EFS: The Key to Sustainable Communities (Spoiler Alert!)

I have a confession to make. A ten year effort to help my community become sustainable has had limited success. Early enthusiastic progress, followed by a return to something resembling the status quo, has become a familiar pattern among the institutions in my town. Each experience starts with that same intoxicating esprit de corps, yet somehow, after the public’s attention shifts, things slowly end up fizzling out. This boom bust cycle leaves me wondering— if our local institutions can’t move beyond business as usual, how can we, as a society, ever hope to achieve a sustainable future?

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The Lovett School: Observations Tell the Story of EFS Impact

Student-made Renewable Energy Machines Each school that Jaimie works with adopts Education for Sustainability (EFS) in a unique manner though there are specific conditions that support comprehensive and lasting change within the school community. 

The Lovett School in Atlanta, GA has been working with The Cloud Institute for the past year.  They recently partnered with Jaimie to determine the extent to which they were educating for sustainability.  The school provided an extensive list of classroom activities and lessons (UbD Stage 3), which Jaimie then analyzed and annotated.  This work and Jaimie’s recommendations are well documented in the Cloud Blog titled, “Is this Education for Sustainability?”.  Additional information about their progress can be found in Lovett’s,  Sustainability Program Annual Report .

While measurable data is the preferred method of assessment, anecdotal evidence can provide a window into the early impact of EFS on students and the school community.  Beginning to see the fruits of their hard work, The Lovett School recently shared their observations with The Cloud Institute.  These are particularly exciting as they support the growing empirical data documenting similar outcomes. 

 Teachers at Lovett reported the following changes since beginning their EFS journey: 

Student Impact:  

  • Increased Student engagement
  • More Authentic and Genuine Participation
  • Significant Growth Mindset
  • Improved Quality of Work
  • Increased Student interest in subject matter
  • Increased Student interest in sustainability
  • Increased curiosity
  • Improved Performance in knowledge acquisition and skills
  • Higher % of students meeting and exceeding teacher expectations (bell curve shifted dramatically)
  • Green Team attendance went from 4 students per meeting to meeting the goal of 20 students per meeting  

Teacher Impact: 

  • Teachers energized and motivated  by student enthusiasm and engagement
  • Teachers able to target, teach for, make explicit and assess for concrete EfS performance indicators which improved overall student performance

 We will continue to follow The Lovett School’s progress as they deepen their EFS work by developing a shared understanding of EFS and creating short and long term plans to systemically integrate and diffuse EFS throughout the school in a way that is documented, assessed, shared, integrated and improved over time. 

EFS in Schools: Compass Charter School

Photo Credit: CCS Website

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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.

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].

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“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 pd@rubicon.com and share your story. If you are interested in learning more about trends in environmental education, click HERE

Education for Sustainability: A Trendsetter in Assessment

Tiger by Bud BlakeFrom classrooms to coffee shops, it seems that everywhere you turn these days, people are expressing frustration about the role that standardized tests play in our educational system.  Parents, teachers, administrators and now even the US government are pushing back on the amount of time our schools spend preparing for and administering this type of assessment. In October 2015, President Obama and the U.S. Department of Education released a new testing action plan, acknowledging that, “In too many schools, there is unnecessary testing and not enough clarity of purpose applied to the task of assessing students, consuming too much instructional time and creating undue stress for educators and students.” This action plan recommends capping the amount of class time devoted to standardized testing at no more than 2 percent and promotes high-quality and innovative assessment practices. In response to public opinion and in anticipation of changes in educational policy, many school districts have already started prioritizing formative and performance-based assessments over standardized testing.

Getting Smarter about Assessment

In the District Administration article, Outlook: Schools push for sensible testing, Jennifer Fink explores this phenomenon, making the case that most people have no objection to some form of assessment, as long as it is aligned to meaningful learning and that it provides useful feedback.  Fink quotes Vicki Phillips, Director of Education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as saying, “The question now is, how do we get smarter about assessment?  How do we make standards and assessments more useful, more meaningful to teachers and kids?”

Formative assessments help students and teachers track progress over time, providing ongoing  instructional feedback. “I think a trend that will continue to grow is formative assessments that teachers can access on an ongoing basis, which tell them where kids are so they can adjust practice in real time,” describes Phillips. Performance assessments and portfolio reviews can be designed to give students many ways to demonstrate learning by showing us what they can do and what they create.

