Conscious Leadership for Sustainability and STEM
  August 2014

In This Issue
Communities of Collaboration
Creating Leaders
Bridging Youth Leadership
STEM -- Now's the Time
Fall Checklist

BEGIN with a source of inspiration
that will carry you and others
through much
of the hard work ahead.
Dr. Michael Wesch
 is a brilliant and caring professor of anthropology at Kansas State University whose TED-style talk conveys his idea that learning is about soul-making.

If you would prefer to read his blog, go here.

Professional Development?

We know the ideal PD is blended, personalized, and flexible.
Abandon one-shot workshops. Use the end-of-summer gatherings for a broader program. Then embed development into the school year.
Read here for more details.

Remind Teachers about

1. Create Community
(by sharing information)
2. Create Stories
(to let students begin independent work and to assess work)
3. Celebrate Growth
(begin portfolio development right away)

New project-based learning ideas should be part of every class.
Need inspiration?
Click here for goals to seek and ways to take students in new directions. 
~~ Gardens ~~
Is this the year your school will start or expand food gardens?
Let students and teachers share in the excitement of Seattle's plan to create a 7-acre food forest in the city.

Pause to take deep breaths, greet colleagues, and share refreshments.

Do your teachers and administrators need ideas for adapting  Common Core materials?
CEI has a web page devoted to many aids and links.
Click here!


~ ~



Stu Tables

CEI offers a wide array of workshops with distinguished faculty who deliver timely, up-to-date workshops for schools and districts.
Check out the possibilities!

Hot Topics:
STEM, Reteaching, Neuroscience, Compassion
& many more.

 Newsletter editor:

Carolyn Lieberg 

Dear Educators,

As you move into September and back to school, CEI is offering some thoughts about the bigger picture--where education could be heading-- and some steps to get there. In this issue of Wow!, we describe the sustainability of a Global Fish Lab, the power of bridging leadership to connect peoples and ideas with diverse interests, and steps for considering the what, why, who, how, and  when of implementing STEM.

Part of CEI's role is to take ideas and help make them practical so that they can lead to action steps. We believe one of the most powerful ways to create action for a sustainable planet is to develop the leadership skills of youth, preparing them for tomorrow.

Education has a role to play in improving our planet--a role that extends beyond borders. There is a web of interconnectedness that is stronger when it is reinforced by the action steps of many. Take a look, perhaps there is a way that your school and your leadership can be a part of the plan to strengthen education across cultures, or to take steps to sustain education that supports a green planet.


Creating Change Through Sustainable Communities of Collaboration

By Christine Mason, CEI Executive Director and Michele M. Rivers Murphy, Ed.D., CEI Research Associate

 "Accelerating change in critical systems that shape our future requires networks of collaboration and knowledge continually learn and adapt...the key is nurturing leadership networks at all levels, what we called communities of commitment." (Madrazo & Senge, 2011, p.2)
Are schools about learning or about giving the right answer? Claudia Madrazo and Peter Senge make the point that schoolroom learning is fragmented; that learning is taken out of its natural context, creating a major dysfunction. 

Instead, Madrazo and Senge (2011) suggest that solutions be found through building genuine communities of "collaboration and co-inspiration." However, they suggest that many communities are materialistic and individualistic, rife with competition--the opposite of what may be needed to find solutions to many of the world's problems.

