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Thank You! Letter from a Parent: Derryfield School in Manchester New Hampshire

Intro by Jaimie P. Cloud

I work in the field all the time. I see happy teachers and beautiful units and courses that educate for sustainability. I see authentic assessment instruments carefully crafted to capture student learning, and I see student work as evidence that children and young people are thinking differently and contributing to sustainability as a result of what they are learning in school. What I don’t have the opportunity to see too often is letters like the one below. I am sure this is not a rare occurrence but it certainly is nice when people share what happens next…

I worked with Brent Powell of the Derryfield School in Manchester New Hampshire during our Summer Design Studio and then again a few more times during a series of follow up coaching sessions with him.

This Environmental Studies course was innovated (sustainablized) to prepare students to play a role in creating a healthy sustainable future for humans and the living systems that support life. The overarching question for the course is: What Kind of Future will we Invent?

The course is divided into four units of study:

  2. ENERGY: What will it take to create an energy system in New Hampshire that contributes to our vision of the future?
  3. FOOD: What will it take for New Hampshire to secure a food system that supports the vision we have for our future?
  4. CONSUMPTION AND THE MATERIALS CYCLES: How can we produce and consume responsibly within the means of nature?

Letter from Brent Powell

Dear Jaimie,

As we wrap up the year I [wanted to let you know] that the work we did last year made a big difference in my course.  So thank you!  Below you'll see a note I just got from one of my student's parents.  I thought you might enjoy seeing it.


Letter from the parent of one of Brent’s Students

Hi Brent,

I thought you might enjoy hearing about the impact you have had on my daughter this year.

“A” was studying for her final this afternoon when her Grandfather stopped by to visit. He asked “A” a few questions about the Environmental studies class. It was initially met with humor and sarcasm as she expected. By the end of a two hour conversation, which attracted my husband and a few other guests, “A” landed herself a summer job.

“A” will research the cost of putting solar panels on all of the commercial real estate properties her grandfather owns. She challenged her Dad and Grandfather to really consider changing their environmental footprint. She debated until they really did begin to look at the difference that was possible. So although small changes in lighting were put into place this year, she has encouraged them to consider more.

I was impressed and so proud of her.  Thank you.

* Thank you Brent for sending this to me, and Thank you “A” for taking responsibility for the difference you make. *


Is this Education for Sustainability?

Is this Education for Sustainability? - Jaimie P. Cloud

The questions I ask faculty and administrators to consider when I am invited to a school to audit their sustainability education program are:

  1. Have you chosen a set of EfS benchmarks for the faculty to design, teach and assess with?  
  2. Do you document and map the curriculum?  If so, is it a living document that is continually improved and innovated over time?
  3. Does the faculty use the benchmarks to assess for evidence of EfS? 
  4. Do they explicitly communicate quality EfS performance criteria to their students?
  5. Do you have student work as evidence of the enduring understandings, knowledge, skills and attitudes of EfS?

If the answer is “no” to all the above, then my next question is,

6. Is there a shared understanding within the school community of what Education for sustainability is?

If the answer is “no”, then my next question is,

7. What can I see?  Where can I look for evidence of EfS in the Curriculum?  I learned a long time ago that even if the answers to all my questions are “no”, it doesn’t mean people are not educating for sustainability.  It simply means we have to ask the next question, which is “how can we know?”

The way The Lovett School in Atlanta Georgia addressed my last question was to provide me with an extensive list of Stage 3 (UbD) curricular activities that the K-12 faculty was asked to prepare so that I could help them determine to what extent they were, indeed, educating for sustainability. 

I read through the list with great interest, honored that they took the time to carefully describe what they have been doing.  I didn’t actually consider using any of it in my audit because anecdotal information is not evidence I can assess.  However, after some conversations back and forth with the leadership team, we agreed that it would be valuable to all of us if I were to annotate the descriptions I was given to let the faculty and administration know how we can know if they are educating for sustainability at Lovett. 

