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Monday
Jan252016

STEM, STEAM or STS?

When I first heard about STEM, I thought, “Oh—it’s the new and improved Science, Technology and Society (STS)!” But no, Society did not seem to play a part in the new equation.  I looked for benchmarks for quality STEM.  And, no again.   Then I asked people about what it really was, and they spelled out the acronym for me: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  I knew what the acronym stood for, I wanted to know what it meant i.e., what goal it was in the service of, and what problem it was designed to address.  I discovered it was generally understood that our students were not performing well in science and math compared to many other countries with whom we were competing in the global market place.  STEM seemed like a robust way to address that…problem?  symptom?

Then I heard that a significant investment of funds was to be made by government and private institutions to support STEM initiatives that increased students interest in, and preparedness for Job Readiness in the 21st Century.  OK—That I could understand.  That seemed like a good idea.  If we want education to contribute to a sustainable future for us all, we will need to design and re-design infrastructure, buildings, food and transportation systems, and we will have to be cognoscente of the Earth’s carrying capacity.  If we had all been able to “do the math” since the turn of the century, one could argue that we would not have exceeded Earth’s carrying capacity in the 1980s.  Doing the math helps us identify and tap the power of limits.  So I began to think I understood what STEM was for.  As I continued to look for quality criteria for STEM programs, I came across the idea of STEAM. Since the arts have been so marginalized in our schools systems, I thought it was a creative idea to make sure arts and creativity was added to STEM to make STEAM.  Of course once you add the arts, then all you have to do is add the Humanities and you have school—all over again. 

So, why not make the same significant investment in transforming our schools into learning organizations that can prepare our students to thrive in the 21st Century? When that happens, students experience truly interdisciplinary design challenges that weave together the science, technology, engineering and math with creativity, ethics, systems thinking and anticipatory thinking, for example.  When that happens, students seamlessly move from class to class weaving together the experiences they are having into an integrated and whole understanding of what they are studying. When that happens, it is obvious that what they are learning in school is relevant and meaningful, applicable and transferable to life outside of school and over time.  And when that happens, our students will be more likely to contribute to a healthy and sustainable future for us all. 

- Jaimie Cloud for The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education

Monday
Jan042016

NYC Career & Tech Ed's Curriculum Design Studio

21st Century Skills Education
Building a New Century of CTE

This professional development series will prepare CTE educators with the framework for sustainable design thinking, systems dynamics, standards integration, curriculum mapping, and cycles for continuous improvement. Bridge the widening gap between emergent careers of the 21st century and CTE education. At the completion of this training series, educators will be able to utilize digital tools and resources to create curriculum units that are aligned to academic, technical and sustainability focused 21st century standards. They will collaborate with educators across similar CTE content areas and have the tools to improve and innovate their curricula while meeting the NYS benchmarks for program quality. Help build the bridge to the next generation of careers for our youth.

Rubicon Atlas Curriculum Mapping Demo
http://bcove.me/rziuhms5

For more information or to register contact Ismail Ocasio
iocasio3@schools.nyc.gov or 917-704-0127

Monday
Jan042016

Attend the 2016 Green Schools Conference & Expo (GSCE) to learn, collaborate and celebrate!

 

 

Attend the 2016 Green Schools Conference & Expo (GSCE) to learn, collaborate and celebrate!


GSCE brings together green schools thought leaders and champions to advance the shared mission of green schools for all within this generation.


Green Schools Conference & Expo
March 31-April 1, 2016
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Learn more or register »


Highlights of the conference include outstanding education sessions and renowned speakers, unmatched networking opportunities, pre-conference tours and workshops, an expo offering innovative products and technologies, and a student summit to educate, empower and inspire our next generation of leaders.