Madrazo and Senge (2011) describe how solutions for economic and ecological crises can also be appropriate for social problems, including what they refer to as the dysfunctions in education. They suggest that fragmentation, reactiveness, and destructive competition:
  • are creating imbalances that impact our ecosystems.
  • are accompanied by an overwhelming lack of consciousness, resulting in disastrous environmental consequences, and in social systems, such as  education, a failure to create meaningful conditions for learning.
Cycles of Reflection and Action. The solution? Madranzo and Senge (2011) discuss the need for deep learning that must come from serious reflection. Today, moving at an ultra-fast pace to handle issue after issue that arises, it is often hard to change habits to pause, reflect, and contemplate actions rather than the more rapid decide-act habits that we often use when juggling many tasks. So instead of springing into action to address problems that require fast action, sustainability relies on conscious actions that allow us to survey the landscape, consider lessons from history, and weigh alternatives. This process is dependent upon continuous cycles of action and reflection, requiring an interconnectiveness among the schools, administrators, teachers, and families and across grades, subjects, and curriculum. 
Global Sustainable Fish Lab
In contrast to the incompetence that so often results in harm to the environment, the Global Sustainable Fish Lab and the Sustainable Food Lab (composed of more than fifty of the largest food corporations and the smallest of innovative companies in the world) support both the largest system change network and prototype for collaborative and co-inspirational communities. The fishing cooperatives are premised as representative of the fishing communities: they begin at a very entry level of knowledge and awareness and advance to the most skilled, schooled and experienced.

Sustainability requires collaboration among many. The key to the big picture for sustainability is the collaboration of diverse sectors. To reach a level of sustainability, the common good must be a more powerful driver than the goals of the individual components. If not, the competition for resources may prevail. With the Global Fish Lab, this includes advocates of marine-protected areas and social and justice community development activists who all are committed to the economic restoration of their fisheries. Their  shared vision leads to reflective conversations and understanding of the interconnectedness of each part of the system.  From the interconnectedness comes changes in awareness, daily practices and beliefs (Church & Skelton, 2010).


Sustainability in Education. What does sustainability look like for educational systems? The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) began, in part, as an effort to achieve a common vision with the cooperation and collaboration of a large group of stakeholders. Other educational movements around the world have also been built on common platforms. Education for all --extending the right to education to all children--is one successful movement that decades later remains a work in progress. A similar movement to ensure that girls are allowed educational opportunities is another international movement that is particularly important in third world countries and in countries that have promoted either gender-segregated education or, in the most extreme instances, education only for boys and men. Sustainable education concepts do more than help students stay engaged in their learning.

In an educational context, a wide variety of stakeholders--elected officials, community members, school boards, superintendents, principals and parents--are more effective when they come together for a common cause. When educational leaders serve as "architects," they operate with the understanding that they are capable of building communities of collaboration and co-inspiration, starting with a foundation to dedicated to "connect with people's genuine aspirations" (p. 21).


 In the 21st century,  no one continent is independent of the other, and no one country can afford to adopt an attitude of letting the next generation inherit any of their problems--climate change, resource depletion, famine, malnutrition, poverty--WITHOUT attempting to teach them the knowledge and tools to create a more sustainable future for themselves and others. In other words, sustainable education is part of a larger picture of the components needed for a sustainable future for our planet. In the end, it is not in the tools but the tool users, as "a collective capacity to co-create futures," beginning with one's own awareness and commitment" (Madrazo & Senge, p.26).  Change begins with oneself. As Gandhi has said, "We must be the change we seek."


There are several organizations that are compiling real-world problem, sustainability-driven curricula for K-12.  Here are a few resources:


*    The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education
*    Facing the Future
*    Shelburne Farms
*    U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development 


Check out this pdf for a classroom project that uses the Global Sustainability of Fish Lab concept:   

Fishing for the Future


Church, W. & Skelton, L., (2010)  "Sustainability education in K-12 classrooms."
Journal of Sustainability Education 1.0. 
Madrazo, C. & Senge, P. (2011).  Being the change:  Building communities of  

 collaboration and co-inspiration for systemic change. 

The Academy for Systematic Change. 
Bridging Leaders
by Melanie Holland, CEI Intern
Conscious leadership requires leaders who can bridge divides, are aware of their own limitations and obstacles, and take ownership of societal problems that impact self and others. At CEI we believe that a first step to change is consciousness. It is not enough for a school leader to be knowledgeable on the effects of poverty to enact change. Understanding the views of others, often with diverse histories, is essential. Incorporating the input of social workers, parents, teachers, counselors, community-based organizations, and students is needed to built a system that is responsive to the values, beliefs, and needs of the wider community-at-large.

