flags of participating nations© Walter Poleman

GBSEN recently had the honor of hosting the 8th Americas RCE Meeting. The three-day gathering was held on September 23-25, 2019 and attracted participants from 11 RCEs representing five nations across South, Central, and North America. A core group of 35 Vermonters joined the 31 out-of-town delegates to participate in events that took place at Shelburne Farms, University of Vermont, and various locations in the City of Burlington.

Participating RCEs:

  • Borderlands Mexico-USA
  • Cuenca del Plata
  • Curitiba-Parana

  • © Brian Jenkins

  • Georgetown
  • Grand Rapids
  • Greater Atlanta
  • Greater Burlington
  • Greater Portland
  • North Texas
  • Puerto Rico (candidate)
  • Saskatchewan
  • Shenandoah

Participating Partners from RCE Greater Burlington:

  • Shelburne Farms
  • University of Vermont
  • City of Burlington
  • Gedakina
  • Champlain College
  • Middlebury College
  • Burlington City & Lake Semester
  • Rock Point Center
  • Community Sailing Center
  • Intervale Center
  • Sustainability Academy
  • ECHO Center

The theme of the meeting was Human Health and the Environment, and many of the participating RCEs gave presentations highlighting the intersection of SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being),

© Megan Camp

SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). In addition, SDG 13 (Climate Action) was featured at a public forum entitled Mobilizing Climate Action For Health, which took place on September 23 – the same day as the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City – and was attended by over 180 people.

The overall goal of the gathering was to bring together people of diverse backgrounds, ages, cultures, nationalities, sectors, and disciplines to share and discuss emerging ideas, strategies, and challenges in the realm of education for sustainability. By holding elements of the meeting at different venues and field sites in the Greater Burlington area, we hoped to stimulate dialogue among the participants

© Sarah Webb

and foster the overall level of relational synergy within the RCE Americas network. To that end, the meeting had several highlights:

Engagement with youth from local schools. High school students from Burlington City & Lake Semester facilitated a robust discussion of the Sustainable Development Goals during an afternoon visit to the Community Sailing Center, while middle school students shared about their involvement in the award-winning Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability program. UVM students served as discussion facilitators at the Climate Action public forum.

Participation of Abenaki educators. Judy Dow of Gedakina welcomed visitors to Abenaki land, and led an exploration of Burlington’s complex history that featured the

Judy Dow         © Walter Poleman

importance of the Intervale to the indigenous people of the region. Chief Don Stevens shared an Abenaki creation story and harvest celebration song at the evening gathering at Shelburne Farms. Their participation underscored the critical role of indigenous voices in shaping a sustainable future.

Experiencing Shelburne Farms. Participants had the opportunity to explore the programs and working landscape of Shelburne Farms.

© Walter Poleman

Many of the visiting delegates stayed at the Inn at Shelburne Farms, and all participants had a chance to learn about the education for sustainability programs and enjoy the local food grown on the land.

Transdisciplinary support from Higher Education. Sponsorship of the networking dinner prior to the public forum on September 23 was provided by all eight of the academic colleges and schools at the University of Vermont. Champlain College and Middlebury College also sponsored events and meals. This unified showing of support for the RCE approach from across local campuses was emblematic of the growing commitment of higher education to the Sustainable Development Goals, and the power of linking sustainability initiatives across disciplines.

Follow-up Learning Journeys. The optional learning journeys led by partners in the Greater Burlington Sustainability Education Network following the meeting were well-attended. Several delegated returned to the Burlington Waterfront for guided tours of the ECHO Center and Rubenstein

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger ©Megan Camp

Ecosystem Science Laboratory, while another group visited with Burlington City and Lake Semester and Sustainability Academy in the City’s Old North End.

Engagement of Leadership. In addition to the welcome address provided by Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger to open the meeting at Rock Point Center, UVM President Suresh Garimella and Shelburne Farms President Alec Webb each offered welcome addresses at the events they hosted.

Visitors from Puerto Rico. We had the honor of welcoming a delegation from Puerto Rico at the meeting. Puerto Rico has applied to become an RCE in 2020, and each of five members of their delegation made substantive contributions to various aspects of the meeting. For example, Adrianna Gonzalez was a featured panelist at the public forum, and shared stories of the impacts of Hurricane Maria on human health in Puerto Rico.

Hosting the meeting here in Vermont was a valuable and rewarding opportunity for all of us associated with RCE Greater Burlington, and we feel that it will both galvanize our regional network and strengthen relationships across the Americas as we work together during the critical decade that lies ahead.

More Photos

Additional Reporting on the Meeting


As a local follow-up to the meeting, the Greater Burlington Sustainability Education Network (GBSEN) will be hosting a Burlington Geographic presentation at the Main Street Landing Film House on Wednesday, December 4th from 7 – 9 PM. The title of the presentation will be Human Health and the Environment in Burlington Through Time.


