Wow! Ed: Newsletter from the Center for Educational Improvment
Compassion for the Earth
September 2015
In This Issue


New President and CEO of Operation Respect
Molly McCloskey is named the new President and CEO of Operation Respect. Molly believes strongly that, "The work of Operation Respect is vital to ensuring today's students are tomorrow's leaders, artists, advocates, creators, policymakers, and problem solvers."
 
Bread and Roses
"Bread and Roses"- a slogan from 1912, and a song written by Mimi Farina. This Labor Day weekend CEI honors advances that have been made and also reflects on the importance of teachers and schools.
 
 
Editor: Lauren Hamilton

2015 Center for EducationalImprovement
 
Dear Educators,

Is your school a green school? 

Green schools provide so many ways to engage the hearts and minds of youth.  Nature provides a curriculum unlike any other.

Now that states are reducing their focus on the Common Core, many schools are finding time to turn their attention to some of the many things--like green schools-- that have been put on hold while our nation went through its cycle of tests, tests, and more tests.

We at CEI encourage you to put compassion, including compassion for the Earth, on your To Do list for this year.  There are a multitude of low-cost, no-cost ways to "traverse to green." 
Towards a Greener Classroom
By Donald Kim, CEI Intern
Why Go Green?
Climate change and sustainability are issues of great importance. Studies show that 97 percent or more of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends are very likely tied to human activity. With all this in mind, one can't help but worry about the future and the world students will inhabit in adulthood. Thankfully, there are many possibilities for "going green" within the school setting. The Green School Initiative has great resources that can get principals and teachers started on a more sustainable and healthy teaching environment. For example, the Green Schools Initiative outlines 5 steps a teacher can take to increase their school's sustainability:
  • Check the sustainability of school: Learn what your school is doing to make the school sustainable and safe.
  • Re-use, recycle & buy sustainable school materials: Encourage recycling and re-use as much as possible. When the new school year rears its head, encourage parents to look out for eco-friendly school supplies.
    • At this link you can download a document that lists sustainable supplies and how they differ from other supplies.
  • Bring waste-free/toxic-free lunches: Opt for re-usable food devices such as lunchboxes, Tupperware, thermoses, etc.
  • Check for school's wellness policy: Make sure your school promotes nutrition and physical activity.
  • Start a green program at your school: Take the time to form a club or school event that can help advocate for going green and take steps to help the environment no matter how local.
Another great way to promote healthy and sustainable living is to incorporate nature, health and sustainability into the curriculum. You can vary the pervasiveness of green themes to your liking, for any effort can make a difference. Here are a few small ways you can incorporate sustainability:
  • Classroom jobs to help with green efforts: For example a student can be put in charge of turning off the light when leaving the class, or a few students can be in charge of recycling. This is a simple way of teaching students about responsibility and stewardship, which can extend outside of the classroom.
  • Outdoor Classes: Conducting classes outdoors can excite students about nature. It is often easy to make curriculum connections to the surrounding area. Shadows can become math problems,  flowers can become a biology lesson and the surrounding landscape can become an art class. The possibilities are endless.
  • Social media to encourage sustainability: An interesting and modern way to advocate sustainability is to use social media - such as Instagram, Facebook, etc. - for projects, assignments, or extra credit.
  • More? There are no set ways to advocate and practice sustainability - collaborate with your peers and coworkers to create new ways to help the planet.

We at CEI argue that consciousness, compassion, and community are essential parts of social-emotional learning, and going green can build all three. Green initiatives teach students to be aware and conscious of the world they inhabit and give students the opportunity to connect to their surroundings.

Connecting to nature becomes increasingly important as students grow more accustomed to using computers, phones, and tablets. In our high-tech world, green practices teach students to care for the life that surrounds them. This requires the efforts of a community of teachers, parents, and students. The
teaching potential
is endless. By connecting to nature and the environment, students will also have opportunities to expand their critical thinking skills because sustainability and environmental issues are large-scale issues that require both scope and attention to detail. By trying a few of these ideas out, you can benefit both students and the environment. Even a little time spent advocating for sustainability can leave a lasting impression. 
Schools Going Green
By Annie Quinn, CEI Intern
Going Green benefits schools in several aspects, including cost reductions, sustainability, hands on learning and healthier atmospheres. Project Learning Tree's Greenschools! is an organization which partners with various schools across the country to educate youth on caring for their environment and community. At CEI, we took a look at a couple schools which are committed to being green. 
 
