Monday, August 29, 2011

Reimagining education for resilient and sustainable people and communities

We have to change educational systems. Failing schools. Dropouts. Low rates of literacy. Scientific illiteracy. Achievement gaps a mile wide between ethnicities and socio-economic brackets. America has problems in its educational systems. But we have perhaps a much bigger problem of education looming behind everything.

Ecocide. The industrial people of the world have used so much fossil fuel so fast that we have fundamentally altered the planet's atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. In the Arctic we're melting glaciers, displacing Inuit people, melting tundra and ruining boreal forest soil, and messing with polar bear, walrus, seal, caribou, reindeer, wolf, and migratory bird habitats. The Amazon and southeast Asian tropical rain forests are being falling, transforming it from a water and carbon sink into a carbon releasing territory, changing rainfall patterns all around it, turning a biodiversity hot spot into an extinction hot spot, and eradicating indigenous populations. What's to be done?

If you're a teacher you must believe you have some agency in the world and that touching people's lives and awakening them to new knowledge or deep connections can happen in school. How about awakening them to their connection to and reliance on the Earth and its systems? Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” That must include school too.

How are people trying to build a bridge to a better future? Creative Change Education Solutions is taking some steps in this direction.

A new vision is taking hold —a future where communities thrive, the environment is healthy, traditions matter, and green economies provide real prosperity for all. We believe everyone has a stake in this future and that education must inspire learning and leadership towards it.

Creative Change Educational Solutions is a nonprofit organization advancing educational leadership and transformation through a lens of sustainability. Based in southeast Michigan, we serve K12 schools, nonprofits, universities, and teacher education programs at the national level.
They are taking on the critical problems of the world and offering what I've been calling "gorgeous solutions." It's not just doom and gloom and the notion that we're all just about to get dunked with the sinking Titanic. We have choices ahead and great things to learn, interesting and compelling people to meet, relationships to develop, technologies to advance, and communities to thrive in. So how?

Take for example their materials from Sustainable by Design:
Our world is filled with “stuff”, but where does it all come from, and where does it go when it’s done? How—and why—do we design, create, use and dispose of the things we use each day? This program explores ways to make design, building, and manufacturing greener and more equitable. Programs explore how scientific, economic and cultural factors influence decisions, and the implications for workers, consumers and business leaders.
What's really interesting about this resource is that they have scaled it so that you can work on it from elementary through higher education. I, for example, work in a teacher education program and have been seriously contemplating a course that would develop sustainability awareness for teachers, administrators, policy makers or analysts, architects, and engineers by using the built environment - from whole cities to single buildings - to understand and learn about our interactions with the more-than-human environment. From a newly developed understanding, how could we teach children, make better policies, and individually and collectively lead more sustainable lives? And here is a resource to get me started with something more substantial than what I'd had on my own.

If you're a third grade or tenth grade teacher now you have the same opportunity. If you're really lucky you can integrate curricula like these into school gardening, environmental footprint, and/or contemporary government work. This is a whole new way to arrange schooling that could work in many of the schools highlighted in Smart by Nature published by the Center for Ecological Literacy.

"The implications" they could be referring to above are considerable. Confronted with the patterns of waste we generate, our consciences might be piqued. So piqued, we could act better for ourselves and our world. This is getting at a whole other kind of thinking that gets away from the linear mechanical industrial school and gets at the webs of living and life we actually are in. [This isn't the only such resource. Peruse the this blog's right sidebar for many many more.]

Now that might be some really worthwhile schooling. It might be not only sustainability education but actually be sustainable education. Imagine that.

1 comment:

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