Sustainability forges ahead in the classroom

Sustainability forges ahead in the classroom

April 12, 2019

Sustainability forges ahead in the classroom

Teachers and children, each in their own way, can kick-start real change towards a new sustainability, embarking on a journey that starts from school but sets its sights on the whole planet.

Educating for sustainability means learning that links knowledge, inquiry and action to help students build a healthy and sustainable future for their communities and the whole planet. This is the premise underpinning the Sustainable Schools Project, a “professional learning model designed to help schools use sustainability as a tool and an integrating context for curricula, community partnerships, and campus practices”. The initiative, part of the educational projects of the American nonprofit organization Shelburne Farms, is based above all on the belief that teachers and educators are leaders in creating real change in schools and communities toward a healthier and more just world. But it also focuses on young children’s innate sense of wonder and awe and on their natural curiosity as they explore the world through inquiry, exactly as the analogous educational project launched in Italy by BCFN does (link).

Four Cs and 12 big ideas

The work of the Sustainable School Project can be described by four Cs, which stand for Curriculum development, Campus practices & Culture, Community partnerships and Collaboration. In other words, it’s about helping teachers to use concepts linked to sustainability to create an educational project comprised of a curriculum and a specific study plan (Curriculum development) and putting into practice the ideas and concepts explained to youngsters, starting from the school yard and cafeteria to reach the community and the wider world (Campus practices & Culture and Community partnerships). All within a framework of collaboration across different grades in the school and beyond the school yard, with families and local and wider institutions. 

One question remains: how can we make the word sustainability come “alive” for children? By focusing on big ideas. The educational project identifies no fewer than 12 big ideas that are used to ensure youngsters really understand the meaning of such a multi-faceted term as sustainability. It starts by underlining how everyone has the ability to affect change or impact a system and a community, how all organisms, places and systems are constantly changing and all communities involve nested economic, environmental, and social systems. It also highlights the fact that organisms go through different stages or cycles and that it is thanks to differences and variety that ecosystems can continue to exist and, even amidst change, maintain a dynamic state of balance. 

Finally, other important ideas are place, interdependence, limits and long-term effects: natural and human communities together make up one’s place.  Every place has its own needs and limits, and we must be aware that the actions of one element of the system affect those of all the others and that the status quo can be changed with actions that may not have an immediate effect, but which determine a change in the long term. 

From theory to practice

The educational project website offers many tools which teachers can download and use in class and which have been designed to cater to the different age groups and cover various themes linked to sustainability. Tools range from a starter kit for those schools that want to become sustainable, to specific curricula, an actual “Guide to education for sustainability” and successful examples. That is because good ideas alone, no matter how big they are, are not enough. They need to be translated into practical actions that have a tangible impact on the local community, and then spread outwards from there beyond the community. 

“It’s about using sustainability as a lens through which educators, administrators and students can look at the world around them, examining real-world questions on any topic, in any discipline” state the inventors of the educational project, also pointing out that the concept of sustainability is of itself forward-looking. It’s therefore important that students make their voices heard, without waiting for solutions to arrive from on high, and that they start, for example, to create prototypes of more sustainable environments and communities that attempt to bridge the gap between the present and the kind of future we hope for. But we can only build a future with sustainability at its heart if we have knowledge of the past, which provides the solid foundations to support this future. For this reason, youngsters can work together with members of their community to learn about its history and understand how past choices have influenced the current situation. In line with this, the document “Promises practices for Education for Sustainability” lists 10 “exercises” for sustainability that each school and each student can put into practice. 

Learn more about similar topics:

Find out more about Food and Education

This website uses profiling cookies, including third-party ones, to send you advertising and offer you services which reflect the preferences you have shown during browsing. If you continue to browse the website by accessing any area or selecting any element of it (such as an image or a link), you consent to use of cookies.
Click on the following link to view our extended cookie policy, which provides a description of the categories present and the links with the personal data policies of the third-party processors. You can also decide which cookies to authorise or whether to deny consent for all or only certain cookies.   Continues