Central High School in Newark, New Jersey is a Title I school where 90 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Greenschools! has partnered with the Environmental Studies Academy at this high school and developed a strong program which focuses on scientific understanding, environmental literacy and critical problem solving. In this program students have:
  • Studied plant species that most effectively remove CO2 from the air
  • Influenced school administrators to place these plants in classrooms and hallways
  • Planted and maintained an urban vegetable garden for students and their families
  • Investigated energy use and the carbon footprint of their own school, looking for ways to improve
  • Created and implemented a compost bin the cafeteria to create a sustainable way to feed plants in the gardens and greenhouses
  • Presented a webinar sponsored by U.S. Forest Service advocating for the benefits of Greenschools! Grants.
 These environmental projects have provided students with hands-on learning opportunities to increase learning in all STEM areas. In addition, this program has crafted leaders, critical thinkers, problem solvers and activists. 
Other Greenschools! programs have enabled schools and students to:
  • Build and use outdoor classrooms
  • Replace wasteful 3 gallon toilets with efficient models
  • Use rain barrels to eliminate the need for irrigation systems
  • Use photovoltaic technology to create renewable self-generated energy
  • Collect items such as bottle caps, Capri Sun pouches and cellphones to be recycled
  • Identify problems in the physical environment and work as a team to find a solution
  • Educate families and communities on how to maintain a healthier atmosphere.
By prioritizing caring for the earth, teachers will develop deeper curriculum not only for STEM programs, but also for Heart Centered Education. Through improving the physical environment around them, students are also learning to care for the people in their community.
  • The Loudoun Country Day School (VA) has grown plants hydroponically. Students then took a field trip to plant the vegetables at a center for veterans and their families.
  • At each Minnieland Academy location in Ashburn (VA) preschoolers and kindergartners are learning to grow their own vegetables which are included in healthy lunches.
The examples of these few schools, and dozens more like them, improving their own education, health, community and sustainability will hopefully encourage more school administrators to "go green" and follow similar paths to these environmental leaders!
The Green School Movement
Katie Delis, CEI Intern
The first memory I have of sustainable living instruction occurred while I viewed a brief cartoon on Sesame Street. This cheeky mini-segment depicts a fish asking a young boy to turn off the faucet as he brushes his teeth so that the fish has enough water to happily live in his lake. Nearly twenty years since that first exposure to community and environmental awareness, I find myself, along with you, looking to our 21st century learners as the future stewards of our Earth. One salient initiative in education is taking these issues and ideas to the forefront of conversation and action: the green school movement.

DEFINING A GREEN SCHOOL
Green schools promote sustainable living, which is the pursuit of using the Earth's natural resources respectfully. This is achieved in green schools by providing students with consistent and intentional models of responsible environmental choices. Both school- and teacher-led models provide learners with opportunities to make choices that foster respect for the environment. With that being said, no two green schools look or act identically. In fact, the Center for Ecoliteracy, a nonprofit organization that supports education for sustainable living, explains that "the hallmark" of the green school movement is its diversity. The Center mentions the following four categories of ways to develop respect for the Earth within the classroom:

* Food: The lunchroom offers fertile ground for teaching students about the intersections and vital relationships between the earth and human activity. By helping students understand how food is grown, processed, transported, prepared and disposed of, educators can teach about resource usage, energy usage, climate change, worker's rights, and nutrition.
* Campus: School campuses impact the environment through many sources, namely by the way they handle their waste, the greenhouse emissions they generate or eliminate, and the energy to heat and cool rooms. Schools educate students by involving them in discussions and decisions related to these components of the campus.
* Community: A school's choices and activities demonstrate its values. By including a green vision or mission statement and participating in local environmental service projects, schools indicate their value of sustainable living within the broader community.
* Teaching and Learning: Individual teachers can promote sustainable living through curriculum and instructional choices. Taking students outside, expanding on curriculum about the environment, and finding opportunities to create or restore habitats can educate students on sustainable living.

AN APPROACH TO COMPASSION
By integrating environmental awareness through intentional interactions with food, campus, community, and teaching, green schools teach students respect and compassion for the Earth. A recent TEDx Conference called "Teach Compassion: Make Change Happen" maintained that "the ability to imagine the needs of others, to think compassionately, and to design, innovate, and act in ways that benefit others are true 21st century skills." Deborah Moore, a mother and environmental scientist, hosted a workshop at this conference on the importance of environmental compassion within 21st century schools. Her workshop, entitled "Green Schools: Empowering Students to Take Action and Care for the Earth," was based on her experience as the co-founder and executive director of the Green Schools Initiative. The Green Schools Initiative is an organization that seeks to enhance the environmental health and ecological sustainability of public schools. In her workshop, Moore shared the organization's "Seven Steps to a Green School" program, which guides schools through the process of becoming advocates of sustainable living. The steps are outlined below, and the full explanation of each step can be found here:
* Establish a green team or eco-committee.
* Adopt an environmental vision statement or planet pledge.
* Conduct a school environmental survey or audit.
* Create a green school action plan.
* Monitor and evaluate progress.
* Integrate greening into the curriculum.
* Inform, involve and celebrate!

