Why and how to teach education for sustainability

Teaching to heal the world

place-based learning“How can we improve the systems we’re a part of?”

That’s the question my team posed to our 4th- through 6th-grade students last spring at The Cornwall School, in Cornwall VT. It was the start of a deep dive into education for sustainability.

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Evolving student roles in a big (BIG) PBL project

As Dorset’s coop dreams became a reality, students gathered new skills

real world project-based learningWhat does it look like to break one enormous project into several project-based learning units?

For Dorset students to go from dreaming about fresh eggs to actually building a chicken coop required two strategies: breaking the PBL into phases, and asking students to assume different roles along the way.

Let’s break down just how Dorset’s chicken coop project stayed true to its PBL roots and manageable for students and educators.

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How to build up STEAM

Making time for making at Ottauquechee

makerspaces and project-based learningSTEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics — gives students the opportunity to create. To make. Maybe to fail. To try again! And to make something that improves a condition, solves a problem, or makes the world a better place. But if your school currently doesn’t offer a STEAM time, it can be daunting to figure out where to begin. And that’s where we pick up our story of Ottauquechee School, in Quechee VT, where we used Design Thinking, a portable makerspace and one amazing library space to figure out how STEAM Time could work at this school.

Welcome to Ottauquechee STEAM Time.

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Reflecting on your PBL

How did it go?

take project-based learning to the next levelIt can be easy to end your project-based learning experiences with students in a big heap of exhaustion and miss the opportunity to reflect on the experience. There is so much to learn and gain from gathering your (and your students’) reflections.

But how do you do that? Let’s look at some ways.

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Developing empathy for your community

Meet the Humans of Burke

community-based learning the humans of burkeSo many schools operate in isolation from the very communities they are situated in. Do your students know community members? Does your community see your students as young community members?

One small school in Vermont’s remote Northeast Kingdom interpreted the popular “Humans of New York” project to foster connection between their 8th graders and the town’s community. Meet the Humans of Burke.

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Therapy dogs in Vermont schools

Who let the dogs in?

For some students, being ready to learn when they arrive at school is a big ask, and more than a few carry trauma or mental health burdens through their day. And that’s why more and more, schools in Vermont are adding therapy dogs to their staffing rosters.

And they’re seeing some pretty pawsitive benefits to the arrangement.

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How do *you* mitigate heat transfer at your old elementary school?

Local connections with worldwide implications

Science Saturday, with Tarrant Institute research fellow Mark OlofsonIn our current study of heat transfer, our class decided to connect science concepts to the UN Sustainable Development Goals — specifically, Goal 13, which looks to combat climate change. The challenge was to model a place where students had experienced Urban Heat Islands, then create a sustainable mitigation plan for that place.

Starting with paper blueprints, then moving to Google Maps, students fabricated models of these urban heat islands and calculated how to measure the mitigation.

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Using student TED Talks to showcase learning

why digital composition mattersTED Talks are short, personal powerful storytelling. Now: how can students use this medium as motivation to learn, to explore their purpose, extend their perspectives and understandings, and develop strong storytelling and presentation skills?

Let’s find out.

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Changing the who, the what, and the when

The transformation of Team Quest

self-analysis and teamingEducators never feel like they have enough time to do all the things they want to do with students. But for Team Quest at Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury, Vermont, the constraints of traditional subject area, schedule and process had become unbearable. So this two-person grade 5-6  team decided to opt for radical transformation.

They changed the who, what, and when of their teaching.

And. They. Love it. Continue reading

Should Vermont host the next Olympics?

Manchester’s 6th graders weigh in… to their Selectboard.

Real World PBLTeams of 6th-grade students from Manchester Elementary Middle School researched this question and put their arguments to the town.

Should Manchester VT put in a bid to host a future Winter Olympics?

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