SOURCE: Houghton Mifflin HarcourtDESCRIPTION:
On Wednesday, June 19, a group of 30 professionals and sustainability practitioners from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors convened for the first-ever Sustainability Curriculum and National Standards Visioning Session, which took place at the headquarters of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in Washington, DC. The convening, facilitated by USGBC’s Center for Green Schools (CFGS) and sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is one element of the organizations’ partnership on the Green Apple initiative to provide millions of U.S. students with access to safer, healthier learning environments.
Through this convening, HMH and CFGS endeavored to develop a core set of recommendations for establishing a national action plan to increase the presence of sustainability concepts in K–12 curricula, standards and assessments. The current instructional climate—with Common Core State Standards dictating the Math and English/Language Arts content of 90 percent of U.S. states and Next Generation Science Standards coming to prominence—offers a unique opportunity for sustainability education to reach millions of students through the classroom setting. What’s more, the alignment of standards-based and sustainability content can empower schools to improve the resource efficiency and health of their buildings.
Even before the session began, the room was filled with palpable energy and passion for the cause. School leaders, curriculum designers, education and assessment solution providers, sustainability education specialists and technology vendors from institutions and organizations like the Green Schools National Network, Microsoft, Detroit Public Schools, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Federation of Teachers eagerly discussed their shared vision of an education system that could successfully teach every student environmental, economic, and ethical literacy.
CFGS Director Rachel Gutter kicked off the day with an overview of the cause for sustainability concepts in education. Then, the group engaged in thoughtful and energized discussion about what the ideal future state of sustainability education might look like. After lunch, the group reconvened to explore points of alignment between Common Core content and sustainability concepts, as well as opportunities for integration of those concepts into classroom materials and state assessments. The group synthesized their ideas during a small-group world café session and then rejoined to define discrete action items and articulate commitments to drive the cause forward with individual resources and networks. The session closed with an address by Jaime Cloud, Founder and President of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education.
Of course, the conversation didn’t and won’t end with the convening, nor will it with the set of folks around the table. CFGS is preparing to make a call for public comment on the vision set last week, and then to draw up a white paper co-authored by HMH that captures the resulting national action plan to increase the presence of sustainability concepts in education through the vechicle of Common Core content. HMH and CFGS will publish and distribute the white paper to a wide range of education, political and sustainability stakeholders in Fall 2013, with the goal of galvanizing decision-makers and the public to develop environmentally conscious global citizens.
KEYWORDS: Education, Environment, People, Social Action & Community Engagement, sustainability, Common Core State Standards, green building council, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, environment, Green, convening, national action plan, strategy, green apple initiative, white paper, Center for Green Schools, rachel gutter