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Caretakers of the Environment-Canada Organizing Successful Student Conferences: Five reports from the field Introduction participants, we look forward to meeting you at SPEC and at the annual CEI international con- This collection of guidelines is designed to help ference. first-time student organizers of the annual No- va Scotia Student Provincial Environmental Kathryn Graves, Chairperson, CEI-Canada Conference (SPEC). Contents CEI-Canada supports SPEC as a key part of an overall approach to environmental education in To Start With 2 Nova Scotia. Since Millwood High School created the first SPEC in 1991, students and Recognizing cultural differences teachers have learned--and taught each other-- General suggestions not only about environmental issues, but about Emphasizing communication the quality of relationships among people that need to be developed in order to address envi- Guidelines, Patrick Wood 3 ronmental issues. People who will help Nova Scotia’s student environmental confe- Coordination rence is about reaching out, making connec- How to organize meetings tions and helping to create a positive learning Sub-committees experience for many people. The month before the conference The day before the conference Since 1991, Caretakers-Canada and high The day of the conference schools throughout Nova Scotia have joined the After the conference Internet. In 1998, Whycocomagh Consolidated School in Cape Breton hosted the first SPEC Ten Steps to Success, Mylene DiPenta 8 organized as an outdoor, out-of-school confe- rence. It may be that SPEC99 will be co-hosted Recruit by two schools. Get a mandate Delegate Given such a dynamic for change, and that Get the word out early every school will approach conference organiz- Talk to everyone ing in different ways, it seemed appropriate to Follow up on all communication present five different perspectives, and to invite Allow for the unexpected students to draw on what they find useful. Get supplies donated Contact the press Like all Caretakers activities, this is a work-in- Enjoy yourself progress. We know that future contributions from students and teachers will make this a Reflections on SPEC98 10 more useful document, as the discoveries of learners of all ages create change in our world. What happened and when? So please write us with your comments and What worked and what didn’t suggestions. Individual observations Follow-up required Thank you for your participation in global en- Thanks vironmental education. On behalf of all our 2 International Guidelines, Arjen Wals 12 Setting up committees Developing the programme Funding the conference The participants The conference report Sample organizing sequence, time-line 16 3 To Start With again have as much time to prepare for this conference as you have now. SPEC is tradition- Every school community is different, and each ally held in the fall. May, June and September will have its own way of organizing and man- will be very busy months just for regular school aging a provincial conference. Some situations business. Preliminary organization now will favour a "top-down" administration, basing pay off in September. their organization around a strong student or staff coordinator. Other schools will organize on a more consensual basis, with management 2. Establish and share information about how shared among a coordinating group. your conference will be organized: who is re- sponsible for what? Regardless of how the con- Whichever approach is used, at the earliest ference is organized, it is always helpful to possible stage there should be a general meet- have clearly defined, well-communicated goals, ing to include all interested people in the school and a schedule of “tasks and timelines” that community, to discuss and establish the goals people have agreed to. of the conference, and the groundrules for whatever management model is chosen to pro- 3. Establish what your conference is about. duce it. What is the theme and program of your confer- ence? What is your goal? What is it that you are If this is done, the coordinators will start out trying to accomplish by organizing the event? with the confidence of the larger community, and everyone will have a clearer idea of what is 4. Look ahead. Imagine students, teachers and expected of them. parents from different schools around the prov- ince arriving to take part in your event. What In the end, everyone will be working within has to be prepared in advance? How will you one or more action groups of students address- handle welcoming and registration, who will ing specific tasks such as hospitality, program, be documenting the event, who will be clean- registration, communication, or entertainment. ing up? The most important task the coordinators can do is to take steps to ensure there is trust and 5. Communication is so important to the suc- good communication within and among these cess of your conference that it’s worth estab- groups. lishing a communication working group (or sub-committee) at the same time as you estab- In preparation for that first general meeting, the lish your program and timelines. Develop a start-up group should do four things, not nec- “communication loop” that keeps everyone up- essarily in this order: to-date, so that everyone is empowered to communicate on behalf of the conference. form a working group of 5-7 people who want to support the project 6. Make a draft budget. What are the expenses try to include a teacher who would be will- you will encounter as you achieve your goals? ing to act as staff advisor What in-kind contributions will you need? Give get approval of your school’s principal these a dollar value and include them in your apply to Caretakers-Canada for support budget in a separate column headed "in kind". 7. Outreach. Once your coordinating group is General suggestions in place and you have a draft of your program and budget, your communication and fundrais- 1. Start now to include other students and ing groups can get in touch with the people and teachers: keep your whole school community organizations who are your natural partners in aware that a conference is being planned, and achieving your goals: other schools, service that everyone’s help is welcome. You will never 4 clubs, businesses, public media, government agencies. 