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 Curriculum

 

Each description below is a brief summary of some extraordinary efforts schools have undertaken to accomplish their goals for environmental sustainability. Please click on the name of the school to link to the full profile of its efforts.

Berkshire School
Sheffield, MA
Contact: Frank Barros, fbarros@berkshireschool.org
A more traditional education about why we need to conserve our resources is still taught through environmental science classes. The school also spends several days throughout the year engaging the entire Third Form in very experiential activities in sustainability. However, implementation of the Climate Action Plan is led by students in the Conservation Studies elective and guided by faculty and staff in the Conservation Committee. The students in the class are split between three groups. The first group does background research and risk analysis on strategies listed in the Climate Action Plan. They take their information and write proposals that are then presented to the Conservation Committee. The Conservation Committee asks questions and decides whether the proposal is ready for implementation. The second group is in charge of the day-to-day operations such as recycling, composting, source reduction, data collection, and the implementation of strategies. The third group markets the school’s efforts by giving all-school presentations, applying for grants and awards, and contacting newspapers and magazines about publicity.

The Calhoun School
New York, NY
Contact: Sylvia Kopec, sylvia.kopec@calhoun.org
The study of environmental issues, healthy ecological practices, issues of environmental justice, and political activism are the focus of interdisciplinary studies at every division level. This includes recycled art projects, worm composting, the study of flora and fauna in Central Park, Earth Day celebrations, plays written about ecology, literature and films, and analysis of alternative energy sources. Calhoun is a member of the Black Rock Forest Consortium, an organization comprised of private and public educational and research institutions that collectively work to preserve the Black Rock Forest — a 3,800 acre natural area located in the Hudson Highlands on the west bank of the Hudson River, 50 miles north of New York City. Students use sophisticated laboratory resources at Black Rock Forest for biology and chemistry research, as well as the forest’s natural outdoor “classroom” for field studies and team building activities. Calhoun students have additional opportunities to learn about the environment on our own Green Roof Learning Center, in neighboring parks, and at the outdoor educational program at the Clearpool Education Center.

Conserve School
Land O'Lakes, WI
Contact: Kim Schumacher, kim.schumacher@conserveschool.org
Environmental education permeates the Conserve School experience. Project-based learning that blends traditional and nontraditional education with hands-on engagement enables students to become directly connected to sustainability issues involving lakes, watersheds, forest ecology, and wildlife. Students wade into campus marshes to test water quality for biology class and excavate historical artifacts for archaeology class. This style of learning prepares students to be technologically adept, ethical leaders with a respect for both the earth’s natural resources and its intrinsic value.

Darrow School
New Lebanon, NY
Contact: Craig Westcott, westcottc@darrowschool.org
For one week each spring, small groups of students and one or two teachers pursue topics of interest in extended field-based seminars. Like the regular academic program, spring term is an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned about sustainability to a new context. The Darrow School community is strengthened by a pervasive emphasis on collaborative work. Sustaining facilities, programs, and the very ethos of the school require that work be shared. Through the Hands-to-Work program, operating continuously since the founding of the school, meaning and connection to place are developed as students, teachers, and staff work together to sustain the common resources of the community as equals. The community sustains this element of the Shaker legacy by performing campus-wide responsibilities such as recycling, composting, trail maintenance, maple sugaring, carpentry, and Living Machine monitoring.

Hawaii Preparatory Academy
Kamuela, HI
Contact: Bill Wiecking, bill@hpa.edu
Another enterprise in sustainability arises from an environmental science course, in which students engage in a variety of projects pertaining to the importance of communities being able to support themselves. Tim Lloyd, an agricultural specialist from Hilo, has been working with the class to develop garden plots and raised garden beds. Students are exploring hydroponics and effective microorganism (EM) technology, which involves bacteria that consume dead and rotting wastes. Lloyd believes that “all schools should exploit EM technology in composting and gardening” and “should cultivate their own private gardens.” In planting the garden of dryland taro, students note that EM technology helps to catalyze compost piles and to accelerate the germination of seeds. The environmental science’s current project is to plan an environmental science center suitable for a future Hawaii Preparatory School, incorporating purpose and efficiency into its design.