Monday
Dec142015

Teachable Moments | Let’s Optimize Our Children’s Capacity to Be Creative and Smart

Sir Ken Robinson describes creativity as, “a process of having original ideas that have value”1. Fritjof Capra describes it in this way: “Creativity is a key property of all living systems and contributes to nature’s ability to sustain life”. Either way, it’s a good idea if you like living. We should be cultivating it.  Sir Ken is famous for describing how our industrial model of schooling kills creativity by not preparing us to be wrong—by not honoring our originality and by operating mindlessly - trapped in the past, instead of taking us into the future we cannot grasp yet.  Fortunately, we have already begun to create learning organizations designed around how students learn for the future we want.  We have some exemplars of schools that are intentionally educating for a sustainable future.  We don’t have enough yet and we don’t have the data we need yet to go to scale.  I invite you to make the commitment to optimize our children’s capacity to be creative and smart, to be responsible and to make their unique contributions.  It is less expensive and more productive to educate for sustainability then it is to educate for un-sustainability.  You can quote me on that.  Better yet, join me.

- Jaimie Cloud for The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education

 

1. Azzam, A. (Setember, 2009) Why Creativity Now? A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept09/vol67/num01/Why-Creativity-Now%C2%A2-A-Conversation-with-Sir-Ken-Robinson.aspx

Monday
Dec072015

Teachable Moments | Water Here, There, Not There, & Where? 

The California Drought, flooding in North Carolina… water water here, there, not there, and where?  Water is one of our most precious natural commons.  We –you and me- must tend it as such.  The fact is we all depend on it (we can only last 3 days without it) and we are all responsible for taking care of it. California has legally declared that every citizen has a right to safe drinking water, and Detroit has privatized it.  Regardless of how our State governments perceive it, we need to learn the difference between natural changes and disruptions that are part of dynamic life on Earth, and the kinds of changes that we are contributing to, and, therefore, can do something about.  There is never going to be more or less water on Earth.  We have what we have.  This is due to the First Law of Thermodynamics (Matter and Energy don’t appear or disappear on Earth) and gravity.  We cannot run out of water, but, we can disrupt or displace the water cycle in our places, and we can undermine its quality by polluting it and by causing saltwater intrusion, if we are not careful. We are all responsible for the difference we make. 

Here is what we can do:  

  • Respect and contribute to its purity. Keep it clean. Don’t dump chemicals or drugs or weird things down the drain or the toilet. There is no such place as away.
  • Value its value. Celebrate it, think about it and use it well and wisely  
  • Avoid disrupting its natural cycles. Make sure our towns plant trees and plants, maintain and restore soil fertility, build green roofs wherever possible, make the shift to clean green renewable energy,  and use permeable surfaces wherever possible (roads, sidewalks, driveways).
  • Tap the power of its limits. Don’t waste a drop of it. Individually and collectively monitor the water tables in our regions and make sure we don’t use more faster than nature can replenish it there.

Here is a quote I picked out from an article at CityLab.com on the California drought.  “The drought [in California] is dragging on. Water is only becoming more precious and more expensive.” 1

The truth is, water cannot become more or less precious. It is the source of life on Earth. It is more “expensive” because we have made good clean water a scarce commodity instead of a limited commons.  We have not been tending it.  Now would be a good time to do so.

- Jaimie Cloud for The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education

 

1. Bliss, L. (Oct 1, 2015) Before California's Drought, a Century of Disparity. Retrieved from http://www.citylab.com/weather/2015/10/before-californias-drought-a-century-of-disparity/40774

Sunday
Oct252015

Want a Sustainable Future? Educate for it!

Repost with permission from: http://blogs.bard.edu/mba/2015/06/16/want-a-sustainable-future-educate-for-it, & https://christinelizblog.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/want-a-sustainable-future-educate-for-it
Published June, 2015. Written by Christine Kennedy

Jaimie Cloud, Founder of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, with other education reformers, is looking to change K-12 education to create citizens ready for the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.  She has built principles and curricula supporting Education for Sustainability. The list of school districts that she has helped transform are on the Cloud Institute website’s client list.

Education for Sustainability stands in contrast to Educating about Unsustainability: the depressing story of how much is wrong with the world and how horrible we are as humans for destroying the planet and each other.  While many feel that “fear, doubt and uncertainty” is an effective way to wake people up, Cloud believes that it has the opposite effect on the psyche.  The brain shuts down when it perceives a threat and stops participating, leaving the body to fight or flight.  A disengaged brain is not effective if you’re trying to change mindsets. Jaimie tells a story about her preschool daughter coming home sad that “air pollution is bad.”  She didn’t fully understand why or even what air was but while she knew that bad stuff was out there, she didn’t know what she was supposed to do about it. What a burden for a 3 year old!