8. Enjoy yourselves and take care of each other. As soon as you reach this stage, your confer- ence is underway and you have laid the foun- dation for a memorable experience for many people. Congratulations! Be assured that your effort will bring support from unexpected places, and that many people will gain as a re- sult. 5 The communication working group other annual conference for teachers in Nova Scotia that focuses on environmental education. Communication is so important to the success of your conference that you should consider The activities, workshops, seminars and project establishing a communication-working group presentations made during a Student Provincial at the same time as you establish your goals, Environmental Conference are also informative tasks and timelines. This group is responsible for people generally in your community. It for internal and external communication. might be among your goals to invite the wider com- Internal communication means making sure munity to see what Nova Scotia students are everyone in your school has enough informa- doing, and to communicate with your peers in tion to be personally empowered to support the other countries through CEI’s website. conference in their various ways. External communication relates to your out- reach to people who are “natural partners” in Guidelines from Patrick Wood, student coor- producing your conference. People in your dinator, SPEC95, Amherst community who are naturalists, or interested in local lore and history; environmental clubs in [Patrick was a grade 12 student at Amherst other schools; organizations and businesses High in 1995. He went on to Theatre Studies at who are interested in what you're doing; finally Dalhousie, and last summer toured as a light- (and least important) to local radio, cable TV ing technician with the Cape Breton Summer- and newspapers time Review. He was a board member of Care- takers-Canada from 1995 to 1998.] Caretakers recommends that all the cultures that are part of the history of the host commu- Running a conference is one of the most excit- nity be represented in your conference. The ing things I have done so far in my life. It is also participation of First Nations has always en- one of the most frustrating tasks that I have riched Student Provincial Environmental Con- ever taken on. ferences. Planning and running a conference of this scale “It has become customary for Canadian envi- was the most challenging aspect of my high- ronmental networks to ask welcome from a school years, because it was in our committees’ First Nations elder whose traditional lands we hands to motivate and educate people who might be using for our meeting or action. were the same age as ourselves. “In doing this, we acknowledge that the land The energy and excitement that is brought on and seas are not ours; and that we, together, are by a conference of any kind is something, of nature, not over her. So we begin with a which can only be explained by experiencing it greeting in mutual respect.” (Nova Scotia Envi- first hand. ronmental Network, 1998) If you are reading this booklet hopefully you Once you have presented an invitation to your will soon be able to know what I am talking local partners, you will be in a position to begin about. A conference is not easy to organize; it extending a similar invitation to the wider takes the calibration of several people and a community. great deal of time. Who would you like to see at your conference? The object of this booklet is to give its readers Students from other schools, certainly. But an idea of what they are about to take on and teachers also come to SPEC, and there is no how to get to the end resolute of a great confer- ence. 6 this I mean, if you ask them to do something I hope that you don't think that you have to do very nicely and always let them know what is everything exactly the way that is said here. happening beforehand. These people are great This is one way of running a conference and it when it is time to make phone calls, taking has been proven that it works, but that does not messages while school is in session, faxing, and mean that it is the only way to make a good making sure that you get all of your mail. conference. Now here is another important hint. Remember All you should do with this booklet is read it staff people always have their regular work to and then try to incorporate the ideas into what do. So if there is something special you would you are trying to do and come up with your like them to do in connection with your confer- own way of making everything happen. Hope- ence, ask them rather than telling them. If they fully this will give you a good idea of what you appear busy let them know if a task does not can expect to happen throughout that organiz- need to be done right away and whenever they ing of your conference and it will help you could get it done would be fine. Also, if it is overcome some of the problems that have ap- something that you could do if they showed peared in the past. you how, let them know that you would be willing to do it. I would also like to take this time to say a very heartfelt "thank you" for all the hard work that students have done to get this booklet written, and to all the people that have run the great conferences in the past that the ideas have come from which are in this booklet. People who will help It is very important that before you do anything else the principal of your school gives permis- sion for you to hold the conference. I know that this is something which seems very simple but it can not be overlooked. The reason for getting the principal's permission is simple: your prin- cipal has to know what is going on in the school and nothing can be done without their say-so. Also the principal will be a great deal of help to you and your committees throughout the next few months. It is also important that you keep your principal up to date on the progress of the conference. In most cases your principal will have very good suggestions on how to fix or solve some of the problems that you may en- counter. Some other people within the school that will be very helpful to you are the secretaries and the custodial staff. The secretaries are always willing to help if the conditions are right. By 7 Coordination committees are “singing from the same song- book”. Everyone that works on a conference commit- tee has an important job to do. With saying Once the student coordinator and staff advisor that, there are two people that have the most are picked they should meet so that they can sit important jobs. Those people are the student down and map out what has to be done and coordinator and the staff coordinator. Here is when it should be done. This is one of the most where the duties can become a little foggy and important steps in the whole process, because it people may start to disagree on who does what. will show your coordinating group that you are organized and it gives them some clear objec- The approach we took at Amherst was that tives. If they know what it is that they are student conferences are for students, and I working towards right from the beginning they don't know of any better way for students to will know what to expect and you should be learn than from their peers. able to see results within a few weeks instead of months. Also it will make it easier on the In our arrangement, the student coordinator student coordinator and staff advisor in the runs the show as far as the students are con- long run. It will give you a goal to reach for as cerned, and has the last say about what is going well and once something is done you will know to happen. With that said, it is also important right away what is next on the list. that the student and staff coordinators are able to work well together and know where each You may be asking yourself: "How do you