Head-Royce School
Oakland, CA
Contact: Deborah Harper, Sustainability Director, dharper@headroyce.org
From 2007 to 2010 the School conducted a systematic, three-year effort to review and revise the K-12 curriculum to promote education for sustainable living.  A vital, initial part of that effort was the revision of the School's mission to include the commitment to help students develop "a love of nature."  We adopted a set of principles of "ecological literacy" in consultation with the Center for Ecoliteracy (www.ecoliteracy.org) in Berkeley.  Education for sustainability requires, in addition to environmental knowledge, the acquisition of particular skills, values, and vision needed to put that knowledge into practice.  Education for sustainable living cultivates competencies of head, heart, hands, and spirit to enable children to develop toward becoming citizens capable of designing and maintaining sustainable societies. Using the Principles of Ecoliteracy, we are nurturing our students' understanding of ecology, concern for the well being of the Earth, commitment to living sustainably, and reverence for the natural world.  As a result of the faculty's formal, K-12 audit of the environmental focus in the curriculum, we have identified areas to highlight and to improve.  Some examples of our revised ecological curriculum include: An edible garden in the Lower School, a 2-month ecology unit in Middle School, Upper School electives devoted to topics like Environmental History, Global Systems Science, and Advanced Placement Environmental Science. 



The Island School
Cape Eleuthera, The Bahamas
Contact: info@islandschool.org
Twice during the academic year, the Island School hosts a new group of 48 high school sophomores and juniors for a three-month semester abroad at Cape Eleuthera, Bahamas. The academic program challenges students to generate original knowledge, apply what they learn to a real world setting, and build skills to attack unfamiliar problems. To accomplish this, the Island School curriculum employs traditional classroom lecture and dialogue, project work focused on experiential teamwork, and cultural interaction. In addition to science, English, history, mathematics, and environmental art, students also participate in “Island School seminar,” which addresses issues of environment and humans one hour a week. Students teach classes on the environment in a one-on-one setting with a local elementary or middle school student two hours a week. Students participate in scuba diving, free diving, and snorkeling. There is an hour of morning exercise five days a week, culminating in a 13.1-mile run or four-mile swim. There is a three-day and an eight-day sea-kayaking trip with a solo during the 100-day program.

Kimball Union Academy
Meriden, NH
Contact: Dean Goodwin, dgoodwin@kua.org
In the mid-1990s, an endowed chair of environmental studies was established in order to integrate the study of environmental topics throughout the curriculum of the school. The environmental education elective offerings are not only fully integrated within the framework of a traditional high school science program, but also spread throughout other academic areas. Students can take yearlong courses in environmental studies, advanced placement environmental science, or the recently added marine science class. Other trimester electives such as environmental geology, environmental law and policy, forest studies, winter ecology, and advanced research in environmental science are also offered on a rotating basis. Faculty members are encouraged to develop new trimester courses such as current environmental issues. A senior elective in environmental literature is offered by the English department, and environmental issues are a major part of the American West course taught in the history department. The arts and theater departments incorporate the environment into many of their offerings, and several years ago a “playwright in residence” collaborated with the environmental classes and the theater group to write and perform a new environmental play.

Lawrenceville School
Lawrenceville, NJ
Contact: Sam Kosoff, skosoff@lawrenceville.org
By researching and implementing the physical aspects of the Green Campus Initiative in an accessible manner, we aim to integrate those lessons into our lifestyles through both the academic and residential curriculum and the local community of Lawrence Township and Mercer County. As an institution that believes in educating young people for responsible leadership and participation in an increasingly complex world, the school’s responsibility is to address the issues outlined in this initiative from an educational perspective. With these ideas in mind, we hope the process of greening the campus will be a vehicle for the whole community to gain insight into issues relating to the project. Please click here for an overview of the Green Campus Initiative (www.lawrenceville.org/greencampus).

Marin Academy
San Rafael, CA
Contact: Mark Stefanski, mstefanski@ma.org
Marin Academy is striving to make sustainability an integral part of our curriculum. Environmental sustainability and social justice issues are integrated into the curriculum through the AP environmental science course, and through courses in English, history, and human development. In addition, Marin Academy’s organic garden, composting system, and café are integrated into the curriculum of the school. They are utilized not only to teach a healthful approach to food, but also as learning laboratories. Freshman study the science of composting in the required beginning biology course. Freshmen biology students are also conducting an experiment using four raised beds in our organic garden. Different forms of organic fertilizer, including one with Marin Academy compost and a control bed using no fertilizer, are being tested to determine which is most effective in promoting plant growth. Students in AP Statistics will assist with the data analysis. Students in AP Environmental Science and those in Advanced Biology also use the garden as part of their lessons.

Marin Country Day School
Corte Madera, CA
Contact: Alice Moore, amoore@mcds.org
The scope and site of our campus, surrounded by the Bay, marshland, and Ring Mountain nature preserve, provide unique opportunities for outdoor learning. The addition to our campus of new, environmentally responsible buildings will further enhance opportunities for sustainability education as well as the potential to support responsible stewardship through alternative energy sources, division-level gardens, recycling, and composting programs. Our environmental education program is developmentally geared toward each of our three divisions: lower school (kindergarten through second grade), middle school (third through fifth grades), and upper school (sixth through eighth grades). In lower and middle school, there is at least one unit at each grade level that brings students outdoors into nature on a regular basis. In the lower school, our goal is to create a love of nature and the outdoors while raising our students to be thoughtful scientists through our rich, inquiry-based science approach. 

