This past week, I attended the CEI conference out of Ireland! CEI (Caretakers of the Environment, International) was founded more than 30 years ago and has held conferences around the world. Last year, they hosted the first virtual conference and did the same this year. I heard about the conference in March and began to see if any students would be interested in participating. To my surprise, students were interested and we quickly formed a team. To participate in the conference, each team must design and implement a project around the theme of sustainability. Our students worked entirely on their own time and created a wonderful project which included helping students in other schools, visiting a local farm, building a garden box, planting multiple gardens, and replacing a section of parking lot with a tree. For the conference last week, we began our online presence at 5:00 AM everyday! We were certainly tired, but the students showed up and represented our country well! I am so proud of the work they did.
I am sharing this with you not to brag, but instead to encourage you to consider something similar for yourself. Though there are other organizations you can get involved with, I am going to focus on CEI for this post. One of the aspects of this program that I appreciated was the organization of the projects. It was clear from the get go what the expectations were and CEI made sure to reach out to me with guidance along the way. One of the board members even showed up for one of our team’s Zoom meetings!
Another aspect of this program that drew students in was the international component. Students want to connect with peers around the globe. The conference provided an opportunity for my students to interact with students from many countries including Malawi, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Russia, Ireland, North Macedonia, and more. We also heard speakers from many countries throughout the conference. The first Keynote Speaker was Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland! It was amazing and absolutely memorable to hear from her. She even answered a question from one of my students and used his name when answering!
To my surprise, we were one of only two groups from the USA. I would love to see more groups at the next conference, whether virtual or in-person. Participation is not exclusive to schools. In fact, the other group is two Scouts out of Chicago. If you lead a group of youth, whether in a classroom, church, Scouts, or parenting, and you are interested in learning more, please do! I would be happy to chat with you, or you can check out these websites: CEI and CEI Alumni.