Educating (and Assessing) for Sustainability

Education for Sustainability (EfS) is a great fit for this trend since it is all about combining big ideas, knowledge and skill development, with being intentional about the difference we make through our actions. The good news is that we have strong data that shows that EfS improves student achievement, even on standardized tests. However, the sheer panic in public schools over test scores and the related employment implications coupled with the enormous amount of time people have devoted to test prep has severely distracted too many public school educators from being able to focus on educating for the future we want. And that’s bad news—if we want education to contribute to our ability to thrive over time. What is education for if not a healthy and sustainable future?

The District Administrator, the Gates Foundation and others would be very happy to know that Educators for Sustainability already have excellent assessment practices to share.  Here are just a few exemplars from elementary and middle schools:

Compass Charter School, Brooklyn, NY : First graders build, learn, monitor and teach about terrariums to demonstrate understanding of how living systems meet their needs.

Kapalama Middle School, Honolulu, HI: Seventh Graders write extensive research papers and create biomimetic designs that demonstrate their understanding of the science and the design principles of Biomimicry--designs that solve human problems by mimicking the way nature has already solved them-- i.e.,  Water purification, eliminating toxic chemicals [in everyday household items], generating renewable, clean, green sources of energy, eliminating waste, constructing self-repairable buildings, clearing invasive species & cleaning up oil spills.

Marin Country Day School, Corte Madera, CA: Fourth Graders participating in a “Council of All Beings” (they each make a mask and then wear it to council meeting-- to “become” the animal they want to represent) to demonstrate their ability to truly empathize with another living being.

An Invitation

We invite those of you who have (or are looking for) high quality and innovative assessments for learning that authentically measure the extent to which you are educating for sustainability, to keep your eyes peeled and respond to our call for exemplars at the end of June. In partnership with The Journal for Sustainability Education, we are inviting educators worldwide to submit exemplars of curriculum units, courses, assessments, rubrics and other forms of explicit performance criteria, as well as student work samples (with aligned performance criteria) that meet the soon to be published EfS Benchmarks for Individual and Social Learning.  At the end of the day, Education for Sustainability is all about performance, because thinking drives behavior and behaviors causes results. EfS is not an intellectual exercise but rather, to human and other life in perpetuity--a means to a non-end.  The stakes are high and we need to know we are getting the results we need in order to turn “Spaceship Earth” around and head it toward the future we want.

 

- Jaimie Cloud, Founder, The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education

 

EFS in Schools: Kapalama Middle School

Aloha! Today, we’d like to introduce you to Kapalama Middle School, located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. This native Hawaiian middle school, on one of The Kamehameha School’s three campuses, “educates children of Hawaiian ancestry to become good and industrious men and women in spirit, mind and body and to use their talents and abilities to positively contribute to the world.” Kapalama’s unique building is designed with an open floor plan and giant common spaces. Innovation is a priority here, as the school embraces Education for Sustainability, curriculum mapping, effective instructional practices, character and student leadership.

A serendipitous beginning

The Cloud Institute’s relationship with Kapalama began almost by chance.  In the Spring of 2011, Dr. Pua Kaai, Principal of Kapalama Middle School  was inspired to explore EfS after reading Jaimie’s chapter, Educating for a Sustainable Futurein the book, Curriculum 21 Essential Education for a Changing World (Ed. Heidi Hayes Jacobs. 2010). Soon after, Dr. Kaai, Dr. Erika Cravalho, Middle School Curriculum and Assessment Coordinator and several other key members of the leadership team at Kapalama shared a meal with Jaimie at one of Heidi’s curriculum mapping conferences in Saratoga, New York and a productive partnership was born. Back in Hawaii, two enthusiastic Kapalama teachers volunteered to participate in The Cloud Institute’s EfS Curriculum Design Studio™ in NYC and followed that up with ongoing Skype coaching sessions with Jaimie throughout that Fall. Hoping to engage more members of the school community, leaders at Kapalama invited Jaimie out for a whole school professional development day that included a keynote address and the EfS Intro. She returned that next summer, taking the first full cohort of teachers through their own EfS Curriculum Design Studio™. Since then, Jaimie has been coaching the entire faculty and most staff members via SKYPE throughout the year. In addition, she has been making the trip to Oahu each February (someone has to do it!) to provide the full faculty PD day and to work on whole school sustainability on site. She returns  each summer to support Kapalama teachers during their Studio as they innovate, design, document, map and “sustainablize” their courses and units, assessments and performance criteria.

