Game Over or Game On?

Game Over or Game On?

For the past three years, I’ve taught a required graduate course on the Ethics of Sustainability in the Design for Social Innovation Program at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. During this time, I’ve witnessed the unintended results of educating about unsustainability.  Although my students come from all over the world, they have at least a few things in common at the beginning of the year. These young people report feeling depressed, hopeless and guilty. Many of these students, believing they hold degrees in sustainability, have become experts in its opposite--unsustainability. They are nervous at first at the thought of discussing the ethics of sustainability. They tell me that their professors were very effective at pointing out that it’s too late, that we’ve already exceeded too many critical thresholds and that there is no way back. Game over?   

My response to them is always the same, “I think what your professors have actually been saying is that they cannot imagine and they don’t know how we are going to pull off the mid-course correction that is required if we want human and other life to flourish on Earth indefinitely.  I think this has more to do with their imaginations, mental maps and knowledge base than it does our fate.”  Game on.

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Sustainability In Schools: What Kind Of Future Do We Want

Originally published on April 1, 2016 By Vicki So, Rubicon International on the Rubicon PD Update.

Jaimie Cloud, founder and president of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, begins most projects with the following questions:

"What kind of future do we want? What do we want to sustain? For whom? For how long? .... And what does education have to do with it? 

 A fundamental part of the Cloud Institute’s mission is to inspire young people to think deeply about their relationship with the environment and to empower them to influence it. The Cloud Institute’s Framework for Education for Sustainability demonstrates the interdependence between students, educators, school systems, and communities at large. In order to achieve its mission, the Cloud Institute has embedded research-driven knowledge, skills, attitudes and habits of mind into the Education for Sustainability (EfS) Standards and Performance Indicators.

In the three-part webinar series below, Jaimie discusses her work in partnership with the Rubicon-Atlas Curriculum Mapping software team and the NYC Department of Education. In particular, she explains why the curriculum mapping process is so important for bringing the EfS Standards to life [Download Jaimie’s top 10 reasons here].


“Aligned to national and state educational standards, each EfS Standard has a set of coded Performance Indicators used to guide educators as they infuse their school culture, 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 lead with us, the shift toward a sustainable future.”

 In the first video, Jaimie defines sustainability and her work with the Cloud Institute [Click here to download presentation slides].

The second video highlights how the EfS standards come to life in the Atlas Curriculum Software and explains why the curriculum mapping process is important [Note: an open Q&A is included at the end of this video].

The third video provides an in-depth case study how the NYC-DOE has transformed their Career & Technical (CTE) program through the global Sustainable Development Goals created by the United Nations [Click here to download presentation slides].

Do you have a sustainability program at your school? Shoot us an email at and share your story. If you are interested in learning more about trends in environmental education, click HERE

TNT's Dramatic Difference Features Green Bronx Machine

Repost from:
Original Post Date: January 2014

Educator and Green Bronx Machine Founder, Stephen Ritz and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz discuss urban farming, sustainable education and opportunities for youth in the Bronx.

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Introducing Schools to the Future | The Journal of Wild Culture

Repost from:
Original Post Date: September 28, 2013, by Whitney Smith

Education as we have come to experience it is a system structured around 19th century models and needs is heavily influenced by the industrial revolution. Many have argued that this system is no longer relevant to the demands and aspirations of modern-day society; others have made claims that it is even detrimental. A few organisations have set out to redefine the weary standardised view within the education system today. • One of those organisations, The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, works closely with individuals within school systems in the US and around the world. Jamie Cloud, lifelong global educator and founder of The Cloud Institute, wants schools to become ‘learning organisations’ which place children in the centre of a curriculum that encourages, inspires and empowers them to think about the wider systems of ecology, economy and ethics. • In these video talks Jamie outlines the origins and importance of the Institute’s work, and how it is now time to relent our old fashion notions of education: to allow the fertile, vibrant, and bright minds of tomorrow to experience a school system that will help to nurture and cultivate their potential. • If you have a story like this one please let us know. The domino effect of a few of these can make the difference that Jaimie Cloud is talking about. — Matthew Small, Education Editor.

Here Jaimie discusses using the Fish Game and understanding Mental Models as a way to start the conversation about education for sustainability.

Watch the entire video series here:

The Black Run Preserve - A Suburban Pinelands Oasis

Repost from:
Original Post Date: September 26, 2013

Unbeknown to most area residents, just two miles from the The Promenade retail complex in Marlton lies over 1000 acres of undeveloped land called the Black Run Preserve. An isolated fragment of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Black Run is an amazingly diverse and wonderful retreat from the hustle and bustle of fast-paced suburban life that lies on its doorstep.  Though not contiguous with the rest of the Pinelands National Reserve, Evesham Township’s Black Run Preserve boasts a pristine ecosystem accessible to thousands of nearby residents.  