Ordinarily I would have recommended that we use the Cloud Institute’s EfS Standards and Enduring Understandings as benchmarks against which I could annotate their descriptions, but I am working with the Journal of Sustainability Education to build consensus among EfS thought leaders and scholars on Sustainability Education Benchmarks which will be published this summer, and we all agreed that Lovett should wait for the new Benchmarks—since our work will be influenced by them going forward.  So, I decided to use my experience and my knowledge of EfS to inform my annotations.  I do this kind of work with faculty all the time in conversations during our coaching sessions.  The work of “sustainablizing” the curriculum is difficult to describe if you are not the one experiencing it—maybe even if you are.  I do hope that by capturing this work in writing, that I can increase understanding and shed some light on what it means to educate for a sustainable future, and how that is similar to, and different from, other types of education.  Some themes you will see over and over again:

  1. Document document document.  That way we can know what to keep, what to change, what to stop doing and what to start doing.  If you design, document and map in a robust mapping software, we can do all the analytics we want to do with the push of a button.
  2. If you use UbD/Backwards Design to document and map the curriculum, Stages I and II  (Outcomes and Assessments/Performance Criteria) will be clearly articulated so when we look at Stage III (lessons/descriptions of lessons) we can look for congruence between the 3 stages.  “If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.”
  3. Collecting, sorting and calibrating student work as evidence of EfS is essential if we want to get this right.
  4. A shared understanding of what EfS is, will send a consistent and reinforcing message to students, and will have synergistic results over time.  It is critical to differentiate between educating about sustainability, educating about un-sustainability and educating for sustainability. 

Click Here to read excerpts from The Lovett School descriptions with my annotations.


Sustainable Jersey for Schools | Take Action, Earn Points, Get Certified!

Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a certification program for New Jersey public schools that want to go green, conserve resources and take steps to create a brighter future, one school at a time.

The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education is a Task Force Member, Advisor and Service Provider to Sustainable Jersey for Schools, and we can assist you. We have selected the actions required that best suit our expertise and we stand ready to serve the NJ schools and districts seeking certification. We can help you earn up to 205 points towards your certification and more importantly, we will help prepare your administrators and teachers to educate for a sustainable future by inspiring educators and engaging students through meaningful content and learner-centered instruction.

The actions that we can assist with include: Student Learning, Learning Environment, Leadership & Planning and Innovation Projects. The full list of actions are available here. If we can be of service in any one of these four areas, please contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation with Jaimie Cloud to discuss how we can help you reach your goals.

Learn more about the Cloud Institute's program for Sustainable Jersey Registered Schools and Districts:

Additional information and a downloadable flyer detailing your options for earning points with The Cloud Institute is available here:

Contact us today to schedule a 30 minute complimentary consultation to begin planning your school or districtict's EfS program.


Sustainability in Schools is Much More than “Going Green”

reposted from:, Published Feb 13, 2015

When most people think of the word “sustainability”, it conjures up images of “going green” and environmental programming. Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a new program for New Jersey school districts where the possibilities of saving money, making schools healthier, and preparing students for future sustainable jobs are the goal. Please Join host Ray Pinney as he discusses this exciting program with Donna Drewes, Co-Director of the Sustainability Institute.

Is Your School or District Ready for Sustainable Jersey Certification? Learn how the Cloud Institute can help you earn points and effect change in your school community.


NYC DOE CTE | Cloud Partnership & EfS Programming

The Cloud Institute is proud to announce our new partnership with The NYC Department of Education's High School Career Technical Education (CTE) Office, Envirolution One, a leader in sustainability education and career development in NYC, green industry experts, and Rubicon Atlas, the Curriculum Mapping Software.
NYC High School Career and Tech Education has over 300 CTE programs in 120+ schools, serving more than 120,000 students annually. The goal of the CTE Sustainability Education Initiative,  is to educate for sustainability across all career pathways over the next several years.  In this first year, we will work with faculty from Automotive, Solar, Green Building, Electrical, and IT to develop, map and pilot exemplary units of study that meet the Cloud Institute's EfS Enduring Understandings, Standards and Performance Indicators, as well as industry standards appropriate to each career pathway. The exemplary units will be piloted during the 2015-16 school year. This program is one of the ways that educators and students in NYC can contribute to the goals of ONEnyc 2030, which encompasses The Mayor's Sustainability and Resiliency Initiatives.


