The PC Green
On a beautiful late-summer Saturday in September, a dedicated crew of Penn Charter community members came together for a full day of intense eco-brainstorming. Penn Charter hosted the Penn Charter Environmental Sustainability Workshop, a gathering of diverse school community members brought together in the name of environmental sustainability. The group was challenged to brainstorm the sustainability-related goals outlined in the Strategic Vision, which calls for Penn Charter to “create an environmental plan that fosters a culture of environmental stewardship and develops systems and processes to ensure all decisions are evaluated in light of their environmental effect, with consideration of affordable and sustainable alternatives.”
Wynn Calder, a nationally recognized expert in Education for Sustainability within independent schools, facilitated the workshop. Wynn and I worked together to frame the workshop and its goals into a forum that balanced a desire for broad, creative brainstorming and practical, targeted planning. Think “double-rainbow guy” meets “Spock” and that’s the duality for which we strove. The list of participants was quite diverse - representatives from all three divisions, parents, students, administrators, board members, and local partners - and yet was small enough to allow for focused discussion. Almost every participant brought a unique combination of roles, experiences, and perspectives to the group. For example, one participant was an OPC, a PC Parent, an AT thru-hiker, and an environmental lawyer. Combining both small and large group discussions, we spent the day generating ideas and themes to answer the question: What should an environmentally sustainable Penn Charter look like in 5/10/50 years?I’m happy to report that the event was a terrific success, measured not just in the quantity and quality of the ideas generated, but also in the connectivity of the attendees. United by common interests in environmental issues, education, and community-building, the workshop participants developed a common language that will be helpful as we move forward into the next steps. Those next steps involve finishing the workshop report, assembling appropriate meetings/committees, drafting a plan, and saving the earth. No biggie.
Last week I went to the inaugural meeting of the PAISBOA Sustainability Affinity Group. (PAISBOA is an association of 180 independent schools that shares best practices and makes collective purchases, and of which Penn Charter is an active member.) This new Sustainability Affinity Group will bring teachers, administrators, and facilities managers together to discuss environmental stewardship, education, and opportunities. I know that words like “consortium” and “affinity” and “collective purchases” don’t inspire much enthusiasm, but our first meeting was awesome. After some chatter about how the group could be organized, progressive, and useful, we got to the main event...
Jamie Cloud spoke to the group about Education for Sustainability (EfS). Jamie is the Director of the Cloud Institute, one of the world’s foremost authorities on sustainability curriculum, and is a master of articulating the excitement, pedagogy, methods, creativity, and neuroscience bubbling around sustainability education these days. She's been one of the visionaries in this movement for decades now. Some of the more interesting/helpful (to me) notes that I took:
David Rock’s SCARF brain-based model for collaborating and influencing people. This model helps us understand how to encourage people to move “toward” (as opposed to "away" from) an issue/challenge by honoring their hard-wired reactions to certain intellectual stimuli. Want to rally a community behind a challenge and get community buy-in around environmental issues? Find ways to keep them in a "toward" state. (Secret: Rock's model is NOT specific to environmental issues, so you may want to visit the link and use the SCARF model at the dinner table!).
There is no “away”! The first law of thermodynamics relates to the conservation of energy (and matter). Since matter and energy can’t be destroyed, then you can’t really throw something “away.” There is no “away”!
Borrow from the pedagogical model of “backward design.” Think about the world that we would like in the future, then design our education systems to get there!
It was a fantastic discussion and I hope to engage the Cloud Institute to help PC faculty design and implement some Education for Sustainability in the future.
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