Black Run gets its name from the stream which originates in the Preserve, fed by an underground aquifer of pristine-quality water. Its protected status means this lush, forested watershed is abundant with native species – including at least twenty rare and endangered plants. The absence of urban development has prevented pollution and invasive species from leaving their footprint here, providing an unspoilt natural ecosystem that feels as remote as anyplace along the East coast.

On a recent guided hike led by John Volpa – founder of Friends of the Black Run Preserve – we saw the impressive biodiversity native to the area.  A lush, open grassland savanna is a verdant, exotic landscape reminiscent of the Florida Everglades. Nearby, wild blueberries can be eaten right off the bush. Black Run also boasts rare or endangered hawks, tree frogs, turtles, salamanders and the barred owl. Even in the mid-summer heat, the shady trails of soft, moist peat made for an easy, comfortable hike.

The public may use Black Run for hiking, cross-country skiing, biking and bird-watching, as there are several miles of trails which give access to various parts of the Preserve. The area also provides a unique, hands-on educational opportunity for local schools, who have conducted wildlife monitoring programs here. The Pinelands Preservation Alliance has also held the Black Run Summer Teacher Institute, where local educators and students learned about the ecology of the Preserve from Pine Barrens experts.  

As a newly-emerging public open green space, Black Run also faces some challenges. There is an initiative to establish designated parking areas, as for now users must park alongside the road near one of the trailheads. There are also plans to provide bathrooms as well as to improve trails. Unfortunately, periodic clean-up is also needed for debris left behind by illegal dumping. However, as more people learn about the Preserve, there will be more incentive to increase its accessibility and usability.

You can help support Friends of the Black Run Preserve by becoming a member or volunteering for Preserve maintenance and improvement projects, and also by getting out and seeing this amazing natural treasure for yourself. An excellent five-minute promotional video provides an overview of the Preserve’s history and uniqueness. The public is invited to attend the Black Run Preserve Visioning Event on Wednesday, October 23 at 7:00pm at the Evans Elementary School in Evesham Township, where the public can give their inputto help develop a long-range Master Plan for the Preserve.

So take a step back from it all, and step into the magical world of the Black Run Preserve.

Author: Paul Hanley is a long-time Cherry Hill resident, New Jersey Learner, freelance writer and Environmental Science professor at the Community College of Philadelphia.

The Blue School in The News

Blue School Feature on CNN Next List - March 2012

Champions for education for sustainability, creativity and a community of learning, The Blue School makes CNN's The Next List.


Making Education Brain Science - April 2012

LAST month, two kindergarten classes at the Blue School were hard at work doing what many kindergartners do: drawing. One group pursued a variation on the self-portrait. “That’s me thinking about my brain,” one 5-year-old-girl said of her picture. Down the hall, children with oil pastels in hand were illustrating their emotions, mapping where they started and where they ended. For one girl, sadness ended at home with a yummy drink and her teddy bear. MORE

Photo Credit: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times. Written By


Janine Benyus: Biomimicry's Surprising Lessons from Nature's Engineers (TED Talks)

Repost from:
Original post date: April 2007

In this inspiring talk about recent developments in biomimicry, Janine Benyus provides heartening examples of ways in which nature is already influencing the products and systems we build.

A self-proclaimed nature nerd, Janine Benyus' concept of biomimicry has galvanized scientists, architects, designers and engineers into exploring new ways in which nature's successes can inspire humanity.

EfS in Action: Determining Water Quality

Nancy Kuster is a second-grade teacher and recent graduate of the New Jersey Learns Program. After studying macro-invertebrates the second grade class  went to Green Brook to determine the water quality - which turned out to be good based on the samples found living in it. They also made "up cycled" planters out of water bottles to grow milkweed from seed to attract Monarch butterflies. This is EfS in action.

Vertical Gardens Bring Greenery to Cities

Repost from:
Original Post Date: April 22, 2013

Stephen Ritz, a teacher in New York City public schools and the founder of Green Bronx Machine, shows how vertical “living wall” gardens can teach kids about protecting the environment and bring a little green to concrete jungles.

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Beyond Recycling | Art and Sustainability

Beyond Recycling is an artist-in-residence program funded by MetLife and Young Audiences Arts for Learning. Teaching Artists, Eloise Bruce and Zach Green, worked with students in grades 6-8 over a 10-day period to develop an original musical theater piece for younger students about creating a sustainable earth. This project is an outgrowth of YANJ's work with New Jersey Learns (NJ Learns), a program that unites schools and communities to learn and change together to instigate, sustain, and scale up the innovations and best practices that contribute to sustainability and that characterize Education for Sustainability.

'Waste Not' Card & Online Game | Play and Learn about Resources and Energy

Waste Not Card & Online Game - A card game in which players learn about keeping resources out of the landfill and using less energy in the cycling process.  

New Jersey Learns associate and Game Designer, Kirsten Bonanza, created Waste Not because it drives her crazy to have to throw things away.  The game itself as a way to explain the possible options available when an object is no longer good for its inital use. The core question of the game - What are you going to do with it? - challenges players to rethink trash as potential and resources.  Waste Not is being made available as a card game for in person play and as an online game.