OUR ROLE
As the new school year unfolds, we have the unique opportunity to demonstrate how to respectfully and carefully nurture the earth and those in it. Taking time to model appropriate environmental choices and community participation will give our students opportunities to develop their own environmental consciousness and will better prepare them for the 21st-century world ahead of them. Whether our personal next-action items in the green school movement are simple or complex, our commitment to the process is key. Let us commit today as educators and students to dedicate our time to enhancing the well-being of others and the world around us by simple but far-reaching means.
 
How Engineering in School Supports Practical Application of Math Skills
By Lindsay Reeves, CEI Intern 
Green Schools go a long way in advancing math and science skills, as well as our understanding and caring for our planet. At CEI, we view Engineering as an equally important and complementary part of 21st Century curricula.

Starting Young. Learning about how math works happens at an incredibly young age.  In fact, PBS Parents' Child Development Tracker reports that children form notions of numbers, geometry, spatial sense, measurement, and algebra as early as 12 months (PBS Parents, 2015).  The fundamental reality is that all of life, and all parts of life, involve math.  Because of this fact, schools have begun introducing students to practical applications of math through avenues like engineering, at early grade levels.
 
The Engineering is Elementary (EiE) Blog has put forth a series of entries discussing how students use "engineering habits of the mind."  This site is a significant resource for schools.  For example, EiE has ideas for exploring math in Grade 2 through engineering. 
 
Parachutes. The main activity EiE features for second grade is the measurement and exploration of parachutes. Students are invited to measure the canopy and suspension lines and calculate how long it takes for the parachute to reach the ground, rounding to the nearest decimal. In completing this one activity, several math standards are met, including the standards relevant to measurement and data, and algebraic thinking and operations (Berger, 2015).  

Teach Engineering hosts another website listing multiple activities that can be used by teachers of various grade levels. Some of the recent lessons presented at that site include: Storage Tanks. One activity at the Teach Engineering website, designing above ground storage tanks, provides a good example of ways to meet multiple high school standards for math and fulfill the expectations of Next Generation Science Standards. For this assignment, students are expected to demonstrate an understanding of Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle, the relationship between mass, volume, density and weight, and math related to manipulating equations. The project also helps students use critical thinking to "design a solution to an engineering problem" (Sappington & Taylor, 2014).
All of these resources help promote STEM education.

Federal Expectations and Support for STEM. The Obama administration has made STEM the focus of the future for education, and has called for American students to "move from the middle to the top of the path in science and math." The Committee on STEM education (CoSTEM) has made a point for its 13 agencies to:
  •  Improve STEM instruction in preschool through 12th grade
  • Increase and sustain public and youth engagement with STEM
  • Improve the STEM experience for undergraduate students
  • Better serve groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields
  • Design graduate education for tomorrow's STEM workforce (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: Education for Global Leadership).
  
With more agencies and funding dedicated to STEM, it is almost certain that these disciplines will only continue to foster intellectual curiosity and move students towards a deeper understanding of how science and math relate to their everyday lives. For Common Core standards and Next Generation Science Standards to be met by students, teachers must continue to encourage students to think in new, unique ways that go beyond traditional textbook teaching. With these kinds of projects in the making, though, classroom instruction may now do just that - help to create a new generation of innovators and dreamers that aren't limited by instruction that is tied to pencil and paper. 
 
References
 
Berger, C. (2015, March 31).   Math lessons go better with engineering.  Boston: Museum of Science, Engineering is Elementary  project. 
 

Sappington, E. & Taylor, M. (2014). Hands-on activity: Above ground storage tank design project.  Denver: Regents of the University of Colorado. Math, B. (n.d.). Mathematics. 

 
Awesome

Energy, Environment, and Emeralds
Green Geckos, Blue Whales, and Solar Salutes
Alabaster Ornaments, Crystalline Light
Living, life-giving, oneness.

Paradisal paths.

Open your window, open your door. Venture forward.


 

Christine Mason
Center for Educational Improvement