Sustainability Education (SE)
What is Sustainability Education?
It is not an exaggeration to state that the students we are currently teaching will be living through an epochal era in human history. Never before has humankind faced the kinds of challenges that lie ahead in the next several decades. For the first time in history, challenges for humanity extend beyond local scales, and are commonly shared by all of humanity on a global scale. Modern modes of development and consumption are currently surpassing Earth's capacity to provide the necessary natural capital and absorb the resulting waste. With world population expected to nearly double within 35 years, such stresses on the future viability of our current way of life have spawned a "sustainability movement" that is resonating throughout industry, universities, schools, and governments. The growing call to action involves thinkers from all segments of society. These challenges are being met through the creative redesign of the systems that our standard of living and material way of life are based upon. Such systems include economic models, food systems, energy, industrial production, and of course, education. Systems redesign is not limited to commodities, behaviors and energy, but inevitably extends to the redesign of our epistemological systems--the rethinking of our thinking--our values, knowledge-making, mental models, and relationships to each other and to the natural world. The implications for our responsibilities as educators are profound.
"Sustainability education" in schools acknowledges the importance of the sustainaiblity problem and utilizes makeovers of existing curriculum in addition to new designs and programs to provide youth with the tools, knowledge, values and sensibilities to thrive in the creation of a sustainable future for themselves and their children.
Teaching and Learning for Sustainability
Tenets and Guiding Beliefs For Curriculum Design and Programs
Youth Empowerment and Self-Actualization
Sustainability curricula must help youth discover, develop, and apply skills, knowledge and inspiration to actualize their ability to affect change in society. Often unwittingly, traditional schooling falls short in fostering this kind of youth empowerment. As a consequence, youth confidence in political systems is weakened, engagement in learning suffers, and the engine for change (the next generation) toward a sustainable future is not sufficiently activated.
Integration With Mainstream Education
Effective sustainability education is not an "add on" curricular subject, but a form of educational best practice that provides meaningful real world contexts for school learning. Sustainability curricula will be more readily accepted into schools when teachers, administrators and policy makers understand how their existing educational aims are enhanced and supported through sustainability education. Sustainability curricula must be designed to make such connections clear and accessible.
Adaptable and Flexible Curricular Designs
Given the diversity within the United States and the rapid pace at which sustainability issues and understandings are progressing, sustainability curricula must include design elements that allow users to easily adapt models for an evolving knowledge base and individual needs and contexts. The DoRight Enterprises curriculum includes a needs assessment protocol for administrators and teachers to focus the curriculum for specific communities and learning cultures.
The Integral Vision--Teaching to the Whole Child
Transition to a sustainable society will not occur by educating people solely with facts, figures, and solution-action procedures. It has been said that we will not work to save that which we do not love. To be effective, sustainability curricula must include learning experiences that cultivate a heart-felt connection to the natural world, reflective habits of mind, thinking in whole systems, emotional literacy and the examination of culture, values, and mental models that drive habits and behaviors.
Local Communities as Learning Labs
Community-based learning symbiotically strengthens community support for schools, while enhancing a sense of relevance and motivation for students. When systems-based causal relationships are explored, learning at the local community level raises the level of perceived importance of the global issues that they are connected to.
Student-Generated Authentic Inquiry
The challenge of creating a sustainable future is, to a large extent, the challenge of rethinking mental models and long held "truths" that drive behaviors. True transformation of thinking only occurs through a constructivist process--an internal process of inquiry and reflection undertaken by individuals. Transformation cannot be given, it must be facilitated. Consequently, effective sustainability curricula must be designed to facilitate authentic reflective inquiry in learners as a primary means to acquire knowledge.
General SE Workshops
1 Hour orientation presentations
1-3 day institutes
These workshops provide teachers with the knowledge, tools, insights and inspiration to meet the sustainability challenge and to evolve their classroom teaching to best prepare their students for a sustainable future. Many facets of sustainability education (SE) are explored and discussed, including the history of modernity, the current state of the world, systems principles and their applications, mental models, future projections, ecological footprinting, and the current actions of educators and industry. Workshop activities range from presentation formats to interactive simulations, readings and discussion. Specific curricular examples and unit/lesson "makeovers" are presented and discussed. All participants leave the workshop with a classroom-ready lesson or unit that integrates with their existing curriculum. A wide variety of resources are provided to continue this work.
(See full description of the DoRight Enterprises program)
A single full day DoRight Professional Development workshop is sufficient to supply teachers with the basic knowledge, understandings, and curricular materials necessary to implement an instructional cycle of DoRight Enterprises in an enrichment program or after school club. Implementing DoRight within core academic instruction in interdisciplinary teams requires extra planning time for teachers beyond the DoRight PD workshop. More extensive 2-3 day workshops are offered and recommended to provide teachers with greater depth of understanding of sustainability issues and how they can be infused into overall school learning.