Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mapping Sustainability Education (in the U.S.): Process, Engagement, and Democracy

Education for Sustainabilty (2012),
from Nektarina Non Profit (internat'l).

There is an interesting richness to how different groups conceive of sustainability education in the U.S.. Some call it sustainability intelligence, or ecoliteracy, or environmental education, or education for sustainability (sometimes abbreviated as either EFS or EfS).

There is a difference between sustainability and sustainability education. One simple distinction is that the latter is the process in which students study the former. And yet both emphasize the importance of local decision-making and relevance. For example, check out Shelburne Farm's take on the local context:
The broad nature of these definitions [of sustainability] has allowed groups and individuals to define sustainability on their own terms, to meet their own needs and those of their places. In one way, this is the promise of sustainability: it is not a prescribed endpoint, but a goal or vision that individuals or communities must design themselves and then plan and take actions to realize. Ultimately, the goal of sustainability increases the investment of citizens—including students—in their communities as they work towards creating their desired future (p. 2 in A Guide to Education for Sustainability, 2011).
Another salient feature of sustainability education is the engagement with a process rather than compliance with and end-product. Shelburne Farms emphasizes this (above): " is not a prescribed endpoint." This process-oriented approach to sustainability can be found in John Dewey's [sometimes wordy] emphasis on aims in education:
For it assumed that the aim of education is to enable individuals to continue their education -- or that the object and reward of learning is continued capacity for growth.... In our search for aims in education, we are not concerned, therefore, with finding an end outside of the educative process to which education is subordinate. Our whole conception forbids. We are rather concerned with the contrast which exists when aims belong within the process in which they operate and when they are set up from without (p. 100 in Democracy and Education, 1916).
For more information on sustainability education, you can check out The Journal of Sustainability Education. And below is a partial listing of several sustainability education groups, their websites, and selected text.
  • Center for Ecoliteracy (link): Big Ideas: Linking Food, Culture, Health, and the Environment: A New Alignment with Academic Standards (2014). "Most people engage in the act of eating every day. What we eat and how we grow, process, prepare, and consume food profoundly affect the lives and welfare of humans and other beings, yet our food systems remain a mystery to many people. It is vital that we all understand the linkages between the food we eat, the ways that culture shapes our food choices and behaviors, the relationship between food and our health, and the interconnections between our food systems and the environment."
  • Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education (link): Brief History. "Education for Sustainability was formed out of the recognition that there is a distinct difference between “education about sustainable development and education for sustainable development.” The former was seen to be a theoretical exercise while the latter asked for the educative process to be used as a tool to achieve sustainability (McKeown, 2002)."
  • Eco-Schools USA (link): Education for Sustainability."Because of the urgent need for citizens to understand the concepts of sustainability, Education for Sustainability (EFS) or Sustainability Education has become a strong focus worldwide. EFS is a framework that can be used to engage students in all subjects by using the real-world context of the complex interconnections between the creation of vibrant communities, strong economies, and healthy ecosystems, both locally and globally. Education forms the foundation for building sustainable communities, and without education we cannot achieve sustainability."
  • EcoRise (link): Sustainability Curriculum Overview (2015)."The Sustainable Intelligence lessons are focused on building the environmental literacy of students and encouraging youth to become thoughtful stewards of the environment and leaders in their communities! Our lessons introduce students to challenges and opportunities surrounding sustainability and engage youth in developing real-world solutions in their communities through design labs, campus eco-audits, and much more. Lessons are available in both English and Spanish...."
  • Green Living Project (link): Student Connecting to Global Sustainability (nd). "The approach is to embrace the positive and successful stories around global sustainability [and] serve as an effective "the-glass-is-half-full" type [of strategy]. As the future generation, students play a vital role in leading the charge on sustainable living through their schools and communities in an attempt to make a difference locally and globally.
  • National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF; link): Environmental Literacy Report (2015)."Although knowledge and understanding are important components of environmental literacy, they are not the whole picture. Research has shown that there is often a disconnect between what people know and what they do. In reality, other factors — how people feel, their environmental experiences, social norms, what their priorities are, their skills, their self-identity, and other factors — come into play when people decide to do something or not."
  • ​​Shelburne Farms (link): A Guide to Education for Sustainability (2011). "Education for Sustainability is not something new. Aspects of sustainability have been a part of formal
    education for the past century. Many teachers have been, and continue to be, engaged in EFS or similarly named efforts in the United States and around the world. Schools and programs can relate sustainability to the curriculum through multiple pathways: a school- or program-wide approach; service-learning projects; curricular units; and courses. Just as service learning can provide a needed connection between different subjects and skills, Education for Sustainability creates intrinsic opportunities for students to apply their learning through real work in the school and community."
  • The Center for Green Schools (link): National Plan for Educating for Sustainability (2014)."EfS was officially “born” as a new field of inquiry in 1992, and thought leaders have been asking what students need to know, to be able to do, and to be like if we are to increase the possibility that humans and other life can flourish on Earth indefinitely. The rich collection of answers and subsequent field work has propelled the movement to a place where, today, elements of EfS exist to some degree in schools across the country and around the world. We don’t yet know the total number of schools that have engaged in any of the EfS approaches such as environmental education, place-based learning, or expeditionary learning; nor do we have a firm grasp on how many have placed a sustainability lens on instructional attributes such as systems thinking, lateral
    thinking, metacognition, or creativity."
  • US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development (USP; link): National Education for Sustainability K-12 Student Learning Standards (2009)."Education for Sustainability or Sustainability Education is a relatively new and evolving field. For the purpose of the USP standards, Education for Sustainability is defined as a combination of content, learning methods, and outcomes that helps students develop a knowledge base about the environment, the economy, and society, in addition to helping them learn skills, perspectives, and values that guide and motivate them to seek sustainable livelihoods, participate in a democratic society, and live in a sustainable manner (McMillan and Higgs, 2003)." 
Know of any others resources? Send them my way!

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