Educating about Sustainability presents a hopeful view of a new future: good food, community, living within planetary boundaries, meaningful work, and joy.  Jamie feels, however, that prior efforts at this lacked the competencies for building this wonderful future. She has set out to remedy that.

Educating for Sustainability (EfS) is based on the belief that we must create new neural connections.  Cloud suggests “an alternative to the air pollution story teaching children about the reciprocation of plants and humans:  humans breathe out CO2 which plants use to create food and give out O2 that humans can breathe in to support life.”  What student wouldn’t appreciate plants after that type of lesson? Of course this is a very simplistic view of the CO2 problem, as it relates to climate change, but it’s a foundation level appropriate for pre-school that can then support advanced learning in planetary systems as a child progresses through school.

Cloud’s journey toward EfS begins in Evanston, Illinois, as a student in one of the first Global Education schools.  It was 1968, the Vietnam era. The world was in turmoil, and schools were not immune. Global Education was created by professors at various universities with schools of education who came to believe that U.S. schools didn’t prepare their students for the complexity, diversity and uncertainty of the world around them. They came together to create curricula to ready students for the 21st century, which was still 30 years away.

Students, even as early as 6th grade, began to track data about the planet: the loss of languages and biodiversity, the changes to the atmosphere.  The data they collected showed that many aspects about our planet were in decline. Cloud felt like “the boy in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.  Didn’t anybody else see the problem?”

In 1987 with the Brundtland “Our Common Future” report that there was a name for this: unsustainable.  The 1992 Rio Summit then created Agenda 21, a roadmap for sustainability.  Within this was Chapter 36 delineating the first set of competencies needed to educate young people for the future.  Using her early schooling and the UN’s new competencies, Cloud began collecting and collating curricula for Educating for Sustainability from around the globe: working with NGOs, University Centers, Ministers of Education, local schools.

Today, there is more pressure for schools to reinvent their curriculum through the lens of sustainability.  The Center for Green Schools from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has a goal that every school becomes a green school in this generation. The U.S. Department of Education has set 3 pillars to define a Green School: 1) health of occupants, 2) green building and 3) curriculum and instruction.  The first two pillars have more data and better defined standards. The third pillar is less defined and caught in the trap many feel that that EfS, Educating about Sustainability and Education about Unsustainable are equivalent. Outcomes of these different pedagogies need field analysis.

A three issue series in the Journal of Sustainability Education, seeking to bring the field together in a coherent manner, is being guest edited by Cloud.  The first was issued in late 2014. The theme is an invitation to scholars and thought leaders to weigh in on the essentials. A matrix of their work was created that spanned nine competency categories. The second issue, currently being edited, is a meta-analysis of the information received using grounded theory methodology to create benchmarks and measure impact.  The third issue will call for exemplars based on the nine competencies matrix and the meta-analysis.

What Cloud is doing is somewhat risky. Even Cloud Institute’s framework could need to change based on the creation of the new pillars. “But it’s worth the risk so that there can be a meshed framework”, says Cloud.  She believes that “one big area that needs to be included as a standard now as a result of our consensus process is the epistemology of thought: cognitive frameworks or ‘thinking about thinking.’ ”. It is difficult to shift mental models if you can’t recognize them or have language to describe them.

With all this is exciting work, there is still frustration.  Many sectors—government, business, energy, food, design—are addressing global un-sustainability, but to date, K-12 education has not been invited to the discussion table. There is little investment from the corporate or philanthropic worlds. Cloud has three ideas for why this is the case:

1)   Education, for good reason, is not considered innovative. For many, school was the least creative experience of their lives and they’ve had to unlearn mental models that keep them from building a sustainable world. To transform society we need to transform education. This is a daunting task.