To become more conscious, individuals and leaders intentionally step away from their personal opinions and perspectives. By stepping out of their own boxes, these leaders open their hearts and minds to understanding and empathizing with the realities of others. This is an important step to becoming a bridging leader (Garilao, 2007). While it is much easier to accept our own perspectives as "the truth,"  it takes much more depth of thought and practice to hear and seek a deep understanding of the differing points of views.  To understand at a deeper level, leaders are most impactful when they operate from a neutral space, without judgment, negative emotions, or disbeliefs. 


A more complete diagram of this process as developed by Synergos (Garilao, 2007) is presented below. Essentially, bridging leaders seek to understand diverse positions and consider areas of mutual interest and concern to develop a vision (co-ownership). From this mutual vision comes an empowering process of co-creation of systems and strategies that are built on an understanding of the equity of all.
Synergos is working in 30 countries, and has been involved with companies and groups wanting to make change for 25 years. In applying the above model, Synergos helps to "solve the complex problems of poverty and inequality by promoting and supporting collaborations among business, government, civil society, and marginalized communities." Synergos strives to create conditions for partnerships to build trust, design and implement change processes, and enhance the effectiveness of leaders.  


Following this framework, Synergos teaches its Bridging Leadership model across the world (currently in Namibia, Ethiopia, Brazil, Mexico, India, and Nigeria, to name a few) to create the capacity for systemic change. For example, in Pará, Brazil, only 31.7% of the state's students graduate from high school. Synergos has intervened to develop an integrated effort called "The Pact for Education" that brings together civil organizations, various agencies and levels of government, and the private sector to create a comprehensive set of interventions to improve the performance of the education system.    



Garilao, E.D. (2007, April) Bridging leadership at Synergos: Experience and Learnings: A background paper for the Synergos Twentieth Anniversary Reflection. Center for Bridging Societal Divides. Asian Institute of Management.


Bridging Leadership for Youth
by Melanie Holland, CEI Intern
Synergos' Bridging Leadership for Youth in Mindanao, Philippines, aims to create youth as partners in development initiatives, emphasizing youth-led decision making and collaborative interventions. This will not only allow the youth to impact their own lives and the lives of their peers, but to build leadership skills for the greater good. The multi-modal approach teaches participants how to make sense of the challenges and barriers to success, and to locate their own place in the solution.
In the Philippines, youth work in a collaborative group composed of: academics, Local Government Units, and Indigenous People. The initiative began in August 2012 in collaboration with Xavier University's Student Activities and Leadership Development (SACDEV) Office. As a result of the workshop, the group redesigned an annual "Make A Smile" project organized by the SACDEV Office from a one-shot kind of initiative to a more sustainable one geared towards strengthening co-ownership with stakeholders.


The most important contribution of the Bridging Leadership model to school leadership is its ability to connect individuals to societal problems in concrete ways that can be applied, discussed, and validated. Creating a school--or larger entities--of "Building" leaders creates the opportunity and capacity to transform systemic problems from barriers to solved problems that will lead to a more prosperous interdependent and globalized world. But, it takes more than one bridging leader to reach across any divide created by systemic problems; there must be someone or some group on the other side of the divide who is also reaching out, listening, empathizing, and caring.   


The Philippine Youth Leadership Program is in its ninth year and has accomplished several goals, including reinvigorating youth volunteerism and community service geared toward peace, understanding governance throughout the Philippines, from the smallest village (Barangay) to larger administrations in order to interact effectively, and working with youth for social change. See more here.   

Sewing Seeds and STEM  

by Emilio Campos with Carolyn Lieberg, Editor    


Fantasy author George R.R. Martin, whose series, A Song of Ice and Fire,  inspired the popular HBO series Game of Thrones contrasts two approaches to the creative process: architecture and gardening. Martin favors the latter process, whereby one keeps in mind the ideal outcome while allowing for some flexibility in the development. By contrast, the architect must plan all of the minute details of a structure in order to determine the intended effect and in order to successfully communicate goals to the builders.  