Help the Green Bronx Machine build the National Health and Wellness Center at PS 55 in the South Bronx.

Help the Green Bronx Machine build the National Health and Wellness Center at PS 55 in the South Bronx.

The Green Bronx Machine (GBM) has just inherited a 60 x 25 foot empty library in a 100+ year old public school building as their future home, and they are working to turn it into the National Health and Wellness Center in the South Bronx, an innovative and engaging wonderland where students can increase their academic performance and can grow their way towards a brighter future. 

GBM believes that healthy students are at the heart of healthy schools, and healthy schools are at the heart of healthy communities.  By integrating plant-based teaching with core school curriculum, they will grow healthy food, healthy students and healthy academic performance. 

So just what is the National Health and Wellness Center?  It is a place of inquiry and wonder, inspiration and aspiration, a place full of tactile and experiential learning opportunities for students and teachers.  

To make all of this possible, they will have the following four components:

  • Indoor Teaching Farm - we will teach students hands-on about food from seed to harvest, and will connect lessons to classroom curriculum.
  • Teaching Kitchen - we will teach students how to prepare and cook the vegetables they have just grown to create delicious, healthy meals.
  • Media and Resource Center - students will have access to computers for data recording and analysis, and internet for research and inter-classroom lessons with other schools across the country and internationally.
  • Indoor Community Farm - we will grow enough food to send 100 students per week home with bags of fresh vegetables, 52 weeks per year.

Educator and GBM CEO Stephen Ritz says, “It is easier raise healthy children, than fix broken men." With his work, he is simultaneously changing the way kids eat and learn.  Here is what the National Health and Wellness Center will allow him to accomplish within Public School 55:

  • Increased student engagement - He wants students to show up to school excited and ready to learn.  We want them to enjoy learning and develop a hunger for knowledge.  He will nourish their bodies and their minds.
  • Improved academic performance and test scores - as students experiment hands-on, they learn, and as they learn, they perform better!  He wants all of his 4th grade students to pass the New York State 4th Grade Science Exam this year, and he wants to send the first group of PS 55 students to the Bronx High School of Science.
  • Healthier students - as students understand where food comes from and how it grows, they will make better, healthier food choices.  Steve and GBM will provide ongoing, reliable access to healthy food right in school all year long.

GBM’s focus now is to embed their work into the entire culture of PS 55.  They know they can do this because they have generated incredible results in other schools, including: 

  • Targeted daily attendance rates increased from 40% to 93%
  • 100% graduation rate among participating students
  • 100% passing rate on NY State Regents Exam

Please support Steve Ritz and the Green Bronx Machine’s National Health and Wellness Center at Public School 55 in the South Bronx.  Find out how you can contribute at  

100% of the tax-deductible funds raised in this campaign will be used toward the purchase of equipment, facility upgrades, content creation, and operations in order to set this vision into motion. 


Why Do American Students Have So Little Power?

reposted from: Article by: Amanda Ripley, Published March 12, 2015.

A group of Kentucky teens is struggling to get a modest bill passed, revealing just how difficult it is to convince adults that kids' opinions matter.

For the past four months, a group of Kentucky teenagers has been working to make a one-sentence change to a state law. In the history of student activism, this is not a big ask. They want local school boards to have the option - just the option - of including a student on the committees that screen candidates for superintendent jobs.

That’s it. They aren’t asking to choose the superintendent; the elected school board does that. They just want to have one student sit among the half-dozen adults (including two teachers, a parent, and a principal) who help vet candidates and make recommendations to the board.

"I thought everyone would view it as a no-brainer," said Nicole Fielder, 18. She said this on Tuesday from Frankfort, the state’s capital, where she was missing classes in order to advocate - for the sixth time - for this bill.

Policymakers should be begging students to serve on committees and school boards, not the other way around. That’s because students are their secret weapons: Kids can translate abstract policy into real life with a speed and fluency that no adult can match.

To date, Fielder and her fellow students have testified before lawmakers, written op-eds, consulted attorneys, and collected piles of research. When a snowstorm threatened to keep them from traveling to appear in front of a committee last week, they asked if they could sleep on the floor of the Capitol rotunda. (The answer was no; they stayed in a nearby hotel.) As of today, the bill appeared in danger of dying a sudden death.