set others' weaknesses are. There will be some objectives for the coordinating group?" Well things that the student coordinator is unable to this is an easy thing to do. The first thing that do and that is where staff can step in and offer you may want to do is sit down and go over the to help the students come to a solution to their number of days that you have to get everything problem. together. Once you have done that start making a list of everything that you can think of that The most important thing is that there must be needs to be done: everything from talking to open communication between these two peo- your principal to taking things back after the ple. Without clear understanding there may be conference. Once you have everything written times when things get very confusing and dis- down the next thing to do is to look at the list organized. If this happens get it straightened and decide what are the most important things out as soon as possible. If they are both com- and what has be done first. Then you set every- municating and are clear about what each per- thing into action. son is doing than there should be no problems at the top of the committee. How to organize meetings, and get sub- When choosing the student coordinator, the committees started most important things to look for are: is this person reliable, organized, able to handle When you have a general timeline you are power? Do they get along well with others and ready to go into the meetings with your coor- how do they get along with the staff at the dinating group. These meetings will be very school? It is very important that the committee good if they are done right. The best way to do is able to communicate with the teachers and that is to be as organized as possible and make staff at their school. sure you know what you what to achieve from each of the meetings. That brings us to the coordinating committee itself. This consists of the coordinators, and When you are running the meetings the most people representing all the various action important thing is to keep everything moving groups or conference committees. The purpose smoothly and to be sure that everything gets of this group is to share information, so all the done that needs to be done. 8 them gets done. The sub-committee heads Your first meeting is where the whole tone for should be chosen as carefully as the student the conference will be set. If you walk into the coordinator was. It is important that the people meeting with everything clear that you want that are in charge of the sub-committees have done and are able to achieve that than it is a strong leadership abilities and are able to get sign that everything will run smoothly. This things done on time and get along with the first meeting is also important because it is other people that are on the committee. In order where all of the sub-committees are set up and for the sub-committees to work at the best of people are chosen to represent the sub- their ability the student coordinator has to be in committees. This is also a good time to set up constant contact with them and be willing to when each of the sub-committees are going to attend any meetings they request. It is also a meet throughout the week and who is going to good idea to attend the first couple of their be on them. meetings so that they know what you expect of This is also a good time to establish a meeting them and then they will be able to get things schedule for the coordinating group. It is a done right on the first try. good idea to have one major meeting every week. This meeting should run about two to It is important to let people know that having three hours, so it may be a good idea to have it fun is a big part of all of this. Let them know after school. that you want them to have fun but at the same time the work does have to get done. If every- The weekly meeting should be held every week one is having a good time they will not mind it at the same time and on the same day. This way when you give them more work to do and no one can say that they forgot when then things tend to get done a little faster. meeting was and everyone can make sure that they do not have anything else planned for that Here are some of the sub-committees that have day and time. been very useful in the past and might be a big help to you for your conference. The weekly meetings should be when each of the sub-committee heads report on what they Registration - this committee takes care of get- have gotten done throughout the week and ting all of the registration forms out to the what they are planning to get done for the next schools and then putting all of the registration meeting. It is very important that all of the forms that are coming in on computer. This committees are getting something done every committee could also take care of getting all of week and that they have new goals set for the material for the delegates’ packages. This themselves. committee will also be in charge of getting other people on the committee to work the reg- The weekly meeting for the coordinating group istration desk the day of the conference. is all that you will most likely need until about three weeks before the conference. Then they Workshops - Well as you can guess this group should move to two or three times a week. This will be taking care of getting all of the work- will also mean that the length of the meetings shop leader and making sure that the people will get shorter. It will give you a chance to that are running the workshops have every- make sure that everything is getting done on thing that they need that day. It will not be up time and that there are no new problems that to this group to decide by themselves what need to be taken care of. workshops there will be. That task is one that will have to be shared by the coordinating group. The workshop committee will be going Sub-committees (working groups) out and finding the best people in the commu- nity to run the workshops that the committee The job of the sub-committee is to make sure wants. that the area of the conference that is given to 9 Communication - This group will make and distribute a “one-sheet” multi-purpose an- This stage comes about one month before the nouncement of your event, for use as a poster, conference. Everything should be moving and in mail-outs to partner organizations. You smoothly. The sub-committees should be near- can make announcements on your school PA, ing the end of their duties list, the other schools and on local radio & cable (call them up to find should be registered, you should have every- out how). You will make and distribute a thing but the food at the school that you need. “press release”, as soon as you can give more details about your conference. Now comes the fun part of the whole deal. Get- ting all of the information together and finish- Food - you guessed it. This committee is in ing up the last little details. At your weekly charge of getting the menu for the conference meeting run everything as normal. But for sorted out, as well as getting all of the food yourself this is the