“This is something we have to do”

Sustainability holds special meaning for native Hawaiians, making EfS a great fit for Kapalama. “It has been about really getting kids to think hard about how to live well within the means of nature, which is very much, what our ancestors did and what our ancestors personified. When we met Jaimie in Saratoga, the more she spoke about the work of EfS, the more I realized EfS is so much of who we are culturally at our school, and our people.  It was nice to expand our understanding of sustainability beyond the concept of reuse, reduce, recycle to include the ideas of systems thinking, sense of place, and cultural preservation and transformation,” explains Erika. “We are starting to think about how we can get our students to think critically so they can thrive in, not just our current reality, but in the future we will invent together. Working with an indigenous population of children, this is something we have to do.”The school’s  long term commitment to this work has produced tangible results. “All of the teachers are at that point where EfS standards are part of their curriculum mapping every day. It’s operational,” describes Pua. “It’s been really interesting to see how the use of standards has evolved over the years. The trend has shifted from only focusing on content standards, like science or math, towards the EfS Standards and how the various disciplines can work together to achieve them.  It’s more holistic, culturally relevant, and it just makes more sense.” Stressing the benefits of including the whole school in this work, she says, “What we do is bigger than the classroom.  It’s about each of us shifting our mindset to thinking about our thinking, and the sustainability perspective.”

Erika points to one of Kapalama’s interdisciplinary exemplars: an extensive unit on Biomimicry that involves ELA, Science, Math, Social Studies and Technology. “It caught fire, which is a fantastic thing to watch.” Another exemplar includes a student developed planet-friendly app for increasing the regenerative capacity of the aina (Hawaiian for land). EfS at Kapalama doesn’t end when the students leave for the day. Recently a group testified about sustainable development issues at a local community meeting, showing that in-school learning has real life results.

Looking Ahead

Kapalama recognizes the importance of assessment and data collection in successfully doing this work. Jaimie’s most recent February visit focused on the question, “To what extent are we actually educating for sustainability, and to what extent are we assessing for it?”  To this end, a large scale analysis was initiated on their mapping software, Rubicon Atlas, seeking evidence of EfS content and performance indicators in the core curriculum. It took one second to “push the button” to get the data, and then Jaimie and the faculty spent the rest of the day analyzing the data and determining their strengths, gaps and next steps.

The results?  

In summary: Every team and every discipline is targeting EfS standards and indicators; all EfS standards (not all indicators yet) are being targeted in the Middle School; many but not all EfS indicators being targeted are being assessed for, and that will be the focus for the rest of this year and next.  “It was thrilling. The energy in the building was palpable,” says Jaimie. "There is so much is going on and more to do, as always." In addition to assessment, calibration and the development of EfS performance criteria, the rest of the remaining work in the sixth and final year of this long term contract will focus on fully passing the “baton” to the team who will carry the work forward in perpetuity.  Or in Hawaiian, Mau loa "forever"...

Teachable Moment: Green Ribbon Schools

This year, for the first time, I served as a NJ reviewer for the U.S. Department of Education's Green Ribbon School Awards.  It was thrilling.  I never really understood the value of points and awards as incentives to engage folks and improve practice. I am a believer now. In this program, a Green School is defined as having three pillars of excellence:  Pillar ONE: Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs; Pillar TWO: Improved Health and Wellness, and Pillar THREE: Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education. The criteria for Pillars ONE and TWO are comprehensive, and here in NJ, we are working on Pillar THREE to make it as robust as the first two.  

The most interesting part of the process for me was the discourse between the reviewers about the subjectivity of the rubric. The rubric is a tool that guides the committee in reviewing the applications and is modified as the program evolves and grows. This year, we struggled with questions like, “What should we do if a school or district is trying hard and wants to reduce its energy use but has intervening circumstances, such as building a new building, finally getting air-conditioning, or dealing with particularly cold or hot weather the prior year? Could we give them points if they didn't actually reduce energy, even if we know for a fact that they are really, really trying? After much discussion, we had to conclude that evidence is evidence—no matter how hard you try.

It was a tough call. This is where the “different way of thinking” embedded in Education for Sustainability comes in.  If a district wants to reduce energy AND build new buildings AND get air-conditioning, they should be able to do just that.  But first, they need to change their mindset. 

