Oyster Restoration Project

October 10, 2008

Will Smiley, Antioch New England Educating for Sustainability M.Ed. student, leads his school in an oyster restoration project in Virginia. Click the link to see the article.



“Curriculum in Abundance”, Kasie Enman, ExEd/Educating For Sustainability

May 31, 2008

As a part of our Educating for Sustainability course work, Lara Gleason and Lynne Cassidy wrote the following in response to Chapter 11 of Curriculum in Abundance, by David Jardine

What does this mean for our teaching? If we can see that dissecting a curriculum is synonymous with the society’s general sense of disconnectedness and unhealthy lifestyle, then we can remedy this through a more ecologically-friendly approach. “By adding that deep integration makes our lives and the lives of our students more ambiguous and difficult and, correctly understood, this is good news. It does not have the clarity and distinctness and quantifiable accountability of discrete curricular content in the same way that a wilderness area does not have the well-fenced rows of a single crop or the vaguely obscene uniformity or a replanted forest” (175). We see that by following this model, our teaching can be rich and mirror the interconnectedness of the natural world. We understand that in an integrated curriculum the “interconnections they have come upon are real. Its ‘wilderness’ is not disorder but an attentiveness to a deeply inherent order that is not of our own making” (176). There in an inherent wholeness in our world that we must honor and replicate in our education. So when we look upon a pine tree, or curriculum for that matter, we can immediately see its paradox of simplicity and complexity.

These comments, along with an accompanying reflective video that Lara and Lynne created, spurred on a series of connections for me. The two things from their video that really stuck with me were an analogy about a pine tree representing a great abundance of learning opportunities and a description of integrated curriculum as “wild”…

There is so much math, art, language, science, history (the list could go on) that can be inspired by a pine tree. Or, for that matter, by a blade or grass or an ant or that river that was flowing behind you in your video (again, the list is infinite here). If there is one repeating theme throughout Curriculum in Abundance it’s that there is an abundance of potential for all kinds of learning in everything around us. It makes me think of themed charter schools. My sister works with maritime-based charter school called the Paul Cuffee School. Their entire curriculum is centered around a maritime theme. Each subject area is linked to and tied together by this common theme. There is no shortage of opportunities for teaching math, the sciences, social studies, the arts, languages, etc. within this theme. When I think about this, I am both reassured and lost. It tells me that place-based education is a rich and doable way to teach. But there is so much richness in so many things around us that I don’t know where to start or stop, how to share this in a way that is manageable in our culture, how to do this well and sustainably.

The anthropologist in me (sorry, it was my undergrad major) can’t help but be frustrated by the knowledge that cultures from Native Americans (http://www.bama.ua.edu/~joshua/archive/aug06/Nathan%20Sherrer.pdf) to native Africans exist(ed) that have figured out this basic truth of life and sustainability, but are relentlessly stifled by the influence of a growing western culture. Why are these cultures, the models of sustainability with all their deep wisdom, the one’s being killed off? Why has western culture in all it’s unsustainability been able to take over? Shouldn’t there have been some kind of feedback loop shutting down the ways of industrialization? Maybe that’s what we are seeing now with the dwindling resources and climate change. Maybe the nature of this complex system of human cultures and human choices is that it will/needs to keep going until it reaches the point of bifurcation. It’s interesting, just last night while at my neighborhood’s monthly “girls night out potluck” a similar subject came up about how much our culture has changed due to the discovery of oil. Rachel Smolker, (biologist/author/wife of Berndt Heinrich/neighbor of mine – how’s that for a bio, yes I have some very cool neighbors), said something along the lines of how we are going to have to go back to how things were. She sarcastically added on, “It’s alright, I like the Stone Age.” Seriously though, something has to give.

All of this talk of systems thinking is bringing me back to Tom Wessel’s course and his book, The Myth of Progress. Native cultures, and pretty much every plant and animal organizm in nature is right in front of us with the lessons we need to learn. Somehow we have gotten away from the truth that education, culture, our world is a complex system. Somehow we’ve been convinced that the world can be made linear, predictable, controlled to meet our every human desire without any thought of all the other parts of the system. Teachers have been convinced that curriculum needs to be linear, predictable, and controlled. But “the bulk of the systems we see and interact with don’t function in this way… systems relating to progress – social, political, economic, environmental [and, I would add, educational] – are complex, and as such can’t be controlled in this manner. In fact, the more we attempt to control them, as the fall of Communism points out, the more we tend to force the system, through positive feedback, into an entirely new mode of operation. Control is a reality in a linear system, but in a complex system it’s simply a myth.” (Wessels, p.20-21

So how do we kick this necessary paradigm shift into action? Baby steps, massive bifurcation? I still don’t have all the answers, neither does Jardine, or Wessels, but I think the point here is that we need to stop thinking linearly, start thinking about the whole, the complexity, the “wildness” of it all. These are good things. This world around us is a master of sustainability. Wiser than any human. Let’s pay attention.

