- Grove City, Pennsylvania

May 10, 2013

Laying green groundwork

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

SLIPPERY ROCK — Award-winning green architect and Slippery Rock University graduate Robert Kobet returned to his alma mater Thursday to share his success stories and help lay the same groundwork for SRU.

"If you get something started, hang on," he told a small crowd of his best advice - not to give up.

Kobet, a 1993 SRU graduate, appeared as part of the school's "Earth Days 2013" program and spoke on "Changing Cultures and Communities Through Integrated Sustainability Education."

He is chief executive officer of Kobet Collaborative, an architecture consulting firm in Pittsburgh. He has worked in 12 countries on five continents creating innovative places to live, work and learn.

He created the design and construction plan for SRU's Robert A. Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems Education and Research as his master's degree thesis for his degree in sustainable systems.

He was the project's original architect of record, taught in SRU's MS3 program and wrote the curriculum for its build environmental track. His work earned him the first Three Rivers Award for Environmental Education in 1997.

Kobet on Thursday showed photos of an elementary school system in Beijing, China, located on the former site of the Olympic Village where the athletes stayed during the 2008 summer games.

"They took what we take for granted - stormwater management - and they did art," he said of one photo that showed pipes reconfigured into an artistic design.

Kids in other countries, like those Beijing students, know at a young age about sustainable projects like plant-based water treatment systems.

"Those kids enjoy going to school," Kobet said, comparing them to U.S. students.

Many jobs are being and will be replaced by "green" jobs, so kids need to be prepared for that kind of future as soon as possible, he said.

"This isn't cutting-edge stuff anymore," he said.

Kobet spoke on the late architect Samuel "Sambo" Mockbee, who achieved his goal to provide dignified housing for poor folks in the south, where he grew up. Those homes came with a catch - the families had to pay it forward and help the next family build their home.

"Samuel Mockbee as an educator had a green heart. He's one of my heroes," he said.

Kobet highlighted one of his firm's projects in West Palm Beach, Fla. -- the Pine Jog Elementary School, which is run in a unique partnership with the adjacent Pine Jog Environmental Education Center and Florida Atlantic University.

"We had a world of people thinking differently," he said.

The best part is the curriculum because the lessons are so hands-on, Kobet said. The students maintain gardens and the property is shared with a gopher tortoise preserve they help protect, making it "nature's classroom."

"Look at those kids. They're having so much fun," he said of a few photos of students tending fruits and vegetables.

And school gardens are now mandatory in that school district, the Palm Beach County School District, he said.

SRU needs to continue to develop more "green" curriculum and look beyond the campus, using Pine Jog as an example.

"Right across the street we have a high school and a middle school," Kobet said of the Slippery Rock Area School District.

And keep in mind the late Macoskey's global vision for SRU; the university needs to lead the initiative to form partnerships to benefit people all over the world.

"Just imagine what we could do," he said.

Kobet was also named Pittburgh's Green Champion in 2005 by the Green Building Alliance and received the Governor's Energy Award in 2000.

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Published April 27, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.