EFS in Schools: Compass Charter School

Photo Credit: CCS Website


Today, we’d like to introduce you to Compass Charter School,  a new progressive elementary school located in Brooklyn, NY. The school, which opened in 2014, currently offers kindergarten through second grade, but plans to serve children in grades K-5 at full capacity. Compass Charter School is the result of a 2012-13 journey by three Brooklyn teachers who traveled the nation in search of what is working well in the American education system. Brooke Peters, Michelle Healy, and Todd Sutler called their expedition The Odyssey Initiative (OI) and returned home to establish a school using lessons learned along the road.  “ From our experience on the trip, we decided to start a new school that was progressive, inquiry based and one that connected with authentic experiences in the real world,” explains Healy.  It soon became clear that a charter school was the best fit for the trio’s innovative philosophy, which required a departure from the traditional public school structure of leadership and budgeting.  

A Mission is Born

Upon their return, the travelers noticedthat a number of the schools encountered on their journey were using Education for Sustainability (EfS) as a unifying framework and ultimately connected with The Cloud Institute.  “It turned out that some of the schools we visited were partners with The Cloud Institute so we got to see the program firsthand and how they worked with Jaimie,” describes Healy.  EfS seemed to connect many of the ideas the trio wanted to focus on for their new school.  “We found that it brought everything together for us.  We wanted it to be natural and have a social justice and economic side,” says Peters.  “EfS helped us get the vocabulary and the framework. It lead us to Jaimie and the mission was born.”

The Road Map Emerges

Intrigued by the EfS standards,  Healy and Peters first attended The Cloud Institute’s Summer Design Studio (SDS) in 2014.  They immediately noticed the SDS was not a typical Professional Development (PD).  “It really was a design studio,” says Healy.  “Jaimie was there and flexible when we needed it, but she was also able to step out if we wanted to do some work designing.”  The two spent the week exploring how to vertically align the EfS standards with K-5 curriculum and integrate Science and Social Studies standards in a meaningful way. “ Even though our school wasn’t approved yet, we just paid for the studio to help us develop what we wanted and where we wanted to go,” explains Healy.  “We added very special foundational things, like overnight camping, a trip to see civil rights things and more, all depending on the units and years.  That was the road map.” Another benefit of participating in the SDS was the opportunity to connect with others doing this work. “We also met some other people while we were there and we got to visit and learn from educators in NJ and other places. So it was a nice networking event as well, “ describes Peters. Once the school opened, the two returned to the SDS to work on unit design, this time accompanied by the school’s new Sustainability Coordinator, Kristen Beneke and a few founding faculty.  Jaimie began monthly on-site coaching to support school leadership and faculty to help build the school, refine the units and focus on content skills and assessment. The team is planning to return to SDS this summer to continue to document and map their curriculum.

An Integrated EfS Curriculum

The Compass Charter School created a curriculum that aims to connect children with the natural world and the systems that sustain communities. Located in one of the most racially and culturally diverse places in New York City, the school takes advantage oflocal resources, such as people, green spaces, architecture and history.  Sustainability is woven throughout the entire curriculum, including a twice weekly Sustainability Studio and ongoing classroom units at least three times a week. Teachers and staff meet every week to plan the integrated sustainability lessons. All curriculum is aligned with EfS standards as well as Common Core and Next Generation Science standards. In grades K-2, students immerse themselves in the natural world and begin scientific inquiry through play, exploration, and hands-on activities. Once grades 3-5 are added, students will participate in civic engagement by researching natural and built environments, and designing and implementing service projects within their own community.

Walking the Talk

At Compass Charter School, sustainability education doesn’t end at the classroom door. Green practices are implemented throughout the school such as vermiculture, composting, recycling and even CSA (community supported agriculture) shares distributed at the student-run farmer’s market in the schoolyard. Community members help to provide healthy snacks, cleaning products, and water bottles for the students. The classrooms at Compass offer natural environments that contain wood furniture, plants, and signs made by the students and teachers. Students transfer what they learn in the studio throughout their day at school and at home. Families donate recycled materials for arts and crafts projects and students recycle and reuse materials by transforming them into new objects. Everyday a student comes into school with a new object from nature that they must share or use as inspiration for a piece of writing about the Earth.

The Odyssey Continues

Creating a school from the ground up is as energizing as it is daunting.  “We are riding the bicycle and building the bicycle at the same time,” explains Beneke.  “It’s a challenge, but from it we will create something beautiful.” And they are not doing it alone.  The Cloud Institute’s partnership has been vital to Compass Charter School’s early progress.  “I don’t know where we would be without the dedicated assistance from The Cloud Institute.  It’s the centerpiece.“ says Peters. ”EfS brings it all together.”

For more on Compass Charter School, visit their website.

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

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

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. www.sustainablejerseyschools.com

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: www.cloudinstitute.org/sjforschools

Additional information and a downloadable flyer detailing your options for earning points with The Cloud Institute is available here: www.cloudinstitute.org/sjforschools

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

Fishing for Cognizance - EfS... An Intern’s Perspective

h4 style="text-align: justify;">Learning About EfS From An Intern’s Perspective

“Well, I knew nothing about sustainability at all!” Nozomi Sakata explains when asked how she Photo courtesy of minerva.union.edu/japan2008/aboutus.htmldecided to apply for an internship at The Cloud Institute a few weeks ago. It turns out that she is simply graceful at stumbling. Happening on the Cloud Institute through an email from her school’s internship program, Nozomi was mainly interested in the fact that it produced innovative curriculum platforms; the Institute’s focus in Education for Sustainability presented, more than anything else, a foreign concept to explore. In that same happenstance way, she recently happened to see that Jaimie Cloud was presenting a two-day workshop called “The Essentials of Sustainability Education Workshop” at Columbia University Teacher’s College, where Nozomi is a student. The opportunity was, she explains, “a chance to learn about the ideology of EfS from an introductory perspective

Nozomi isn’t an anomaly. All the interns here at the Cloud Institute have different motivations and reasons as to why they were drawn to this office, providing an interesting window into the many facets of EfS.

Read More

Reflection on the EfS Curriculum Design Studio

Last summer, I had the pleasure of taking one of the most productive professional development workshops in my sixteen years of teaching. The Cloud Institute had asked participants of their Education for Sustainability Curriculum Design Studio to come prepared with a lesson plan or unit which would be worked on and viewed through the lens of the EfS standards. This made all the difference. I chose our fall science unit on Water/Salt Marsh Ecology.
Read More

From the Field— “I Matter! A Systems Approach to 3rd Grade Field Trips”

In the summer of 2010 I attended the Cloud Institute’s EfS Curriculum Design Studio and rewrote our Monarch Butterfly Curriculum to integrate systems thinking. Although monarchs are still the stars of our curriculum, our third grade team really wanted the students to learn that they have a real and genuine influence on the systems in which they are a part: they do matter and can affect change!
Read More

States, Stories and Sustainability, a Fourth Grade Project at The College School

We have each been teachers for 12 years and most of our experience has been at The College School (TCS), a pre-eighth grade, independent school in St. Louis, Missouri. Sustainability has always been a value at TCS, and yet is has been somewhat intangible. We were fortunate to attend a week-long seminar at The Cloud Institute with a team from The College School.
Read More

Thinking Different About Our Lives

Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School is a community of active, self-reliant, and lifelong learners. It is a center of meaningful inquiry, research, understanding, and communication. Our school offers integrated instruction in the arts, technology, sciences, and humanities and promotes an environment that fosters self-esteem, responsibility, and respect. Our faculty is composed of outstanding teachers who are committed to providing their students with the best education possible.
Read More