Thursday, June 5, 2008

Education and Sustainability

This morning Metro Vancouver hosted their monthly sustainability breakfast discussion. This month's theme was Sustainability Education including talks from Chris Kelly - Superintendent of Schools for the Vancouver School Board, Kevin Nelson - Executive Director of Check Your Head, and a group of grade 9 students from the Green Bricks program at King George Secondary in Vancouver.

Chris Kelly primarily discussed what is sustainability education and why it's important. He pointed out that the fundamental purpose of education is sustainability. In his talk he stressed the importance of direct and authentic engagement of the learner/student to determine what is important and to create a sustainability process.

In order to discuss sustainability options in education, Chris Kelly as well as other leaders within education in Vancouver, took part in a Sustainability Summit on April 28th of this year. This summit hosted a "World Cafe" session in which short and long-term actions in order to respond to sustainability issues - both social and environmental - were discussed. What came out of this session included:
1. An embedded emphasis on social responsibility;
2. Multiple initiatives;
3. Learner/student generates and leads;
4. Self-determination.

Kevin Nelson discussed Check Your Head's work with schools and students to determine how schools can interact with the local communities to find sustainable initiatives and learn of ways in which this is placed in the broader global context. He emphasized that they were not trying to 'recreate the wheel' but instead were trying to 'sew a tapestry' of organizations in the community - that is bring together all the different factors of the community that are working together for positive change so that they can all work together.

An example of this was the installation of solar panels on the King George Secondary school. The community came together to install the solar panels and students were educated about the process and it's benefits in their classes. Kevin stressed that sustainability education is an opportunity for the next generation to explore new possibilities, innovations and creations that can change the current path in which we are headed.

The King George grade 9 students discussed how they worked together to reduce energy, waste and water consumption within their schools. This has expanded beyond the typical science class discussions and has been adopted throughout their curriculum. For instance, in their English class they created advertisements that encouraged a reduction in consumption and greater awareness.

Education has a definite place in expanding sustainability. If people are unaware of the problems and the potential solutions, our situation can not be changed.

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