Kirsten's background is in teaching, facilitating, and consulting.  Her interest in design lies in educating for sustainability and systems thinking.  She also believes that we will achieve a sustainable future more easily by giving people the experience of how a large system (Earth) works in a playful environment. After Kirsten realized that she'd begun work on her 10th idea for a game, that while her heart calls out to teach and work with Entrepreneurs on building their organizations, it is obvious that Game Design is no longer just a hobby or tool for her own personal use.  With her company Create Better Impact Games, Kirsten seeks to do just that - create better impact on the world.

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Young Voices for the Planet | DVD Trailer

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Young Voices for the Planet is a series of short films featuring young people using science and data to reduce the carbon footprint of their homes, schools, communities, and states. The films present replicable success stories. Young Voices for the Planet allows young voices to be heard and inspires action, the best antidote to fear. These young voices reach our hearts and minds.

This short video shows many young people talking about climate change solutions. There are young people from Team Marine, Green Ambassadors, Surfriders, Girl Scouts, and more.

Teachers: Show this film and discuss some of the points that the young people in the movie bring up.

  1. Social Responsibility
  2. Is it okay for humans to destroy the earth?
  3. Is it okay for one generation to destroy the earth for generations to come?
  4. Is it okay for people to do nothing?
  5. Do people have a responsibility to speak out if they see something wrong happening?
  6. Do animals have rights? Does nature have rights?
  7. Can we survive without nature?
  8. Can one person make a difference?
  9. Can kids make a difference?
  10. What Bill Love-Anderegg says—Things have to reflect their true costs to everyone? What is the value of ecosystem services?


The Impossible Hamster

During our EfS Summer Design Studio, one of our participants shared this funny (and thought provoking) video with us.  The "Impossible Hamster" video, created by The New Economics Foundation (NEF), illustrates what would happen if there were no limits to growth.  The video confronts this topic head on, and puts a finger on a very important point--"As economic growth rises, we are pushing the planet ever closer to, and beyond some very real environmental limits."

We thought the video was worth sharing, and will hopefully spark a conversation.  What do you think about the Impossible Hamster?

Pencils : A Classroom Commons

This 3 minute video podcast entitled, Pencils : A Classroom Commons, was produced by Betsy Kates , a teacher in our PNW BOCES EfS Curriculum Design Project , and her son Gabe.  Betsy got very excited about the work of educating for sustainability—particularly passionate about the EfS Standard, “Healthy Commons”,  and decided to produce this video about the lessons her students learned by studying the Commons through their use of pencils in the classroom.  

Marla Gardner, Director of the The BOCES Curriculum Center got very excited about this podcast as a great way to communicate what the EfS Standrds are all about, and decided we should have a podcast for every one of the Cloud Institute’s EfS Standards.  She offered mini grants to all the teachers in the project to produce additional podcasts.  Three have been produced so far.  Click here to check them out. 

Stayed tuned for more… 


Two Video Animations Demonstrate EfS Attributes

These video animations were designed and produced by high school students in the Philomath High Robotics Engineering Division (PHRED) at  Philomath HS  in Philomath, Oregon.  These two 30 second animations are from PHRED Team 847. PHRED Team 847 is sponsored by local foundations, corporations and the Lions Club.

Operation Gyre is an elegant  30 second demonstration of several EfS attributes including authentic curriculum and assessment, the entrepreneurial mindset,  an understanding of the materials cycle principle and three of our enduring understandings:  “A Healthy and Sustainable Future is Possible”; “Live by the Natural Laws” and  “Read the Feedback”.  


Pure Water 847  is another elegant 30 second demonstration of  authentic curriculum and assessment, the entrepreneurial mindset, Biomimicry and “A Sustainable Future is Possible.”  In addition, the animations illustrate a robust use of technology in the classroom (Autodesk 3ds Max).   


First Graders Resolve Social Conflict Using Systems Thinking

There is nothing more inspiring than being able to resolve conflict in our relationships with one another. Respecting one another and our differences and recognizing our interdependence is a core attribute of Educating for Sustainability. The result is happy, diverse, successful, and healthy societies.  

The Waters Foundation is an organization that integrates systems thinking tools into classrooms and schools. Learners are provided with the tools to develop solutions that break unsustainable patterns in our thinking and behavior. Watch in amazement as a group of 1st grade boys use a systems causal loop diagram to identify social problems in their playground and resolve their conflict with one another!

Three 1st grade boys use feedback loops to help define and solve problems they were having on the playground.


Trevor Day School raises money for EfS!

We love to feature the beautiful work of our clients! This video is a great example of the commitment our clients have to Education for Sustainability (EfS)!

Trevor Day School, located in New York City, created this four minute fund raising video for EfS (with a quick interview from a familiar face)!  They raised over $100,000 at an Auction Night for the school! Keep up the incredible work!

Trevor Day School - EfS Fundraiser Video from Cloud Institute on Vimeo.