In the eight years I’ve been writing about education, my best sources have been students. An 11th grader in Washington, D.C., named Allante Rhodes told me that, while it was nice his high school offered a Microsoft Word class, only six of the campus’ 14 computers worked; he often spent his computer class reading a handout given to him by the teacher. That was good for me to know.

Meanwhile, Andrew Brennen, a 12th-grader who had moved five times as a teenager, told me that his grades depended on his zip code. In Georgia, he was at the top of his class; in Maryland, the very next year, his grades plummeted and he had to retake Spanish altogether. In Kentucky, he did fine in science but struggled with math. And that’s why he thought adopting the Common Core State Standards made sense. "Honestly," he told me, "you spend 35 hours a week in a classroom, you know what kind of things work and don’t work."

Students are the most valuable and least consulted education-policy experts in America. Before they graduate, they spend roughly 2,300 days contemplating their situation, considering how their schools and neighborhoods could be better—or worse. And unlike many journalists, teachers, principals, and school-board members, most couldn’t care less about politics.

Keep reading at:


The Cloud Institute | Schools Learn EfS

The Cloud Institute's work with schools revolves around curriculum, instruction and assessment for Education for Sustainability (EfS). EfS is defined as a transformative learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking required to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of our living systems.

Education for Sustainability has multiple, positive effects on student achievement, school culture, community vitality, and ecological integrity. Young people experience a greater awareness of community and a greater appreciation of the democratic process, and teachers respond confidently and with an improved outlook. EfS contributes to improved relationships between the schools, parents and the community, and neighborhoods benefit from improved air quality, reduced waste, and decreased energy use.

Our Schools Learn program is a long-term and comprehensive approach to developing whole school capacity to educate for sustainability. We support efforts to embed EfS into curriculum, instruction and assessment, and organizational learning practices, while working in partnership with the community. Schools Learn programming will generally include: Introduction to Education for Sustainability, Administrative Planning and Coaching, Professional Development and Curriculum Coaching for Instructors and Formal Strength Assessments.

How can Education for Sustainability (EfS) increase student health and academic achievement? How can EfS help to retain the best and brightest young teachers? How can EfS stimulate and sustain school and community improvement? These are just a few of the questions that we will answer together.

Learn more and schedule a consultation or workshop HERE.

View our client list HERE.



Edgemont Montessori Elementary School Awarded Eco-Schools USA Bronze Award

Repost from:
Original Post Date: February 2015

Students, staff, and parents at the Edgemont Montessori School in Montclair are playing their part in reducing waste pollution, protecting trees, and producing less toxic chemical emissions. The school was recently awarded the Bronze Award by the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA Program. This international program recognizes and provides free resources to schools integrating sustainability into the curriculum and on school grounds. Through the Eco-Schools program, schools select from 10 environmental focus areas or pathways to work on such as energy efficiency, biodiversity, and sustainable foods. This free and voluntary program has been gaining popularity in the Garden State with 122 schools registered throughout New Jersey.

Edgemont Principal Cheryl Hopper says “This award reinforces Edgemont’s commitment to not just teaching our students about the environment and its sustainability, but also living out those lessons in the children’s time both in and outside school. It is testament to our staff, students, and families, all of who have created inside Edgemont a culture of awareness and compassion for the broader world.”

To win the Bronze Award schools must establish an “Eco-Action Team”, conduct an environmental audit, develop and monitor an Eco-Action plan and include the community. Edgemont did just that with students having fun along the way. Starting in the fall of 2013 and continued again in the fall of 2014 the school began work on Eco-School’s consumption and waste pathway, kicking off their program with school-wide education and Recycling Right Challenge contest. The winning classes were invited to zero-waste parties and other prizes were awarded.

“We are excited by what this means for the school and the environment and the students’ sense of environmental stewardship. “says Gloria Lepari, Eco-Action Team Co-Chair and teacher. Suzanne Aptman, Eco-Action Co-Chair and parent explains “It was powerful to see the school come together with such focus and enthusiasm. We have a new waste-reducing program in place. We hope to continually improve it year after year while working on other environmental focus areas.”

