all of DPS. He provides waste diversion education and solutions for DPS staff, students, and facilities. If you have a question about composting or recycling, he can answer it!

Gardens in Denver Public Schools

An overview of gardens and programming across the district.  Learn about our community partnerships, curriculum and other resources.  Make the most of your school’s garden and outdoor spaces.  Chris Woodburn is passionate about gardening in the Front Range and connecting youth with food access and connections to the natural world.  He is the garden contact for Denver Public Schools.

Big Green Gardens

Learn about Big Green’s wonderful opportunities for our schools.  From hands-on garden lessons integrating with learning standards to programming for students and families learning virtually, see how Big Green supports our schools and greater community.

Take Action on the Climate Crisis

This pecha kucha will contextualize the Climate Crisis and provide a roadmap for acting on climate while considering different levels of influence.  Adam West is part of the Sustainability Team at DPS, where he promotes sustainable built environments. He has a background in green building consulting with a BA in Environmental Studies and an MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Denver Urban Gardens

Denver Urban Gardens’ school based community garden sites provide growing opportunities for our schools and community members.  Check out their video library and grow your green thumb while integrating garden into every subject and grade level while meeting state standards.

Youth Sustainability Board

Meet the students in DPS making a difference through sustainability initiatives in Denver and beyond.  Learn how to take your student club to the next level.

Tuesday, April 13th 4:55-6:00 pm

Sustainability/Environmental Justice Education in the Classroom 5:00-5:30

Explore ways to bring sustainability and environmental justice into your classroom. This session will focus on available programs and curricular resources that can be integrated into classes and meet education standards. There will be time set aside to build connections and brainstorm ideas.

Big Green – Garden Programs and Resources 5:30-6:00

Big Green provides ready-to-use Learning Gardens for schools to engage students with nature connections, entrepreneurialism, and food justice.

Ready, Set, Grow is designed to support the integration of Learning Gardens and food literacy programming. RSG! links garden-based learning lessons to classroom-based learning extensions that target Next Generation Science, National Health Education, and Common Core English/Language arts standards and targets. The activities are hands-on, engaging, and involve learning outcomes that encourage students to think deeply about food, health, and acting to support wellness for themselves, their families, schools and the larger community.

Real Food Lab curriculum and practicum program designed to bring participants into the world of socially responsible entrepreneurship through the lens of food. Through a variety of learning experiences, participants will come to understand many components of how entrepreneurial ventures form and sustain in ways that are both financially viable and socially responsible. Throughout the program, participants will also learn to identify and build their own assets in preparation for becoming college and career ready. This includes both knowledge and skills that are critical for success in post-secondary educational pathways and the world of work. In the Real Food Lab experience, Big Green brings students, families, schools, and communities together to learn and work toward a better food future.

Big Green Logo
Slow Food Denver Logo
Photo Credit Aliona Gumeniuk and Unsplash
Photo Credit Aliona Gumeniuk and Unsplash
Denver Urban Gardens Logo

Wednesday, April 14th 4:55-6:00 pm

Slow Food Denver – Lil’ Sprouts Cooking Demonstration – Salads and the 5 Tastes

Get the list of ingredients and materials for the workshop

Slow Food Denver creates impactful programs for adults and kids alike in addition to supporting the great work being done in and around our local community. From short educational series to long-term projects, we are always in pursuit of creating a more just and sustainable food system.

Lil’ Sprouts seasonal online youth cooking classes can be an opportunity for the entire family to get involved in cooking meals together, or it can be an activity to keep children entertained and learning while parents are busy going about their day.

Denver Urban Gardens – Classroom Garden Literacy

Denver Urban Gardens builds connection, skills, and resiliency around growing food.  For over twenty years, DUG has worked in partnership with Denver Public Schools to establish community gardens at schools. Of DUGs 175+ community gardens, one third are located on the grounds of schools, with one to three new school gardens in various stages of planning each year. The expansion includes requests to accommodate the needs of older students in middle and high school. DUG is committed to supporting each community garden in ways appropriate to that garden’s particular needs, including developing a partnership between the school community and surrounding neighbors to strengthen garden sustainability. We believe the lessons offered in a garden are life changing for children of all backgrounds. Through the wonders of a garden, students experience hands-on lessons in: health, earth and life sciences, math, literacy, social science and community building.

Helping Kids Get Healthy workshop is designed for classroom teachers, as well as volunteers, who support and facilitate youth education that has a garden component. The workshops will introduce educators to the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Gardens curriculum, which will be modeled throughout the series. During each workshop, the DUG education team will discuss how the school garden can be used as an educational tool to teach the 2020 Colorado Academic Standards. A portion of each workshop will cover best practices for outdoor classroom management.

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Gardens School Garden Curriculum provides experiential opportunities for student inquiry and investigation into health, earth and life sciences, math, literacy and social science. Our seasonal approach to teaching bridges nutrition, gardening and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) using standards-aligned lessons for the elementary school classroom and garden. While our lessons are tailored for the elementary classroom, lessons can easily be adapted to fit the needs of middle and high school classrooms. Each lesson includes applicable Colorado Academic Standards with suggested extensions and modifications. All of the lessons include a healthy, classroom and kid-tested recipe that reinforces the topic and season. DUG’s curriculum was developed as a result of 15 years of working with elementary-aged students

Monday, April 19th 4:55-6:00 pm

Consumption Literacy Project – DIY Build a Worm Composting Bin – Vermiculture

Join us to learn how to build your own worm composting bin with expert Latoya Erskine.  Don’t let those kitchen scraps go wasted in a landfill; worm composting bins turn them into compost and produce wonderful worm casting garden fertilizer.  Download Instructions and Material List here.  educators, contact when your bin is ready to get red wiggler worms for you bin.

CPL provides school science based school curriculum via creating meaningful work and producing real impact within our communities. Food and waste is a significant aspect of our impact on the planet and much of our programming revolves around developing innovative curriculum to engage learners to take their learning home with them.  Our work is aimed at building a better understanding of self in relationship to the world. In K-12, our consumption literacy curriculum happen through the slow work of building food-producing capacity through soil building and getting our hands back into the Earth.

OpenEnergi – DIY Solar Oven Project

At openenergi, we empower all youth in the STEM domain in a highly interactive way through Play, Movement, Art, Creation and using energy as a playground allowing a true understanding to naturally occur. Take the energy of the sun into your own hands and build your own Solar Oven…and bake your own cookies.  Solar oven kits will be available for distribution prior to the workshop.

All are welcome to the workshop.  If you would like to build along with us please Order your kit to pick up before the workshop and sign and return the waiver.  You must be 18 or have parent permission to participate in building a solar oven.  This  will walk you through the process of building and using your solar oven.

photo credit Nareeta Martin and Unsplash
photo credit Nareeta Martin and Unsplash
Consumption Literacy Project Logo
A solar oven built by students at Greenwood Academy.
Greenwood RNOS poster
Students at Greenwood Academy made this poster to encourage energy conservation.
NE Innovation Zone Pledge
NE Innovation Zone Students write their personal sustainability pledges.

Tuesday, April 20th 4:55-6:00

Acting on Climate: Energy Use at Home and School

This session will explore how you can understand and reduce your energy use at home. We will do a short, interactive home audit to get you started. We will also explore the Renew Our Schools energy competition to show how you can get involved at school.

Healthy Food For Denver’s Kids Grant

Lauren Howe from the Department of Public Health and Environment will share a wonderful grant opportunity, Healthy Food for Denver’s Kids.

Discussion and Pledge

Come together to discuss key takeaways from the Forum and share commitments for personal action.