2)   Investment in education is considered a 20-year payback and there aren’t 20 years to make the shift. “This is a classic misunderstanding of the power of youth leadership,” says Cloud. Young people are not afraid of innovation and their minds are creative, as long as they are given permission to use them. Adults who will not change their mindset for their own sake will break through mental brick walls for their children. See organizations like Teens Turning Green or Two Angry Moms.

3)   On the school side, branding as “Education for Sustainability” sounds like there is an agenda.  However, once educators see the curricula and programming they realize it is a curriculum based in meta-cognition, science, math, humanities and everything that goes into a good education.

The biggest barrier is understanding what EfS is all about. The EfS standards complement and can help make come alive the non-negotiable standards being imposed on school districts.

Some of the most enthusiastic supporters are underserved communities. The whole idea of sustainability is built around a positive reinforcing loop of justice, community health, and elimination of poverty. For teachers, it’s not just another set of standards they need to meet; teachers are remembering why they became educators.

I can’t help but be excited every time I talk to Jaimie. It is “joyful work” for her.

How can we all help her bring the vision of EfS to life? As a parent, you can encourage your local schools to engage in the EfS revolution. As an educator, build the competencies into your curriculum.  As a sustainability leader, bring educators to the table. As a citizen, support and advocate for systems that make a difference.

Originally published on Fairy Ninjas, Christine Kennedy’s personal blog. Christine is a scientist and engineer who sparks connections between people and ideas. She has experience with product development and sustainability impact metrics. Her objective is to make science accessible and relevant to a diverse population driving better social, economic and environmental solutions. She completed her Bard MBA in Sustainability in May 2015. You can follow her @CKennedySTEM

Sunday
Oct252015

Jaimie Cloud Wants YOU to Say No to Waste!

Repost with permssion from: http://teachingforsustainability.com/index.php/2015/10/06/jaimie-cloud-wants-you-to-say-no-to-waste
Published October 2015

The more people I educate for sustainability, the more I am convinced that it is not our values that need adjusting, it is our thinking.

I don’t meet too many people with unjust values. I meet educators, students, community members, and people who work in non-profit organizations, businesses, and community based organizations, and governments. Our values are perfectly reasonable by any ethical or moral code. For the most part, the people I meet and work with are good people who love their families and friends, work hard at meaningful jobs, pay their bills, and want to leave this world better than we found it. So the question is, how could such good people be responsible for undermining the health of the living systems upon which our lives and all life depend?

The answer: the unintended consequences of our behavior are inconsistent with our values, and the laws that govern the physical world in which we live—and we simply did not see that coming. So what can we do about it? One of the Big Ideas of Education for Sustainability is, “Live by the Laws of Nature: We must operate within the physical laws and principles derived from nature rather than ignore them or attempt to overcome them. It is non-negotiable.” If we don’t have a choice, how is it possible that we are not abiding by them?

The 1st Law of thermodynamics, a law of physics, explains why matter and energy don’t appear or disappear from Earth—why we say there is no such place as “away”. Here is a classic example: as a result of the forces of gravity and the 1st Law of thermodynamics the stuff we have here on Earth—the water, the soil, the metals, the yogurt containers, the whole material world—is what we have to work with, forever. Everything we eat, breath and use comes from somewhere on Earth and goes back to somewhere on Earth. Since matter cannot be created or destroyed, nature up-cycles everything, creating value every time ­­­things move through the cycle of biological materials, and so life goes on. While entropy (another law of physics called the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics) breaks things down over time, photosynthesis puts it all back together by producing order and structure. Think: trees, leaves, decomposition, soil; trees, leaves, decomposition. More examples of material cycles include the rock cycle, the water cycle, and the nitrogen cycle—around and around and around they go…that is how it works.

Somehow, we good people of planet Earth must have missed the memo.

We produce materials that can’t join the biological cycle and create a thing we call “waste” i.e., materials that have no use. Even things that can be composted end up in the waste stream. We produce waste and we throw it out to a fictional location we call, “away”. We have been ignoring the 1stLaw! We are, in fact, the only species that leaves behind materials that have no value to any other living system. The only one. “Waste” has become such a normal thing that we don’t even think about it. What are we thinking? We need a new normal.