Edgemont’s efforts resulted in an increase in classroom recycling rates and reduced cafeteria trash from 3 bins per day on average to 2 bins per day on average. That translates to roughly 20 bins of trash per month that is diverted from the Newark Incinerator and is no longer an additional source of pollution. Edgemont students took special care with plastic bottle caps which create an additional challenge to wildlife in our waterways who mistake plastic pieces for food. Students collected close to 1,000 caps between January and September and have plans to upcycle those caps.

“The Edgemont Montessori School community should be proud of what they have accomplished with the Eco-Schools USA program in such a short period of time. Students can see the impact that they are making with their efforts and that makes the learning so much more meaningful.” says Jennifer Dowd, Eco-Schools NJ Coordinator, New Jersey Audubon.

Edgemont has also started to incorporate waste-free procedures into the school events, especially their big annual fundraiser “Green Eggs and Ham”. About 150 gallons of non-recycled trash was delivered, by committed parents, to a local commercial composting facility after the event.

The school looks forward to setting new goals around waste reduction while focusing on additional Eco-School pathways. Edgemont is also certified as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat with National Wildlife Federation and just this year was recognized as a Monarch Butterfly Way Station for a newly established butterfly garden and efforts to educate the students around pollinator protection.

There are nine other Eco-Schools in Essex County including Miller Street Elementary School, East Side High School, Greater Newark Charter School, H.B. Whitehorne Middle School, Maria L. Varisco Rogers Charter School, Millburn Middle School, Montclair Kimberly Academy, Philips Academy Charter School, and Watchung School.


Useful Steps to Embedding EfS Standards into your Core Curriculum using Backwards Design (UbD)

By Jaimie P. Cloud


For those of you who understand what EfS is, who can articulate why you should do it, who are inspired and clear about the role that education plays in accelerating the shift toward sustainability… and just need some guidance on HOW to embed EfS into your core curriculum, this is for you. If you don’t yet have the tools and vocabulary you need to make sense of this, you can participate in one of our introductory professional development programs and receive follow up coaching services. Or take advantage of our “do it yourself” resources in our bookstore. The Fish Game and The EfS Curriculum Design Manual will get you started.


  • EfS Standards - The knowledge, skills, attitudes and habits of mind of Education for Sustainability (EfS) are embedded in The Cloud Institute's EfS Standards and Performance Indicators. Aligned to Common Core, Next Generation Science and other and State educational standards, each EfS Standard has a set of coded Performance Indicators used to guide educators as they infuse their curriculum, instruction and assessment practices with Education for Sustainability. We believe that by meeting these EfS standards, young people will be prepared to participate in, and to lead with us, the shift toward a sustainable future. The Cloud Institute's EfS Standards and Performance Indicators are available on the Rubicon Atlas Curriculum Mapping system. Contact us if your school is using Atlas and would like access.

  • Backwards Design/Understanding by Design (UbD) - Understanding by Design® (UbD™) is a framework for improving student achievement. Emphasizing the teacher's critical role as a designer of student learning, UbD™ works within the standards-driven curriculum to help teachers clarify learning goals, devise revealing assessments of student understanding, and craft effective and engaging learning activities. UbD was developed by nationally recognized educators Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). “Backwards Design” is a term we use to describe the process of designing curriculum with the end (the desired learning outcomes) in mind.

  • Levels of Accomplishment
    Introductory: Students are assessed at an introductory/basic level of accomplishment
    Progressing: Students are assessed based on their ability to demonstrate progress toward accomplishment
    Mastery: Students are assessed for mastery of the content or skill being addressed

  • Curriculum Stages - In UbD and Backwards Design, there are three stages to the design process. The first two stages make up the curriculum.
    Stage 1
    - Learning Outcomes (rationale, transfer goals, standards, enduring understandings, content knowledge, skills, /Essential Question(s).
    Stage 2
    - Assessments and Explicit Performance Criteria

  • Instruction Stage - In UbD and Backwards Design, the third stage is made up of the instructional practices that deliver on the curriculum.
    Stage 3
    - Lessons, Activities, Learning Experiences


A.   Acquire a shared understanding of sustainability and Education for Sustainability in your school community; develop personal rationales for educating for sustainability; become informed, inspired and hopeful about the role that education can play in making the shift toward a sustainable future

B.     Align the EfS Enduring Understandings, Standards and Performance Indicators to your core curriculum. 
(This activity is in the EfS Curriculum Design Manual in the bookstore. You can also receive the protocol with the EfS Alignment Charts available in the bookstore.) 

