What does sustainability education look like in your school system?
How green is your school/ district?
I recently attended the Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit. The job I began in July is in a school district that has been a leader in the Green Schools movement in California and the nation. This is one of the many aspects of this district I was excited about during the application process. This is the first school district I have worked for that has clear goals about environmental stewardship within district systems and within the education of our students. I have spent the last three months learning about these systems and admiring the focus our district has on sustainability.
- We have a district green team, and each school has a green team.
- We have a district organic farm and all schools have gardens.
- We use chemical-free cleaning.
- Our classrooms have solar tubes to use more daylight efficiently.
- We have high efficiency hand dryers.
- We have hydration stations at each school.
- We have waste diversion and food scrap composting.
I’m still learning about all of these elements. Attending this conference opened my eyes to even more! It also made me realize how important it is to share this information. When I think of all of the students across the country who aren’t learning this information, I’m worried. When I think of all of the systems that schools use that hinder sustainability efforts, I’m worried. When I think of what I didn’t know just four months ago about this, I’m worried about the educators who are where I was.
I learned a few tips I’d like to share for people at the beginning of this journey.
- The U.N. has 17 sustainable development goals “to transform our world”. You can read about the goals here and you can see them in the graphic above. This is a great place for educators to start educating themselves. It’s also a great way to involve students in the discussion. You could share the 17 goals with students and ask them to choose which goal they would like to have an impact on. This could lead to a student-driven passion project that could impact the world.
- California has Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP & C’s). These are built into the latest History-Social Science and Science State Standards, and will be incorporated into VAPA, ELA, and more by 2022. These elements can be integrated within just about any class with some purposeful planning and new resources.
- One of the keynote speakers, and the former superintendent of my district, Dr. Tim Baird gave participants 3 ways to begin this work in a school or district:
- Green teams – Start a green team in your organization to talk and learn about this important work.
- Gardens – Build a garden on your campus. This can serve as an outdoor learning space, an addition to your school lunch program, and an education on how to make steps within your own community
- Garbage – Teach students how to do a garbage audit. Once they realize how much they throw out that will end up in a landfill, they will want to research other options. Soon they will be teaching others the value of recycling, composting, and using less single-use plastic.
What is your school or district doing in this area? Where would you recommend people start? If you are new to this, how might you begin this discussion in your system?