Midland School
Los Olivos, CA
Contact: Derek Svennungsen, dsvennungsen@midland-school.org, or Karen Readey, kreadey@midland-school.org
Midland School, a college preparatory boarding school that combines rigorous academics with intensive immersion in the environment, embraces a mission of environmental stewardship and self-reliance. Midland’s curriculum, which places environmental studies at the core of most of its classes and constantly utilizes the school’s 2,860 acres, includes team-taught multidisciplinary core courses and electives, grade-level thematic units including native vs. non-native landscapes, the science and sensibility of renewable energy, the implications of public vs. private ownership of resources, and conservation in developed vs. developing nations. Students determine legal locations on USGS topographical maps in Midland 101, a course where students learn about Midland’s ecosystems and history. It is the blending of coursework and ecological practices at Midland, however, that makes this school unique. Many campus projects, both in and outside of the classroom, focus on environmental and community sustainability. A large organic garden maintained by faculty and students produces much of our vegetable sustenance. Guided by local restoration ecologists, Midland has begun a long-term native valley oak restoration and monitoring project, in which every student will plant at least one tree from acorns every year.

Millbrook School
Millbrook, NY
Contact: Jane Meigs, jameigs@millbrook.org
In developing a sustainability curriculum, Millbrook School recognizes the importance of both breadth and depth in courses and projects. The broad topic of sustainability offers many entry points into the curriculum, such as what is environmentally sound, economically viable, and socially equitable. Millbrook seeks to educate all campus groups: faculty, students, staff, administration, board of directors, and food service. Further integrating sustainability into the daily lives of these constituents, each group takes turns educating others about sustainability. Plus, sustainability in the curriculum is welcomed and encouraged, but not required or mandated. Recently the school has administered a sustainability survey of all departments, engaged in interdisciplinary sharing of ideas and projects, compiled a resource book, and brought Earth Day into the curriculum across departments, including courses in English, anthropology, geometry, and environmental science.

New Canaan Country School
New Canaan, CT
Contact: David Stoller, dstoller@countryschool.net
New Canaan Country School’s teachers weave sustainability issues into the curriculum across all grades and disciplines. The school believes it is essential to help our students understand the tension between development and conservation and become aware of how their actions may influence the world in which they live. Each division within the school addresses sustainability in age-appropriate ways. The early childhood program focuses on developing sensitivity to the environment through early understanding of stewardship, including planting shrubs and flowers. Lower school science faculty travel to Florida to help researchers tag endangered sea turtles. Back at school, students track the turtles on the Internet and learn the steps that are needed to save endangered species and why and how their extinction would have a damaging effect on the environment. Middle school students write letters to legislators regarding low-emission vehicle technology and travel to the state capital to lobby them in person. Upper school students engage in formal debates regarding the pros and cons of topics such as the logging industry, drilling for oil in ANWR, the reintroduction of wolves into the Northeast, nuclear power vs. fossil fuel, and the use of pesticides vs. organic methods in agriculture.

Northfield Mount Hermon School
Northfield, MA
Contact: Becca Leslie, bleslie@nmhschool.org
Northfield Mount Hermon School (NMH) weaves environmental sustainability throughout the curriculum. Courses in the English, history, and science departments study material through an environmental lens. In addition to outdoor education classes, there is an English course that focuses on Turtle Island, studying historical, literary, and ethical perspectives on the North American landscape. It includes a three-week study/travel component. Other study/travel courses take students as far as South Africa and New Zealand, and as close as the Connecticut River Valley. On campus and in the lab, students learn about environmental science, biology – including experience on the NMH farm, geology, and genetics and ethics. This focus on ethics permeates the history courses as students study the use and abuse of power, or environmental history and ethics.

Olney Friends School  NEW
Barnesville, OH
Contact: Kirsten Bohl, kirsten@olneyfriends.org  
Students at Olney Friends School collaborate with local authorities on monitoring and conservation in Captina Creek Watershed, categorized by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency as an excellent warm water habitat. In 2009, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Districts recognized Leonard Guindon, biology and environmental science teacher, as Ohio Conservation Teacher of the Year in the high school category. Click here to learn more.