A no waste society will contribute to our ability to be a sustainable society. That is where we are headed. After all, waste is, well, a waste. For every 100 lbs of manufactured goods we produce, we generate 3000 lbs of waste in the U.S. (Hawken). We waste 50% of our food in the U.S., and the same globally (USDA). Given that more and more people are going hungry in this world– especially farmers, it is as wrong as it is unfair. It is unsustainable for us to continue to use up natural resources (forests, fisheries, farmland) at a rate of 50% faster than the Earth is able to replenish them—and a huge part of our ecological footprint is waste and wasted. We have a design challenge and we have a different choice to make. The design challenge is fairly straight forward. Design and use things that can be re-used, upcycled, or continually left out of the waste stream. We already have a “techno-cycle” (a human-made invention that mimics the way nature cycles materials) for things that can’t go back to nature (plastics, metals, chemicals etc.). So let’s stop pretending that there is such a place as, “away”—and cycle things we can. We can all take responsibility for the difference we make. Simply put, we need to become conscious of where our stuff comes from, what’s in it, and where it is going when it leaves our care. It is a lot of responsibility, so it will be easier if we keep the flow of stuff, to a minimum. Anything that can go into the compost pile and back to nature contributes to nature’s ability to sustain our lives and other life on Earth. Anything that can’t, needs to be continually up-cycled in the techno–cycle. No waste. A healthy, fair and sustainable future is possible and everything we do and everything we don’t do makes a difference.

FURTHER READINGS

Sunday
Oct252015

EfS in Schools | Sustain: Find your Sense of Place

Repost with permission from: https://www.smore.com/2kfcr

by Kirsten Beneke - Compass Charter School 

Published October 2015

 

www.brooklyncompass.org

 

Intro by Jaimie Cloud: Client Feature

Michelle Healy and Brooke Peters (co-directors at Compass Charter School) first came to see me before they received their charter and three years before their school would open.  They and their third co-director Todd Sutler have all been master teachers and wanted to start a K-5 school that educated for sustainability.  I have been working with them ever since.  We are in the second year of the build out of the school.  They have done everything right.  This is the way to start and sustain an excellent school designed around how students learn, for the future we want.  Read what they are doing and understand why they have already been named one of the 41 Most Innovative Schools in the Country.

Kindergarten
Students are learning how to be scientists by making observations and using their five senses. They are asking questions, making predictions, experimenting and sharing their findings.
We:

  •     Measured gourds and pumpkins
  •     Found out whether objects float or sink
  •     Predicted which objects fall faster
  •     Made scientific drawings of nature
  •     Sorted natural objects
  •     Explored magnets

In the science center we made lava lamps, blew up a balloon with baking soda and vinegar, and experimented with milk, soap and food coloring. We made many "predictions" by guessing what will happen in our experiments!

First Grade
First Graders are sharing what they know about the Earth, Sun, Moon and Stars. We are wondering about the solar system and asking many questions. Starting tomorrow we will begin our projects.

Some of the student ideas:

  •     Make a Planetarium
  •     Build a sun out of legos
  •     Create a weather center
  •     Paint a mural of constellations

Second Grade
Second Graders are studying natural ecosystems found in Brooklyn such as a forest, river or wetland. Students created group projects using recycled and natural materials to recreate these places. We created a picture map of Brooklyn showing what kinds of plants and animals are found in Brooklyn.

Grow

We have started building aquaponics systems to grow food in the classroom using fish waste to fertilize the plants.


If you would like to contribute a goldfish let me know!
kirsten@brooklyncompass.org

Read
Children need connection with the natural world:

Body

  • Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies, an important strategy in helping the one in three American kids who are obese get fit.
  • Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues.
  • Being out there improves distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness.

Mind

  • Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms.
  • Schools with environmental education programs score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and listening.
  • Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills.

Spirit

  • Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.
  • Play protects children’s emotional development whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression.
  • Nature makes you nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community and close relationships.