Once they:

  • involve the children and young people
  • calculate the budget of energy, time, bio capacity and money that they have to work with
  • learn to tap the power of limits 
  • make small changes for the greatest effect
  • eliminate waste 
  • set a goal of 80% reduction in CO2 emissions and then track their progress toward that goal
  • think differently about how they are going to solve more than one problem at a time and minimize the creation of new problems 

Then they can have it all—albeit not necessarily all at the same time.

Change the mindset, change the world.

 

- Jaimie Cloud, Founder, The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education

Keep Calm and Lead On: Practice really does make perfect!

We all know that person… focused, positive, kind and able to bounce forward from even the most challenging circumstances.  You may think that these sought after qualities are hard wired in certain folks and out of reach for the rest of us. Well, according to the latest scientific research, we can actually “learn” these skills, much in the same way as we would master a musical instrument.  The secret?  Practice!

In the article, How Science Reveals that “Well-being” is a Skill, world renowned neuroscientist Richard Davidson makes the case that by practicing the skills of well-being, we can get better at them.  He breaks well-being into four “constituents” or skills: resilience, outlook, attention and generosity -- each well researched and documented in the field.  He claims that if strengthened, we can all promote higher levels of well-being, regardless of our personalities or circumstances. What does that have to do with contributing to a sustainable future?  Everything. Well-being is what we are striving for when we say we want a sustainable future for all. Dr. Davidson’s attributes of well-being are also listed as learning outcomes of Education for Sustainability. In other words, if we develop and practice them, we are better positioned to make a contribution to a sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.  So well-being is a “two-fer”-- simultaneously our preferred future AND the means to get there.

The Skills of Well-Being

Let’s dig in a little deeper into these four skills of well-being. As you read on, think about the relationships between these attributes and our sustainability. Dr. Davidson describes resilience as the ability to recover from the inevitable “bad stuff” that comes our way. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you respond to it” is not just great advice, but is actually based in science. Outlook, he says, is the ability to see the inherent goodness in others and to savor the positive experiences in our lives. Research shows those suffering with depression have disruptions in these underlying neural pathways. We’ve all had the experience of being distracted in today’s plugged in world and know know first hand how  it can directly impact our lives. Studies show that almost 50% of our waking time is spent not paying attention to what we are doing, leading scientists to call a “wandering mind, an unhappy mind.” And who knew that when we practice generosity, we actually activate the well-being circuits in our brains, resulting in a win/win for us and those we are kind to!

Train Your Brain

We are constantly being shaped by the world around us, whether we are aware of it or not. Dr. Davidson encourages us to take more responsibility for the intentional shaping of our brains “in ways that would enable these four fundamental constituents of well-being to be strengthened.”  He refers to the mounting research that suggests that mental training in the form of mindfulness meditation or compassion exercises, can make a difference in our brain’s ability to foster well-being. Just like running scales and arpeggios on the piano, science says that a regular meditation practice gets results.

Leading from a Place of Well-Being

Now, let’s get back to that one person in our lives who always seems to have a sense of calmness and purpose. Chances are they are a pretty good leader, too.  The ability to deal with adversity, stay positive and focused and to give others the benefit of the doubt are valuable qualities for inspiring others and helping them feel more comfortable with innovation.  Developing these skills intentionally can help all of us meet our potential as change agents as we educate our kids, our communities and ourselves for the future we want.  

Educating for Mindfulness

While the research on adults suggests that mindfulness strengthens our skills of well-being, experts are still figuring out how to best adapt these techniques for kids.  Many schools across the country have embraced programs to help students learn to be mindful of their breathing, senses, thoughts, and feelings with good results. The Cloud Institute has aligned our EfS Standards and Performance Indicators to the attributes of mindfulness and creativity for those schools that have taken on all three as strategic initiatives. Designing curriculum, assessments and activities that foster mindfulness  prepares students to take their role in creating a sustainable future.    

Learn more about Dr. Davidson’s approach and try out his sample exercises here.  And remember… practice makes perfect!

Lori Braunstein is the Director for Change Leadership at The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education and the founder of Sustainable Cherry Hill, a NJ based civic organization. Follow along as she writes about “change agentry”, community/school partnerships and more. You can reach her at lori@cloudinstitute.org.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. *

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 Education for Sustainability (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. 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.