time to make sure that eve- products bought or donated by companies and rything is on schedule and that there are no stores that are in their area. They will be mak- new surprises jumping around. ing sure that there are people to get the meals ready and to clean up after the meals. The last At this point in time, the phone calls from other two things are just as important as the first two. schools will be coming in, letters should be sent What you eat and what (if anything) is wasted out explaining the rules of the conference, if in cooking and eating, is a strong message to they already have not been sent. participants, because our food habits have a strong effect on the environment. You will start getting teachers from your school together to help out on the day of the confe- Clean Up - this is the one committee that rence. This also means meeting with the teach- hardly anyone likes but also it is one of the ers a few times to go over what they will be most important. It is their job to make sure that doing throughout the day and what they will all of the cleaning products are ready and that be expected to be doing. You will likely find any equipment that is needed is there and in that the teachers in your school will be willing working order. If there are any items, which to help you out as much as they can, but also need to be bought, you could put them on the remember that if a teacher wants to do some- donation list and send it out with the food thing other than you have them down for, let committee. When it comes time for this com- them know that there is no problem in chang- mittee to be in action it will be the job of every- ing it and try to accommodate them as much as one on the coordinating group to help out. It is possible. also a good idea to use recycled items and to When you’re down to a week before the confe- have a place where things can be recycled. rence is when things start getting interesting. This is the time that you find out that you have Entertainment - yes there is a need for this forgotten to get something donated or you do committee. Whenever there is something not not have enough of something. It is very impor- planned you get what I like to call down time. tant to keep a cool head during this time. This simply means people standing around do- ing nothing because nothing is planned. Here is The other important thing is to make sure that where the entertainment committee comes into everyone is eating right and sleeping right. I play. They always have games that they are know that you cannot be in everyone's house or ready to play in case there is a delay in plans. be there every time someone eats, but let him or This committee also is important if there is go- her know how important it is that they are feel- ing to be all night activities. ing the best that they have ever felt. Putting everything together: the month before Getting everything ready for the day of the the conference conference 10 Everyone on the committees should be at the The night before is a great time to do this. Eve- school about two hours before the delegates ryone is excited about seeing all of their hard start arriving. This gives everyone a chance to work go into action so they are willing to put in relax and get in their head, one last time, what the extra hours that are needed. The night be- they are supposed to do. fore should be used to get the sleeping rooms ready for the students and the chaperones, any Now the coordinating group goes into action. box lunches or meals that can be made before- The coordinator and staff advisor should be left hand will be to your advantage, and signs free to float around and make sure everything should be put up directing traffic for the next is going smoothly. morning. Remember that the people that are coming to the conference have never been there There should be coffee for the chaperones before and will get lost if they are not told (usually parents and teachers): these people where they are supposed to go. have been driving for a while and will need a break from their students. As the committee The night before the conference is also a good head you should meet as many of the chape- time to remind your committees that they rones as possible and let them know if there is should be as helpful and talk with as many of anything that they need all they have to do is the people at the conferences possible. One of find you. You will not necessarily be the one to the things that I have heard most is that the do for them but if they know whom to ask then host school did not talk to any one and they they will not be afraid to ask. Make them feel stuck to themselves. This is not a good thing. It just as comfortable as the students. creates tension among the delegates and some- times people are less willing to do thing when The next thing to do is run opening remarks. they do not feel at home. So it’s extra important Make sure that you meet all of your guest that everyone is nice, cheerful and helpful the speakers and know them by name. This will next day. help. Try to keep opening remarks as short as possible. This will enable more time for the You should make sure that everyone knows workshops that day. After opening remarks is what their jobs are and what groups they will over it is time for you to watch all of your hard be working with throughout the conference. it work pay off. This is your chance to see some of is a good idea that everyone have a clip board the workshops and enjoy yourself as well as of some type with them at all times. On the everyone else. clipboard they should have a map of the school and a copy of the itinerary for the conference. The only thing that is left is to keep an eye open With my committee we found that these two for any potential problem and try to stop them things came in handy the most. People would before they happen. If everyone knows what ask a question and because of everything that they are supposed to be doing and they do it was happening the committee members would there should be no problems. forget. So all they had to do was look through the papers on their clipboard and be able to an- swer the question right there on spot instead of running off and trying to find that person again. It also makes you look more organized. After the conference The day of the conference After the conference it is a good idea to sit down with your committees and thank them Get ready for one of the most exciting and bu- for all of the hard work they have done. This is siest days of your life. also a good time to see how everyone felt things went. After that, clean up and go home. 11 Make sure everything is taken back to the plac- club’s staff representative was a seldom-used es the stuff was borrowed from and also make resource. sure that thank-you letters were written to the places that donated things to you and the Here are some of the most important things I people that helped out throughout the confe- have learned in my role as conference coordina- rence. Then your job has been completed. Make tor: sure that you take a few days to recover from everything and