The week of April 13-21, 2019 was officially designated as SDG Week in our region. During SDG Week, educators, students, non-profits, government leaders and agencies, businesses, and community members will be working together to promote the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


April 11
  • Social Justice + Sustainability: How Are They Connected? Lecture by Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams. 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Livak Ballroom, Davis Center. UVM. Presented by the Sustainability Learning Community. No registration necessary.
April 13
  • Resilience: Vision for a New America. Film screening followed by Q&A with Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams. 3:30 – 5:30 PM. Livak Ballroom, Davis Center. UVM. No registration necessary. Looking at human rights under threat in the current political climate in the US, this film portrays diverse individuals in a country undergoing an enormous identity crisis. No registration necessary
April 14
  • Making Eugenics Visible: A Van Tour of the Queen City and Her Connections. 1 - 4 PM A bus tour which will leave from Gateway Plaza in South Burlington. Join Judy Dow, local educator, artist and scholar, as she tells the story of French Indian Burlington in the 1920s and 1930s. We’ll visit Tammany Hall, The Ten Commandments, the Old Beehive, the Home for Friendless Mothers, Moccasin Village and other Burlington sites relevant to this period of time. Limit 17 participants- that is the capacity of the King Street Bus.
April 15
  • Centennial Woods Natural Area Bio-Blitz. Rescheduled for April 17
  • Uncovering the Untold Story: A Community Conversation. 3:30- 4:30 PM at Champlain Elementary School. How can we integrate indigenous ways of being and knowing across the curriculum authentically and with relevance? We need to break down the barriers of political correctness, presumptions, miseducation and fear in order to tell a more inclusive, culturally appropriate and complete story of place. Who are the missing voices? What is the untold story of the land? Join us for an informal conversation amongst educators that surfaces our fears and hopes and threads meaning through time. This is the beginning of a conversation we all need to have that may spark a needed change in what and how we teach. Community Conversation hosts: Judy Dow, Abenaki descent educator, Aziza Malik, 5th grade teacher at Champlain Elementary and Shelburne Farms educators Aimee Arandia Østensen and Kestrel Plump.
  • Students from Burlington High School’s City & Lake Semester will be offering five “SGDs Teach-outs” at local elementary and middle schools. NOTE: This event is not open to the public.
April 16
  • Half-Earth Vermont Tea. 3:30-4:30 PM on the UVM campus. 277 Jeffords Hall on the UVM campus. Come join three Vermont residents involved in the introduction of Half-Earth to Vermont for an informal discussion on the role of biodiversity in ecosystems, E.O Wilson’s global initiative to save half the planet for nature, emerging Half-Earth plans in the state, and steps everyone can take to preserve biodiversity using the half-yard, half-school, half town, and half-watershed rubric. The conversation will be hosted by George Schenk, founder of American Flatbread and owner of Lareau Farm, Eric Hagen, Field Naturalist graduate student at UVM, and Curt Lindberg, coordinator of Half-Earth Vermont. Coffee, tea, and refreshments will be available to enjoy during our coffee-house style conversations. “To strive against the odds on behalf of all life would be humanity at its most noble.” This quote from famed naturalist E.O. Wilson captures his commitment to the preservation of global biodiversity and is one of the most important initiatives of the modern age. His clarion call to conserve half the land and sea to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity, including ourselves, is starting to gain some traction in Vermont.
  • Community Health and Wellness Fair. 5 - 8 PM at Burlington High School. Hosted by the District Equity and Access Leadership Team (DEALT). All are welcome! A free community meal will be provided for all attendees with vegetarian and gluten-free options available. Nearly 50 health and wellness organizations in the greater Burlington area will be in attendance with information on health topics, community resources, games, activities, and prizes. Several brief presentations will be available for those who are interested in learning more about maintaining healthy lifestyles and supporting those of family, friends, and partners. Follow this link for more information. No registration necessary.
  • 350 Burlington Action Night. 6 PM – 8 PM at 350 Vermont (22 Church St, Burlington). Join the Burlington node of 350VT to create activist art, do phone banking, develop effective tabling materials, write letters and generally engage in activities that support current climate justice initiatives.
April 17
  • Centennial Woods Natural Area Bio-Blitz. 8 AM – 5 PM (come anytime!). Help us document the biodiversity of this popular UVM Natural Area in the City of Burlington. Facilitated by the Aiken Scholars from the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. Meet at the Centennial Woods trail head.
  • Zero Hunger Information Session and Table. 9 AM – Noon. Room 103, Aiken Center on the UVM Campus. U.N. Sustainable Goal #2 is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. Join Rubenstein School student Margaret Barch and Hunger Free Vermont to learn about hunger issues in Vermont and beyond. Hunger Free Vermont seeks to end the injustice of hunger and malnutrition in dignified ways for Vermonters of all ages. Stop by the table outside Aiken 103 any time between 9 AM – noon.
  • Culture, Equity and Sustainability - Shelburne Farms educators are taking the SDG Week to New York City. The workshop focuses on reducing inequities in K-5 systems. Note: This event is not open to the public.
  • RCE Americas Youth Network Virtual Conference. Noon – 2 PM, online. This conference will give youth leaders from across the Americas an opportunity to exchange ideas with the intention to expand initiatives on their campuses and within their local communities. The theme of the conference will focus on strengthening partnerships and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on campuses and within communities. The deadline for registering as an attendee is Sunday April 14th. Hosted by RCE Greater Atlanta and RCE Georgetown.
  • Banana Land. Film Screening. 7 PM at the Davis Center on the UVM Campus. Join the Real Food Working Group, the Peace and Justice Center and the Human Trafficking Activism and Awareness Club for a free screening of Banana Land, a documentary exposing the truths of the banana industry in Latin America. No registration necessary.
April 18
  • Making Eugenics Visible: A Van Tour of the Queen City and Her Connections. Tour time: 1 – 4 PM. Meet at the loading dock at the Aiken Center on the UVM campus. Join Judy Dow, local educator, artist and scholar, as she tells the story of French Indian Burlington in the 1920s and 1930s. We’ll visit Tammany Hall, The Ten Commandments, the Old Beehive, the Home for Friendless Mothers, Moccasin Village and other Burlington sites relevant to this period of time.
  • Champlain Valley School District Educator Workshop on SDGs - Sharon Davison, Global Goals Ambassador and Kindergarten teachers along with Jen Cirillo from Shelburne Farms are offering an afternoon session on the SDGs and K-12 education. Note: This event is open to K-12 educators in the Champlain Valley School District.
April 19
  • Old Spokes Home Grand Opening: 331 N. Winooski Avenue in Burlington. 10AM – 9 PM. Old Spokes Home is a bike shop and 501(c)(3) nonprofit “creating access to bikes and the opportunities they provide for our whole community. We work out of our new location at 331 N. Winooski Avenue to get everyone, regardless of income, on a bike. We believe bikes are a simple solution to complex problems. We believe there is a bike for every person and every purpose. We believe bikes aid in positive personal and cultural transformation. Bikes connect people to their community, to their own bodies, to their physical environments. Bikes heal. Bikes empower. Bikes mobilize. We believe everyone should have access to bikes. We believe everyone deserves to feel the joy that a bicycle provides. That's why we're here.” Check out their website