--- from the National Wildlife Federation

Ideas on Natural Places to Go:

  •     Fort Greene Park
  •     Prospect Park
  •     Marine Park
  •     Greenwood Cemetery
  •     Jacob Riis Park
  •     Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
  •     Sunset Park
  •     Dead Horse Bay

News Articles:

"Why We All Need A Dose of Vitamin N" by the Daily Mail

"Nature Smarts" by Mindful Parenting

"The Greenest City in America" by Treehugger

Discover

 Events and Classes:

  • Connected Worlds nysci.org.
  • Brooklyn Sewers: What’s Up Down There? (Through May 29) brooklynhistory.org.
  • Cooking With Frida (Through Nov. 1) nybg.org.
  • The Gazillion Bubble Show: The Next Generation (Friday through Sunday) gazillionbubbleshow.com.
  • Honey Weekend (Saturday and Sunday) wavehill.org; grounds admission on Saturday is free until noon.
  • If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home (Through Jan. 17) Maps cmany.org.

Connect

Nature's peace will flow into you
as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own
freshness into you,
and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop off
like autumn leaves.
- John Muir

Saturday
Oct242015

How Does Your Garden Grow? A Systems Approach

Repost from: https://www.leveragenetworks.com/blog/how-does-your-garden-grow
Published, June 17, 2015. Written by Rebecca D. Niles

This past weekend was perfect for gardening. The sun was hot, the pool was cool, and I had just created four new beds in need of mulch.  As I was tossing mulch, I contemplated my garden - especially the ever-present question of annual versus perennial flowers.

For those who don’t know, there is a major difference between annual and perennials.  Annuals are flowers that die after the end of each season.   Perennials are flowers that come back year after year.

“Why would anyone ever buy an annual?”, you might ask.  Well, let me explain.  Annuals tend to flower with color all summer long.  They are cheaper and deliver a brilliant, immediate spectacle.  The only downside is they require effort and expense each year as you buy new ones and plant them over and over again.

Perennials, on the other hand, cost more initially.  They also flower less brilliantly and over shorter periods of the summer.  They therefore require significantly more up-front effort and cash expenditure to create a colorful, summer-long garden.  Unless you are willing to spend the time and thought necessary and to wait for a few years for the initial plants to grow large enough for splitting and spreading, a perennial garden will require significantly more money to create a masterpiece.

It is due to this tradeoff that most of my gardening friends have a strong preference for annuals.  The allure of the immediately beautiful garden draws them right in.  They get trapped in the everlasting cycle of buying and planting annuals with no time or money left for the perennial.

They don’t realize the joy of perennial flowers popping up in the spring with absolutely no work on the part of the gardener.  They saw my puny garden in the first few years of home ownership and were not inspired.  It was not until now, almost four years later that passersby can see the results.  My puny perennials are now huge, and I have distributed them throughout the yard.  And they pop up to surprise me constantly in an ever-shifting display of color.  

My work from the early days is paying off and most of the original beds now need very little work.  The neighbors now go on and on about how beautiful my garden is.  And it is all due to the power of perennials.  All this praise as I spend my time relaxing (or blogging) or on creating entirely new beds from the ever expanding plants born of earlier labor.

The gardener’s choice between annuals and perennials is similar to the choices we make everyday in many other arenas.   Do we choose the fast and easy solution or do we spend the extra up front time and money for a solution that is more sustainable?  Do we invest in preventive care and effort for our personal health or do we treat illness symptoms? Do we invest in preventive care in our healthcare systems or do we spend our energy treating the chronically ill?  Do we invest in developing relationships with key international leaders, or do we allow situations to deteriorate until bombing seems like the right choice? Do we build shelters for homeless, or do we invent in finding permanent homes?  Do we do what it takes to eradicate polio, or do we wait until it rears it head again and respond as needed? Fast solutions often lead to constant toil and spending, while more enduring and sustainable solutions usually require huge upfront investment, but will allow us to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor in the future years.  The latter is what we can achieve through Systems Thinking – a long-term, holistic look at the choices we face.   How does your garden grow?

In addition to the linked blogs, here are a few more articles that explore in more depth the choice between short term and long term actions:

©2015 Leverage Networks

Sunday
Oct042015

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…

Context
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:

  1. INTRO TO SUSTAINABILITY
  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.

Brent

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. *