make sure people got pictures of what went on. You will enjoy it for a long 1. Recruit! time. The first thing to do is to find enthusiastic hel- pers. Try to pick as broad as possible a repre- sentation when choosing group members, or Student-run Conferences: ten steps to success, leave membership open to whoever wants to by Mylene DiPenta, student coordinator, come. You may want to specifically encourage SPEC94. (Originally published in “Green people who are too shy to turn out for meetings Teacher”, #42.) or who would not ordinarily hear about this type of event. The wider your perspective, the I’m a Grade 12 student at Dartmouth High more educational, and interesting, your confe- School in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and a firm rence. This may sound counterproductive, but believer in the “think globally, act locally” phi- it is often wise to pick people who are busy-- losophy. I have one amendment to that philos- they are the ones who like doing things. Talk to ophy: care personally. Since leaving junior other youth groups, both in the school and in high, I have become a frequent volunteer, an the community, which have environmental information fanatic, and an avid participant in concerns. They are not only sources of interest- student conferences. Many of my teachers ed youth, but also might be willing to support frown on my extracurricular involvement. Yet you in other ways. exctracurricular activities have proven to be the most enriching and educational experiences of my school career. 2. Get a mandate Conferences, in particular, are an excellent way What are you trying to accomplish? Many a to learn communication and group dynamics, worthwhile endeavour has failed because its as well as any practical skills which are rele- direction was unclear. This is the step where it vant to the purpose of the conference. There is is most important to speak to young people. something special about a well-organized stu- Hold brainstorming sessions, speak to classes dent conference. Participants go because they and so on. You can promote the conference to want to be there, and this not only creates a the students while letting them help shape it. constructive learning environment, but also You many want to select a theme as well. Not makes conferences hugely successful network- only will your conference be stronger, but ing opportunities. people are more likely to participate in some- thing if they are already a part of it. You may I have found that the most successful confe- want to develop a “no adults” policy during rences are those that have student input in the these sessions--young people often say very planning stages. It was with this in mind that I different things to peers than they say to au- agreed to coordinate the fourth annual Student thority figures. Provincial Environmental Conference in 1994. The conference was entirely run by the school’s Environment Club, and although the school 3. Delegate requires all clubs to have a teacher advisor, our 12 Although they seem terribly bureaucratic, sub- ber, your entire organizing team will be in class committees work. I would strongly suggest through most of the business hours! avoiding a majority-rule way of making deci- sions, as voting tends to lessen the effectiveness Plan the food well in advance. Environmental of consensus building; in this case, you may conferences attract many vegetarians and oth- want to call your divisions “working groups.” ers with special food requirements. If you have Have clear lists of the tasks each group must a plan for food, transportation, and accommo- accomplish and insist on the formulation of dation, these necessities will not become last- specific time lines. Meet often to make sure the minute hassles. groups are on track, and to let them communi- cate with each other, as one group’s work may be relevant to others. Given decision-making authority, young people are often surprisingly effective. 4. Get the word out early One of the biggest challenges is getting the word out to the students in other schools. Few schools have information distribution struc- tures adequate to the task. One major mistake we have made was mailing letters to schools addressed simply “the principal.” These letter, I have learned, may or may not get opened, and generally do not receive any response. Ideally, visit the schools yourself. Offer to make presentations, to classes or clubs, relating to your theme. If this is impossible, call to find out if the school has a club, students’ organization or teacher interested in your topic. Mail or fax an information sheet and ask them to post it, put it in the school announcements, or mention it to their members or students. Include as many details of scheduling, cost, location, and accommodation arrangements as possible. You may find it useful to make up a suggestion sheet for your school contacts, listing potential advertising techniques. Suggest posting in the staff room, the school bulletins, and the wa- shrooms. Be creative. Remember to leave a number for more informa- tion or questions (email is really good for this, if you have access to it.). Keep in mind that any telephone number you distribute will probably receive a flood of calls. Access to an answering machine is extremely helpful (or ask the school secretaries if they will take messages). Remem- 13 5. Talk to everyone tions, but if you have a backup plan (faxing from someone’s home, or contacting another Keep an address file of environmentally con- speaker) and some extra time, you can cut your cerned stores, manufacturers, NGOs, business- losses. You may even find something better. es and so on. When looking for speakers, con- tact them, as well as charitable organizations with environmental mandates, government de- partments which have an angle on your cause, and local universities which may have depart- ments of environmental planning or natural resource management. They may even be will- ing to donate supplies. Find out if your prov- ince has an environmental network. Mention your event to as many people as possible. They may be able to give you a name or phone num- ber. There are potential speakers everywhere. Don’t be afraid to organize sessions or semi- nars, which are not traditional conference fare. Some of the best guests are not experts but or- dinary members of the community who can lead participants through sessions that are crea- tive and participatory. The best workshops in- volve strategizing and making real plans for follow-up action. 6. Follow up on all communication Letters get lost, phone calls get forgotten, work piles up, and your delegates or speakers mean to get back to you, really! Following up on mailings and verbal agreements may make the difference between a smoothly organized con- ference and a sloppy one. Send a confirmation sheet to schools and presenters, mentioning the number of spots they have been allocated and/or the time when they should arrive, di- rections to your facility and the specific place where they should check in when they get there. 