C.     Select a unit of study you want to “sustainablize” or design from scratch. Make note of how much time you have to deliver the unit. (Time is our only currency.)


D.     Select the required standards (Common Core, NGSS, Content, etc.) that this unit will address.

E.     Select the EfS Enduring Understanding(s), and the EfS Standards and Performance Indicators that are aligned to this unit, and that this unit will address.

F.     Decide what Essential Question(s) will drive the unit. Make sure that the Essential Question(s) corresponds to the Enduring Understandings you have selected. You may want to write a rationale for this unit (sooner or later it is good practice to do so) and you may want to develop a transfer goal(s) for the unit so that you keep in mind right from the beginning what, in the long run, you want students to be able to do independently and in a novel context as a result of this unit. It is a humbling experience to develop transfer goals. I recommend it.

G.     Using your UBD/Backwards Design Unit Overview Template, “Un-Pack” the Standards and Indicators (all) by dissecting each performance indicator and breaking it down into concrete understandable content knowledge (nouns) and skills (verbs) in those sections of your template. (Standards and Indicators are always written in abstract language—and this is an excellent step for meaning making and translation into practical language.) A good unit overview template is laid out so that the content section and the skills section sit side by side so you can see them together. This is really useful—because it is these two boxes you will work with most when it comes time to sketch lessons.

H.     Sequence, color code, and group the content knowledge in the order in which it will be delivered and do the same with the corresponding skills that will demonstrate that students have learned the content. Here is one exemplar of a Kindergarten Unit entitled, Change: Smile Through It! written by Jaimie Cloud and Marie Alcock. CLICK HERE

I.     Once you have the content and skills the way you want them—you can sketch the sequence of guiding questions you will ask that corresponds to the content and skills. Do a quick check to make sure that the content, skills and guiding questions you are sketching are all congruent with one another and serve your Enduring Understanding(s) and Essential Question(s).

J.     During the design process, I like to write the guiding questions in the content section first—so that I make sure that I haven’t missed anything. Sometimes I leave a copy there as a reference and then I always copy and paste the guiding questions into the learning opportunities/lessons section (Stage 3) because they will eventually drive the lessons and activities that will deliver on everything in Stage 1.


K.     Look back at the Outcomes you selected and indicate the level of performance for each one you will assess (Introductory, Progressing or Mastery (IPM), and/or, The Depths of Knowledge (DOK). Decide what assessments will provide evidence of student learning, when they will need to be administered, what level(s) of accomplishment you are assessing for, and what quality performance criteria (rubrics, checklists, exemplars…) you will use explicitly with your students—and how and when you will need to communicate it to them.


L.     All along stages 1 and 2 you have been thinking about activities, readings and resources you will use with your students. Whenever your mind goes there, just jot them down in the Stage 3 Box. Don’t spend too much time in Stage 3 while you are still working out Stages 1 and 2, but don’t lose a good idea you will use in Stage 3 because you aren’t there yet. This is an iterative process—not a linear one. At the end of the day you want to make sure that all three stages hang together in a whole system of congruent mutually beneficial parts.

M.     Now it’s time to really dive into the specifics of your lesson planning—the timing, the flow of activities and assessments, the handouts you will need, the scheduling and logistics of the projects and place based learning opportunities, etc. Much of the heavy lifting has been done by this time and if your content, skills and guiding questions are robust and clear to you, and you have been checking to make sure it all serves the Essential Question(s) and ultimately the Enduring Understanding(s) and the standards and benchmarks, then through the lessons you sketch you should get exactly what you designed for: Students who are engaged mindful and reflective, whose products and performances demonstrate that they have met the standards at the appropriate level, and who are prepared to participate in, and to lead with us, the shift toward a sustainable future.