Hosted by the Rubenstein School, UVM Sustainability Faculty Fellows Program, and Shelburne Farms
Location: ArtsRiot, 400 Pine Street, Burlington, Vermont

The Greater Burlington Sustainability Education Network (GBSEN) invites educators, researchers, leaders, and community members from across the Burlington area to attend an engaging afternoon of connection, conversation, and networking. The goal of this gathering is to explore how we can promote the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, both locally and globally, and strengthen partnerships within our emerging network.

In addition to helping spark sustainability connections and exciting new learning opportunities throughout the Burlington area, the afternoon gathering will feature a presentation by a group of four UVM students who have been interviewing sustainability leaders throughout our community.

ArtsRiot, with its mission of destroying apathy through community engagement, is an ideal setting to convene this “sustainability mixer.” Light fare will be provided, and stimulating conversation is guaranteed. So come join us after work on April 18th, and we’ll see what emerges!

A team of eight volunteers representing the Great Burlington Sustainability Education Network traveled to Puerto Rico over Spring Break to assist with ongoing hurricane relief efforts there. Much of the island was severely impacted by Hurricane Maria on September 20th, and many farms, forests, and communities were devastated. Ongoing relief efforts have been making a big difference, but six months later there continues to be a tremendous amount of work to be done.

The GBSEN team, which included Walter Poleman, Kimberly Wallin, Tatiana Abatemarco, and Tatiana Gladkikh from the Rubenstein School, partnered with Centro para la Conservación del Paisaje to work in solidarity with Puerto Ricans as they restored watersheds, farms, and structures in communities that surround El Yungue National Forest in the northeastern part of the island.

Our partners in Puerto Rico are in the process of preparing an application to become an RCE, the first in the Caribbean!

Edgardo and Colibri orient the team
Edgardo and Colibri orient the team
Planting terraced crop a new farm in Arroyo
Planting terraced crop a new farm in Arroyo
Cross-cultural team on Barcelona Farm
Cross-cultural team on Barcelona Farm
Copyright © RCE Greater Burlington 2019