7. Allow for the unexpected Be realistic in your planning, both money wise and time wise. You will probably find you have too little time for some things, so plan for wide margins of error and allow for unexpected set- backs, like the fax machine going on the blink, or one of your speakers going away for a month. You may not be able to fix these situa- 14 8. Get supplies donated plan some time so that you can participate in the event--you deserve it! There are probably many organizations eager to be associated with your event. Students’ con- ferences and environmental themes in general are very good publicity for them. Offer to ad- vertise their name in your flyers and posters. We have made up a sponsor sheet, thanking each group and company, and included it with our press release. You could also send an indi- vidual thank-you to the companies. If you can get food, photocopying, faxing or anything else donated, it will save you money and possibly forge contacts in the community for your next event. 9. Contact the press Local radio or television stations may be inter- ested in your event. Try small local newspapers (especially student publications) as well as the larger ones. They may want an interview, or perhaps just the basic information. Have a press release ready--you never know who will want a copy! This was the single most photo- copied item we made up. If you do this early in the planning, you may be able to get some extra publicity in the process. In any case, it will in- crease the profile of your organization or club, and perhaps make your next event easier to advertise. 10. Enjoy yourself People who are not happy with what they are doing make for unpleasant conferences. It is important to make the event a positive expe- rience for everyone, or its original purpose is undermined. Be aware that you will almost def- initely have to deal with some uncooperative people; don’t let it bring you down. Resist the temptation to blackball people, and instead try to win them over. You may want to train your student “corps” in facilitating discussions. This is a big help in keeping the vibes positive, it’s a great learning experience for the young people, and encourages delegates to feel that people like them are in charge. Finally, make sure you 15 Reflections on SPEC98: R.E.A.L. - Radically September Active Environmental Living Organizers gain food sponsorship as part of ongoing committee work. What happened and when? Conference takes place 23-26 September February 98 October The community and school of Whycoco- Press, finances, sponsorship “Thank you’s” magh was approached by Caretakers of the and a follow-up news letter are left on the Environment-Canada (Nova Scotia) to host “to- do” list the 9th Student Provincial Environmental Throughout this time the committees are Conference (SPEC98) changing to meet capacity/needs. (Students Class presentation made to students by Jim are comfortable with this.) Mustard and Kate Graves March What worked and what didn’t? Students pick the theme to reflect “active The process of organizing the conference unit- and appreciation”; weekly meetings begin ed the organizing group of 10+. They came to trust each other as well as the process. They April developed comfort in using the telephone and noted improved interpersonal communication Registration begins and carries into May skills. Their confidence grew with new respon- and especially September sibilities. They felt respected and befriended. Site selection They experienced non-ageism (agelessness?). May In post-conference reflections, the organizing students felt that they were slow to re-establish Summer student hired by Nova Scotia En- their group in September, after the summer vironmental Network to support process. “vacation”. Students said they didn’t commu- Sonia Murray is an active member of the nicate enough with the general community of N.S. Youth Caucus and worked with NSEN Whycocomagh. They considered their commu- last year in the organizing of a regional nication with their own school community was youth Ecotopia also weak. June They created a full agenda and they had the sense that there was not enough time to do eve- Sonia visits classrooms in the Halifax area rything. This led to resourcefully re-scheduling to make students aware of the confe- on-site, and the planned community service rence after familiarizing herself with Care- work was unfulfilled. takers- Canada They noted that the cliqueishness they antic- August ipated was not present at the conference. Fundraising, press contacts and special event skills are shared with student orga- Individual Observations: nizers in Whycocomagh. Sonia prepares and conducts a one day work camp in Cape We got along really well. Team building, good Breton activities and participation all helped. No judgment of what or who we were. We were all 16 equal. I learned to be more open to other cul- Swamp-like in getting through. It was sad at tures and ideas. At home, I am more open to departure time _. ideas. I listen better. P. It was like a heartbeat. I thought we were dead I practiced turning negatives into positives. in the water in August. Then September we Trust, positivity and enthusiasm all played a were in overdrive. October we’re back to nor- role. D. mal. C. Registration is a stressful and exciting job. I WE have to change the way we live. That’s made new friends. T. what we learned at the conference. C. People’s perception is that we are really weird, The controlled flow of info and experiences now. We had bonding time through activities created an opportunity for self-improvement. and hard work. In the beginning communica- The passion to live an active style of living is tion was weak. G. contagious. K. Changes happened. Finances, you have to start One of the most important parts is helping par- really early or you won’t get considered. ticipants learn to work with and understand It all depended on us. R. people with different backgrounds and cul- tures. J. I was on the phone constantly. Who is coming? My emotions were strong. It is very true that even if the interest is there, without support and connections with others it The schedule was hectic and I made new is very difficult to take on projects and stay in- friends and strong connections. A terested. S. We got along despite screw-ups around the food and the hectic pace. J. Follow-up required: “Pass!” you decide what I mean by that.” From R.E.A.L conference organizers to partici- (Joke!) pants, a newsletter From organizers to CEI, participant list (Ash- I learned that a lot of people can pull together ley); financial statement (Rob); documentation really quickly. (Ivan/Dan); past conference templates (Jus- tine). Due Date: Nov. CEI Meeting “I felt alive!” To Camp Aite Breagh, catch up on community There was a chain formed while we worked service component (e.g. compost-building on together and you didn’t need to be connected site) (All ?) to everyone. It was a positive, together, rushed, never-ending experience. I. Ivan to act as email liaison person Next we were spasming-out. By mid-Sept we From CEI-Canada to R.E.A.L. conference orga- knew who was doing what