Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer Institute on Education for Sustainability

Last week I joined a team of educators from RMS at the Summer Institute on Education for Sustainability at Shelburne Farms in Vermont. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the team, the other program participants and the facilitators. We spent four days immersed in discussions of sustainable practices and education opportunities. Participants worked on incorporating themes of sustainability into their curriculum and collaborated with other educators from around the United States. 

Here is the description of the institute as provided by Shelburne Farms:

"Education for Sustainability is at the heart of what we do at Shelburne Farms and with our PreK-12 schools, university, and community partners. Spend four rich days with colleagues around the country at an informative and restorative institute created to provide an opportunity for participants to deepen their understanding of Education for Sustainability. This week is part conference, part workshop, part retreat. We develop the institute based on participants' needs and assets; but we always ensure that educators have an opportunity to develop connections between curriculum and community, work and dialogue together, and reflect in an inspiring setting that models sustainability and systems-thinking."

The Richmond Middle School Sustainability Committee will incorporate the work of our team into their efforts this year. Some of the topics that emerged from the Institute:

-Exploring and pursuing the EcoSchools USA program as a way of organizing our efforts and recognizing our progress and success.
-Developing our definition of "Sustainability" and "Education for Sustainability" for our various stakeholder groups. Using these new definitions to work on a Sustainability Committee mission and also to find connections to our school Mission Statement.
-Combine our student and staff/community sustainability groups to create a single group with a diverse membership.
-Add "Big Ideas" of Sustainability to our curriculum mapping templates and effort. Provide support to teachers looking to integrate topics of sustainability into their curriculum.
-Support projects and programs aimed at making us a more sustainable organization. 
-Brand, Promote and Communicate our efforts.
-Utilize sustainability as an expanded framework for a healthy school environment for all.

Finally, in addition to the institute providing rich ideas and energy that will support our efforts to incorporate Education for Sustainability at RMS I enjoyed participating in this experience as a teacher. As a classroom teacher, the big ideas of sustainability were infused throughout my curriculum, classroom and practice. I found it incredibly satisfying to reconnect to something I was passionate about teaching and learning. In my role as principal at RMS I look forward to supporting and promoting the efforts of others to do the same.

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