Educating for Sustainability:
Tenacious educators committed to sustainability have made tremendous strides nationwide in increasing student and ecological wellbeing—
- The School Garden Movement has been connecting young people to healthy food choices, place-based inquiry and increased ecological literacy for decades.
- The Farm to School Movement is steadily increasing access to locally sourced, scratch-cooked meals in cafeterias, improving student health and local economies.
- Safe Routes to School encourages walking and biking that collectively reduce transportation-related carbon emissions and strengthen community relationships by getting people out of their cars.
- Energy efficiency programs are lowering electricity bills and GHG emissions, benefitting the climate and the district’s resources.
- Hydrologic literacy through low-flow water features, water harvesting techniques and increased permeable surfaces support a school to live within its water budget in a time of global climate disruption’s droughts and floods.
- Zero Waste goals inspire school systems to reduce consumption, recycle when possible and return organic matter to the soil.
But how we do connect the dots? How do we realize the potential of a fully integrated living learnscape in which the facilities design is the interactive tool through which teachers teach and students learn? How do we train teachers to be comfortable teaching outside the 4-walled classroom and engage in authentic place-based inquiry? How do we encourage administrators to support systems that will lead to better mastery of the Common Core Standards and STEM learning goals? How do we prepare the next generation to manage the complexity and uncertainty of climate disruption? How do we help the nation understand that it’s all connected?
One of OAEC’s best answers is supporting the design of Resilient Schools. Our School Garden Teacher Trainings facilitate school communities in assessing what they have, imagining what they want, and pursuing a design that melds the two (while developing the skills needed to see the design through implementation). Through a systems perspective that sees the interdependence of the many systems nested within and beyond a school’s campus, we have an opportunity to connect the educational place – the built environment and the ecological principles supporting life on this planet – to integrated learning, wellness and character development.
How are Resilient Schools created? It is through deep community partnerships and collective commitment to the process of this endeavor that we thrive together. We cannot depend on the lone eco-champion with a vision and seemingly limitless passion and energy. We cannot leave it to environmental education non-profits to provide off-site programming. We cannot assume that a Facilities Department can adequately transform infrastructure efficiency district-wide. We need EVERYONE! We must all work together – including the people who neither work for schools nor have children in school – to pull this off. By collectively committing to the project of raising the generations to come with access to the skills necessary to thrive, we participate in building our nation’s Resilient Schools.
Join us this summer to develop the community organizing skills and ecological literacy necessary to build Resilient Schools.
Does your local school embody a model of sustainable practices throughout its facilities? Is the curriculum connected to the place where students spend a majority of their waking hours? Do the school’s neighbors, local businesses, government agencies, staff and families feel empowered, involved and responsible for the success and well-being of the students?
If not, you can help the next generation thrive by informing your community’s school board members, district employees, local government agency officials, business owners, organizations and neighborhood leaders about OAEC’s participatory process to design more resilient schools. Please direct them to OAEC’s Resilient Schools Program.
Thank you for sharing our vision of schools as hubs of cultural, ecological and economic well-being for the whole community!