and we were happy nizers, ongoing information re: international and energetic. On the last day of the conference CEI conference, 1999 in Costa Rica; support for we were sad. _. ongoing environmental work by student orga- nizers. It was earth focused, environmental-like. We were happy with the activities, canoeing. Caretakers of the Environment - Canada There were communication glitches. thanks: Jim Mustard and Margaret Thompson, Don Black and Kathryn Graves, Sonia Murray 17 and her family, Whycocomagh Consolidated International Guidelines for Organising a Ca- School, Friends of the Environment Founda- retakers of the Environment Conference, Ar- tion, the Nova Scotia Environmental Network, jen Wals, President, CEI and the Government of Nova Scotia Dear Kate, Hope all is well with you. I still have very fond memories of the Israel conference. I think it was the kind of conference we needed to move for- ward. Sweden, Palestine and Costa Rica (!) are candidates for the 1999 conference with Swe- den in the best position followed closely by Costa Rica (a very enthusiastic guy from the Ministry of Environment who is also involved in secondary school EE). We are still in need of a guide to conference organizing. I have col- lected some of my own notes, which follow as part of the message. I am curious to know how far you are with your guidelines! We could have a general manual on youth oriented con- ferences (by youth, for youth in corporations with other human resources and community groups) and a more specific manual for CEI conferences. Just wondering where you are right now. Hope you are well and busy in a healthy way. Cheers, Arjen These guidelines are the result of the past con- ferences and are subject to change with every new conference. They are guidelines in the sense that they seriously need to be considered. However, you may have to adapt some of them to your own special circumstances. The guide- lines have been divided into six categories: 1. Setting up committees 2. Developing the programme 3. Funding the conference 4. The participants 5. The conference report 6. Time frame. 1. Setting up committees 1.1. Create a General Board (GB) to oversee the conference. The General Board should, above 18 all, be comprised of people from government Logistics: the person who concentrates on organisations, businesses, scientific institutions transportation to, from and during the confe- and educational institutions who a) have status rence and who arranges the meeting rooms, in the community and, preferably, in the coun- food, lodging, audio-visual equipment, exhibi- try, and b) have a genuine interest in youth and tion area, etc. in environmental education. Social events: person who brings cultural and The GB should meet once every three months social dimension into the to discuss progress of the conference, too see programme. where each individual can be supportive and to give access to potential sponsors. The GB is on- Communication: contact with participants, ly intended to add importance to the confe- coordination of conference newsletters, etc. rence and to open up doors, not to organise the conference itself. Since some of these tasks are rather big, it can be advised to have a working group of more 1.2. Create an Organising Committee (OC) to than one person focus on each subject. develop and organise the conference. This OC should consist of people who have organising skills and who are familiar with environmental 2. Developing the programme education and the education of young adults. 2.1. The content of the programme should Teachers, school principals, youth representa- achieve a variety of things: tives, environmental education specialists are all good candidates able to serve this on this It should give all participating schools a chance committee. Each member of the OC should to display or present their work in an effective, have a specific task and responsibility. At least highly visual way. the following tasks will need to be covered: It should focus on the conference theme, using Chair (usually also the chair of the conference the local area as sort of laboratory in which to itself). The chair (wo)man has to play a major investigate the theme, but always relating what role within the committee. He or she will have is learned to the participants and the countries to co-ordinate all the working groups, will have they represent. to monitor the progress that is being made, should be enthusiastic and inspiring, will have It should emphasise the exchange of informa- to be the link with the General Board by serv- tion, ideas and experiences. This means much ing on that board, and is likely to be the chair time for discussions and working groups and during the conference. very little time for lectures! Secretary: person who documents all the meet- It should be challenging to both teachers and ings, writes down all the tasks that need to be students. Teachers will need to be exposed to performed, etc. new teaching approaches and new environ- mental education projects and should be en- Treasurer: person who concentrates on raising couraged to develop joint projects with their funds for the conference and does the book- colleagues from other countries. Students will keeping. need to be recognized as intelligent people who have something important to say about the en- Programme developers: usually somebody vironment. with an environmental education background and a youth representative. In addition to being educational the pro- gramme should be social and cultural. People have come from far and have paid a lot of 19 money to come to your country. They will need Forum can support fundraising activities for some time to explore the host country’s culture Environmental Education. and to get to know some of the local people. 3.2. The conference may charge participants up It should not try to accomplish too much in a to $150 U.S. per participant as a conference fee. relatively short period of time. This means that This fee should include room and board, and the programme should not be overcrowded the CEI membership fee. It should be expected and that the fieldtrips should be in the local that some participants will need to be spon- area (people do not like to sit in a bus for more sored and not all participants will be able to than one hour!). pay for their conference fee. 2.2. In order to accomplish the above it is rec- ommended that past conference reports are 4. Participants consulted and that secondary school teachers and students, possibly some of whom have at- 4.1. Participants should be secondary school tended past CEI-conference, are involved in the students and their teachers. Ideally half of the Organising Committee. conference participants should consist of stu- dents. Teachers will have to bring at least one 2.3. It is advised that participants receive in- student from their school. All participants have structions a few months prior to the conference to submit evidence to the Organising Commit- so that they can prepare for a) the conference tee of their commitment to environmental edu- theme and b) their own school