Phillips Exeter Academy
Exeter, NH
Contact: Jennifer Wilhelm, sustainability@exeter.edu 
Exeter takes seriously the notion of practicing environmental responsibility on a daily basis, and strives to teach this by example. But the school is also concerned with what it teaches in its classrooms; specifically about the challenges students will face in building a more sustainable world in their lifetime. During three years of intense curricular review, the Exeter faculty considered introducing environmental study into the curriculum. While that specific proposal was not voted in, several elements remain under consideration by the Exeter faculty, including how best to integrate environmental study across the different disciplines and throughout the grade levels. Currently, much of the environmental study at Exeter is concentrated in senior-level courses with a specific focus on green issues, though we have recently added a sustainability component to our "junior studies" course, required for all incoming freshmen. In June 2005, 14 teachers from seven different departments met for a week to learn firsthand how environmental issues are currently being taught in other disciplines and to consider together how to move ahead on a more comprehensive path.

The Putney School
Putney, VT
Contact: Emily Jones, ejones@putneyschool.org
The Putney School's commitment to environmental sustainability is realized in all phases of our educational program. In the classroom such offerings as biodiversity and conservation ecology, physiological ecology, agroecology (agricultural ecology), and innovative classes such as the farm trimester (for history or lab science credit), utilize the school's 500 acres, its buildings (including the first-ever net zero energy secondary school building in the U.S.), and its working farm by using these resources as laboratories for learning. Field science is also evident in our core classes in biology and chemistry. In our work program all students must take a turn working in our farm and in our dining hall. The connection between growing food and consuming food is seamless for our students. In addition our students are required to participate in the land-use program during our afternoon activities.

The Putney School has also embarked on a multi-year community and campus mapping projects designed to inform both school and community about the natural resources on the school property. This information will be of many types encouraging interdisciplinary study: ecological (e.g. natural communities, bio-diversity, wildlife habitat, rare species, vernal pools, sustainable wood harvest; practical (trails, roads, boundaries), agricultural (garden and agricultural field surveys); artistic (writing and art inspired by favorite places); and historical (roads, buildings and land use). Maps will be created by students using existing and collected GIS (Geographical Information System) materials. ArcGIS software will be employed as well as hand-held GPS (Global Positioning System) units. Understanding the resources that support a school is central to developing a holistic educational program on sustainability. These maps will lay the foundation for sustainable use in our educational program and our facility planning. The mapping project has led to assignments in physiological ecology, biology, conservation ecology, and agro ecology. Moreover, the mapping project will inform the planning of a new sports facility, an understanding of how to address deferred maintenance by employing sustainable resources and planning related to how best to utilize the Putney School's approximately 500 acres. This project is one that fosters school and community partnerships as well as place-based learning.

 

 

St. Michael's Country Day School
Newport, RI
Contact: Betsy Walker, bwalker@smcds.org
At this point it would be safe to say that the concept of sustainability has been introduced into our classrooms at all levels. It is present in all the science classes and manifests itself in other classroom discussions as well. Much of the projects our students undertook in spring 2008 involved growing produce to donate to local food banks. When the weather cooperates, our local beaches, salt marshes, and wildlife preserves serve as outdoor classrooms for the science classes. An annual class trip for the fifth grade every spring is to the state’s immense landfill operation for a tour of the facilities and a detailed lecture on the complexities of waste management.

Seabury Hall
Makawao, HI
Contact: Natalie Walters, nwalters@seaburyhall.org
Prior to the establishment of the Sustainability Committee, Seabury has developed and supported curricular and co-curricular programs that address the issues of sustainability. These courses include Engineering Concepts and Design, where students convert internal combustion automobiles into functioning, licensed, and legal electric powered automobiles; Chemistry in the Community (Chem-Com), a project-based curriculum that address environmental issues and students must play the part of chemists, local government officials, citizens, scientists, environmentalists, etc. as they present their findings regarding the impact of various environmental decisions that impact the environment; Advance Placement Environmental Science; and Senior Sustainability Project, an experiential course where students identify an environmental issue that may impact the Maui community, work with county government to develop potential plans for improvement, and physically visit, assess, and work in the area of concern as part of the process in developing a significant interdisciplinary report that provides an in-depth analysis of the problem and potential solutions.

The Willow School
Gladstone, NJ
Contact: Mark Biedron, mbswc@earthlink.net
The Willow School philosophy embraces the importance of teaching each child to consider and appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature, along with the complex relationships that exist between humans and the natural world in which they live. Through classroom teaching, reading, research and outdoor experiences, Willow School children gain a realistic understanding of their roles as stewards of the earth and its resources. The school builds on the work of Froebell, Piaget, Steiner, Kahn, and Kellert to compose a curriculum model that connects the natural environment with each core subject unit and uses the buildings and the site as a living classroom. The Willow School uses the principles of sustainable and regenerative design that are integrated throughout the buildings and site as a framework to deliver the core curriculum.

Article Date: 3/30/2007
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