Eco Family Conference Explores ‘Green’ Schools, Homes, World

AMES, Iowa — A school that is “green” is a healthy, efficient, inspiring place to learn, work and play, said Pat Higby, energy education and outreach coordinator at the University of Northern Iowa Center for Energy and Environmental Education. Higby will discuss what families can do to make their community’s schools more sustainable during the Virtual Eco Family Conference on March 1.

Eco FamilyThe March session is the third in the online conference series from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. On the first Thursday of each month through June, a 90-minute webinar will feature a different speaker addressing a different environmental topic. All sessions begin at 7 p.m. Iowans may still register for the conference series.

Hibgy’s session will include hands-on experiments that adults and children can do together to learn about climate change and energy use. Higby developed the Fabulous Resources for Energy Education (FREE) program that provides professional development, outreach presentations and a loan program to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy through K-12 education.

“I do hope that you’ll be willing to ‘green’ your school,” Higby said. In her presentation she hopes “to convince your heart that you need to make some changes in your schools, in your homes, in your communities, so that our children and grandchildren will have a much better world to live in.”

To participate in the conference, families need a computer with high-speed Internet access, speakers or headphones, and a microphone, if they wish to speak to the instructor. They also can communicate with the instructor by typing their questions or comments in the online chat box. The registration fee is $15 per person. Once registered, participants will receive log-in directions for accessing the virtual classroom for all conference sessions.

The Virtual Eco Family Conference series is designed to help Iowans think about environmental issues and practical action steps they can take in their own home and neighborhood, noted the conference organizers Kristi Cooper and Brenda Schmitt, both ISU Extension and Outreach family program specialists. The online conference series is part of a new initiative from ISU Extension and Outreach to help Iowans make conscious decisions about the environment.

Register for Remaining Sessions

“You still can register and participate in the remaining sessions of the conference,” Cooper said. For registration information contact Cooper at 319-377-9839 ( or Schmitt at 641-512-0650 ( The registration form is online; print it, complete it and mail with a check for $15 to ISU Extension and Outreach, P.O. Box 368, Allison, IA 50602.

In other sessions:

  • Pat Sauer, with the Iowa Storm Water Education Program and Rainscaping Iowa, and urban conservationist Amy Bouska, of Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District, will discuss water as a precious resource on April 5.
  • Fred Meyer, an ecological designer as well as founder and executive director of Backyard Abundance, will address edible landscape design on May 3.
  • The June 7 session will cover basic information on composting.

“If participants are interested in duplicating what they see and hear during the conference sessions, we encourage them to start a local steering committee. We would be glad to help them build a vision and map out action steps to make their dream a reality,” Schmitt added.