Theses analogies may resonate with principals charged with the task of cultivating young minds that need to develop thinking skills. Given the possibilities and complexities of STEM programs, "sewing seeds" in the form of activities for students along with development workshops for teachers may well serve the goal of growing a garden of STEM programs that foster student learning. At the same time, the meticulous planning done by architects provides ideas and structures for all who are involved in the programs to help them understand their roles and responsibilities. A strong plan can become a touchstone for teachers and staff to rely on as various aspects of the program are developed.

As planners envisage a STEM program for the school, some of the questions outside of curricular issues can provide foundational thinking. 

  •    Will students work in groups to solve a real world problem?
  •    Will students have opportunities to practice thinking like engineers in order to solve a problem with multiple possible solutions?
  •    Will the activities allow students to develop autonomy, consulting with teachers when they are stuck, rather than receiving mostly direct instruction?  

The purpose of a STEM program is to prepare students for successful academic and professional careers. Schools with successful programs often maintain strong relationships with local universities and businesses; these partners can help with program logistics as well as with providing professional development for teachers. Other characteristics of many successful STEM-focused schools are that they utilize extended school days and school years. This additional classroom time means that students can develop relationships with mentors as well as receiving more teacher instruction.
A necessary precondition, of course, for the successful implementation of any STEM program is that teachers understand the design, and support the goals of such a program. Educators obviously need to be on the same page for any such broad-based program.
The Why
Anyone who raises a voice of concern for our children says in the same breath that it is in the interest of all of us--and the future of the nation--that students learn to inquire, to think, to investigate, and to innovate. These processes are strongly associated with STEM skills, and they are in high demand in every professional field. Innovation and creativity are the keys to developing new products and processes that sustain our economy. A common list of skills our workforce needs includes these: 

  • Problem-solving
  • Innovative thinking
  • Communications
  • Productive teamwork
  • Generating multiple ideas
  • Decision-making

The first problem any team faces is how to proceed, and that negotiated decision will both help the team move along and give them a baseline for how they will work together. Working in teams is a challenge for people of all ages, but it is a method used in many workplaces. Therefore students gain a great deal by practicing how to get along in groups, share the work, delegate, lead, manage goals and deadlines, and contribute their best work.

Students who benefit from a strong STEM program learn how to be innovative problem-solvers and confident decision-makers, and they are able to communicate effectively with others in order to be productive team members.  

The How
Returning to the initial metaphors, the planning for a STEM program can be undertaken in a variety of ways, and its initiation will likely depend on your time and on the STEM strengths and interests of your teachers and staff. It's important to remember that it doesn't need to become a fully school-wide program in one year. In fact, only those schools with vast human and fiscal resources could make such a transformation. 

Rather, consider these points as you decide how your school will "go" STEM. Integrate STEM into your current curriculum only as it makes sense for your situation. 

  •  STEM in one classroom only
  •  STEM in one subject only, such as science or math
  •  STEM in both science and in math, but in isolation
  •  Science and math STEM lessons integrated; teachers planning together
  •  Arts or another subject added to the STEM program

The Who
An important final facet of any successful STEM program is a strong relationship between your school and members of the local business community. Local professionals can offer resources that will allow students to be engaged in ongoing professional development. Who can better help prepare your students for STEM-related fields than professionals who have already embarked on successful STEM-related careers? For those schools not near appropriate businesses, the Internet offers many ways to connect with people working in the many fields linked to STEM.

Regardless of which metaphor or plan may work for you, we hope that STEM programs bloom and grow in all of the schools reached by this newsletter.

Blog from Mind/Shift on getting a school ready for STEM

12 Steps to Stem for Middle Grades

Smart Brief on STEM from the National Science Foundation  


 Stepping into STEM, Stepping into Sustainability


What path are you headed down this year?  Are you taking steps that simply

help you keep pace with the many demands on your school? Or are you able to take steps that will link your school and your youth to others around the world? Or steps that will broaden their perspective for problem solving, perhaps helping youth to become bridges for a better tomorrow for many?


Sometimes it is helpful to see the vision, contemplate the most promising path, and then start walking, taking the first few critical steps.



Christine Mason
Executive Director, Center for Educational Improvement
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