Submitted by Kasie Enman

Cool Schools, Lynne Cassidy interview

May 31, 2008

Listen to a radio interview with Antioch ExEd/Educating for Sustainability student Lynne Cassidy about how students in the Roaring Fork School District, Colorado, will get a lesson next year on sustainability. A new energy-focused committee made up of teachers and administrators is starting to formulate plans to create a new curriculum and other learning tools that would incorporate sustainability into everyday learning. The committee is called, Cool Schools. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Humane Education– Now is the Time by Sophie Barbier

February 27, 2008

“….teachers carry an awesome responsibility, with correspondingly awesome possibilities.” – Derrick Jensen

Global warming, overpopulation, poverty, famine, slavery, malnourishment, child labor, child soldiers, war, greed, corporate power, terrorism, lack of clean water, conflict, inequality….the list of global problems are endless. This suffering, exploitation and destruction is precisely why humane education is imperative in the 21st century.

Being humane, by definition, is having what are considered the best qualities of human beings. Regardless of race, class, or religion, people tend to have universal values that include, among others, kindness, honesty, compassion, perseverance, and integrity. But without the knowledge and necessary skills, how can people with humane attributes use them in a far reaching way? Most people are kind to their families and ompassionate to their pets, but do not have the knowledge that they may be perpetuating child labor, or causing great pain to cosmetic test animals.

Humane education is not about preaching. Humane education, according to the International Institute for Humane Education, is about providing accurate information, fostering curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking, instilling reverence, respect and responsibility, and offering positive choices that benefit oneself, other people, the earth and animals.

Children are naturally curious and creative. By nurturing their curiosity, we can help them develop critical thinking skills that can lead them to question commercials, advertising and sources. Bringing children outside can instill respect and responsibility for nature and animals. Having animals in the classroom, if possible, allows children to have a relationship with an animal and it helps them see that we need to take care of them. Exposing them to people from other cultures can instill reverence for people and cultures different from themselves.

When children have accurate information, it gives them the courage to make their own decisions. By exploring choices such as fair trade, organic hot chocolate vs. conventional hot chocolate, or Cirque de Soleil vs. Ringling Bros. Circus, children can consider the impact of various products and actions on the environment, animals and people around the world. The goal of humane education is progress, not perfection. Introducing levity into lessons is an important way to keep children from feeling sad or useless. Lessons should be aimed at awakening their compassion and global citizenship, and they should offer age appropriate choices.

After exploring these choices, children feel empowered, knowing that their choices can have either a positive or a negative impact on others. No one has to tell them to do the right thing – and when has that ever worked anyway?

Educating for Sustainability

February 14, 2008

Educating for Sustainability (EFS) simply means helping people learn how to meet their needs without compromising future generations’ abilities to meet their needs. This is about resource use, of course. Consumption.

…humanity’s consumption of natural resources expressed in land and sea surfaces necessary to renew them is an average of 2.2 global hectares (5.4 global acres) per person, while the area available to support the global population (6.3 billion) is an average of 1.8 global hectares (4.4 global acres) per person.

These 2.2 global hectares are 20 percent more than the global 1.8 hectares per person that exist – the latter area also needs to accommodate all non-human species. As a consequence, humanity’s ecological overshoot exceeds Earth’s regenerative capacity by at least 20 percent. http://www.footprintnetwork.org/gfn_sub.php?content=lpr2004

Continuing to consume the Earth’s resources at the current rate will compromise future generations’ abilities to meet their needs; this is unsustainable resource use. Sustainability involves systems thinking which results in sustainable use of resources through understanding of the interconnections between and interdependence of environmental, economic, and social systems. The only hope of achieving sustainability is through education. People need to learn to do systems thinking, to look for, identify, and understand interconnections and interdependence. This is what EFS is about.

EFS has evolved over the past twenty years and emerges from initiatives aimed at encouraging sustainable development, including the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. (http://www.un.org/geninfo/bp/enviro.html)

The need for education for sustainable development (ESD) was obvious at that conference, and EFS has developed as a result. International and national attention is now being focused on ESD and EFS initiatives. Recalling Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 adopted at UNCED, on promoting education, public awareness and training, the UN has declared 2005-2015 the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=23279&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html), and in 2007 the theme of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) annual conference was People, Planet, Purpose: Leading the Way to a Sustainable Future, and in 2005 it was Educating for Sustainability: How Far Will You Go? http://www.nais.org/ac/ac.cfm?ItemNumber=146357&sn.ItemNumber=147882)

 Sustainability conferences, workshops, and symposia are happening across the country and around the world, attended by business people, educators, and policy makers among others. To be effective, EFS must include integrated focus on environment, economy, and equity. An image useful in representing this is that of a three-legged stool. The three legs of the stool represent the essential components of EFS: environment, economy, and equity. Just as removing a leg from a stool will make it impossible for it to serve its purpose, not including one of the three essential components of EFS will make it impossible for EFS to serve its purpose. What might we imagine this EFS stool supporting? What is sitting on the EFS stool? The future of the Earth? If one of the legs is missing, what then? The Earth is toppled?

No, the Earth, and its life, will go on—with or without Homo sapiens. What is supported by the EFS stool is the human future, a sustainable future. This is not so much about tree-hugging and protecting whales as it is about the sustainability of our own species on the planet. Of course, the process of achieving human sustainability will likely benefit some other species as well. So, how do we do EFS? We do it in formal and non-formal educational settings, we do it by modeling, and we do it through focus on the interconnections and interdependence of environmental, economic, and social systems with the goal of sustainability always in mind. Let’s delve into the specifics of EFS and share examples of where it is happening.