Guides to Successful Student Conferences by xiaopangnv


									                                  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).
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
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
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
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
clubs, businesses, public media, government

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-
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.
                                                     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-
                                                     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.
                                                     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

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-

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
Coordination                                        committees are “singing from the same song-
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.
                                                    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
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
                                                    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.
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!
                                                     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
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

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-
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

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-
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

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

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
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
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-
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
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
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
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-
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
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

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-

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

   Caretakers of the Environment-Canada
                   Box 672
           Halifax, N.S. B3J 2A1

             (902) 423-9005,

                               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).


November      Report-out.

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