By Victoria Waters
CEO and Founder, Green Education Foundation (GEF)
Since its founding in 2008, the Green Education Foundation has been building a comprehensive database of K-12 sustainability lessons that are free and easily accessible to educators worldwide. Thanks to a strong partnership with the Center for Green Schools, the Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse has become a reality, and a thriving one at that! Today, the Clearinghouse is home to over 600 lessons searchable by subject area, grade level, format and environmental focus.
The Clearinghouse vision is one of sharing and collaboration between educators. It's a place where teachers and youth group leaders can download, rate and comment on existing lessons, as well as upload their own to share with colleagues. When adding a new lesson, educators are able to upload their own accompanying documents or lesson plans, and assign it corresponding national education standards or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) correlation. The Clearinghouse has become vital to the success of GEF's free sustainability education programs such as National Green Week, the Green Thumb Challenge and the Green Energy Challenge. As these programs continue to grow, so do the fun lessons and activities associated with each, making it even simpler for educators to integrate elements of sustainability into existing curriculum or school greening initiatives. Our goal is to make the incorporation of sustainability education in any classroom a no brainer. Make it fun, easy to use and in line with national standards, and few educators will disagree with the inherent value of sustainability education.
As the Clearinghouse continues to grow, we are also working hard to help educators integrate sustainability into semester and year-long programs of study, and supplementing them with stand-alone lessons from the Clearinghouse. By taking the same hands-on approach to learning that’s used in Clearinghouse lessons, students in lengthy programs of study are able to make the meaningful connections that sustainability provokes. Opportunities such as our Green Building Course provide a unique approach to learning about sustainability issues that are fundamentally about science and technology, but are taught within a very real-world, practical framework. People learn best by connecting with the world around them. By getting their hands dirty with energy or water audits at their school and homes, students instantly become tuned-in to the impact their lives have on the greater global systems at work.
With the growth of government sponsored programs like Green Ribbon Schools and the U.N.’s Rio +20 sustainability education forum, we are reassured that sustainability education is becoming an increasingly critical component of STEM and global education standards. And why not? It fosters many of the critical skills necessary for students to succeed in the workforce and in higher education. Through sustainability education, students learn the value of critical thinking, analytical writing, and the evolving role humans play in global environmental, economic, and social concerns and solutions. Here’s to a sustainable 2012!