project display cation. In selecting participant we advise to try and/or presentations. It is crucial that at least to get as much variety as possible. The more two conference newsletters or conference up- countries that are represented the better, as dates are sent out well in advance of the confe- long as the above criteria are considered. Only rence. under special circumstances exceptions to the above rules can be made. 3. Funding the Conference 4.2. Participants will need to be informed about the conference at the preceding confe- 3.1. Where you get your money for the confe- rence. It is wise to bring conference announce- rence may depend very much on local tradi- ments to the conference taking place before tions and customs. However, past conferences yours. This will save you postage and will al- have received funding from a variety of groups low some to register right away. Participants representing governments, non-governmental should be informed as soon as possible, once organisations, business and industry, confe- they have been accepted. The more time they rence participants, international organisations get to prepare, the more likely it is they will ac- and individual donations. All sources should tually come. Conference updates should be be approached. send out at least five months prior to the confe- rence. East-West relationships, Cultural Exchange, Environmental Education, Youth, North-South 4.3. Participants will need to be housed proper- relationships are some of the key words that ly. This only means a good bed and running may strike a responsive chord with the above water for washing and/or showering. CEI- mentioned groups. CEI will write letters of Conferences need not be luxurious. Depending support to a variety of organisations. Past on the possibilities, group housing may be ap- sponsors include UNEP, British Petroleum propriate. Generally males and females are to (BP), and The European Community, to name a sleep in separate rooms. A special space for so- few international groups. The CEI-video, CEI- cial events should be arranged for. leaflets, CEI-conference reports and the Global 20 4.4. Participants can be expected to adapt to 24 months prior: select theme, put together local customs and traditions. However, it General Board, develop a general plan of ac- should be kept in mind that due to religious tion. preference or personal preferences, some par- ticipants might have special requests, for ex- 18 months prior: put together Organising ample, with regard to diet. On the registration Committee and the various workgroups. Begin form they should be allowed to express these securing funding. Explore lodging, food, etc. special requests. Design Conference logo and stationary (should include CEI). 4.5. CEI-conferences are always bilingual, one language always being English, the other one to 14 months prior: have draft conference pro- be chosen by the organising committee (usually gram ready, set conference dates, develop in- the language of the host country). Simultaneous formation brochure. translation will need to be provided at joint ses- 12 months prior: attend preceding conference, sions. Translation is also recommended during present your conference, and hand out infor- field trips and workgroups. It will be a chal- mation brochure and preliminary registration lenge to truly create a sense of community dur- forms. ing the conference and to avoid that there is a division along the language line. 10 months prior: Organising Committee now meets every three weeks to discuss progress. Publicity of the conference in Environmental 5. Conference Report and Publicity Education magazines and journals. Contact workshop leaders and potential speakers. 5.1. It is CEI’s intention to share the conference outcomes and experiences with those who were 8 months prior: finalise food, lodging and unable to attend by publishing conference pro- transportation arrangements. Provide potential ceedings. The organising committee may wish participants with travel advise. Organise a to appoint someone who is in charge of docu- meeting with the International Board. menting the conference by interviewing people, taking pictures, collecting illustrations, docu- 6 months prior: inform participants that they menting speeches, asking each working group have been accepted or rejected. Prepare first to write a summary, collecting a list of partici- conference bulletin with information about the pants, summarising the projects each school conference and the theme. represents, etc. Ideally the conference report is bilingual, although it is possible to provide on- 4 months prior: prepare second bulletin for par- ly a summary in one of the two languages. Al- ticipants. The Organising Committee should though reality has shown it is difficult, we rec- now meet once a week to discuss progress. ommend that the conference report appear be- Meanwhile fundraising continues. fore the next conference! 2 months prior: last check of accommodation, 5.2. It is recommended to involve the media in food and lodging arrangements. Last check, of the conference by inviting them to programme which participants will come, are likely to come elements. Publicity is necessary to inform the and probably will not come. The more commu- local community, but also to provide the partic- nication you have with participants the more ipants and the organisers with some recogni- likely they are to come. tion for their work. 6. General Time Frame 21 Thanks and acknowledgement To those who contributed to this publication: Patrick Wood, Mylene DiPenta, the Whycoco- magh SPEC98 Coordinating Group and Arjen Wals, the thanks of everyone who may ever find it useful. To the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Culture, and the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment, thanks for granting public funding to Caretakers for editing and publish- ing. To all the students, teachers and parents who participated in the conferences mentioned here, deep appreciation for your interest and work. It is the foundation of everything we do. Kathryn Graves, Editor Don Black, Editor email@example.com Caretakers of the Environment-Canada Box 672 Halifax, N.S. B3J 2A1 (902) 423-9005, firstname.lastname@example.org www.boker.org.il/eng/caretakers/ceican.htm 22 Caretakers of the Environment-Canada Sample organizing sequence and timeline for a September conference Time-line Task Who is responsible? Completion date? February Apply to CEI-Canada for support as host school. Form a working group, include a staff advisor. Contact principal for school’s approval to host SPEC. March Hold a general meeting Form a Coordinating Group Establish goals and organization structure with whole group. Establish theme Set dates and location for conference. Contact & promote Fundraising & donations in-kind April/May Register participants. May/Sept Event preparation (logistics) On the day Host the participants. Manage the program Document the conference (pictures, interviews, video, drawings, poems). Clean-up. November Report-out.
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