The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education is a New York City based non-profit founded by Jamie P. Cloud in 1995. The Institute has developed a holistic educational philosophy that involves the individual student along with his or her classroom, school, and community. Known as Education for Sustainability (EfS), this learner-centered method works with the primary influences in the lives of students, knowing that true, long-term change is most easily attained when nearly all major influences support the new vision.
This is the final post of a three article series that provides Jamie’s answers to several questions I recently posed to her regarding sustainability education.
The Cloud Institute offers several services, including long-term consulting, curriculum design and development, and Education for Sustainability workshops. Which offering is the most popular and which have you seen result in the most significant change for clients?
The most whole system work we do is with school districts and their communities learning together for a sustainable future. We call those our Sites Learn initiatives. Examples include the nine sites around the country that are members of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) Education Partnership that Peter Senge and I created with a team of colleagues, and also our New Jersey Learns program which is funded by The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and is made up of a growing number of sites around New Jersey that participate in Sustainable Jersey.
The next level on the continuum is our Districts Learn work. We work with individual districts and consortia of districts to Educate for Sustainability. The best example of that is our work with seventeen districts through the Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES on a massive and multifaceted EfS initiative that is grounded in a core set of web-based exemplary units of study across all grade levels and disciplines (www.pnwboces.org/efs). Next, we work with individual schools (Schools Learn) from PS 208 in Harlem to the Denver Green School, and from Trevor Day School in NYC to Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera, California, to name a few.
Having said all of that, indeed a big part of the work we do involves professional development and coaching of teachers, leadership development and organizational learning consulting and planning with administrators, and work with educators to embed EfS into the core curriculum. Most K-12 schools are new to EfS. A small minority have been working on it since the early 1990s.
We usually begin a relationship with a school or district by providing an introduction to sustainability and education for sustainability in order to achieve three outcomes: 1) A shared understanding among the stakeholders of sustainability and EfS; 2) A personal rationale for educating for sustainability, and; 3) Participants will become inspired and hopeful about contributing to sustainability through education. All the educators that I have ever met without exception want what is good for kids. It is a deep and fundamental aspiration to contribute to the health and well-being of our children and of future generations. It is a lot of work—especially in the beginning—but it is worth it. Our children are worth it.
What is the most important actionable item you would like readers to take away?
Schools and communities must learn together for a sustainable future. Demand a whole systems approach to Education for Sustainability in your schools and community.
EfS is designed to solve more than one problem at a time and to minimize the creation of new problems. We know that when schools employ this approach over time in partnership with their communities, and implement EfS in the day to day actions of school community members and explicit instruction, EfS improves student achievement, increases civic engagement, increases young people’s sense of efficacy, and improves children’s health and other sustainable community indicators including air quality, waste reduction and energy conservation. Without children and young people engaged in, and contributing to community initiatives, sustainable communities cannot exist.
Contribute to sustainability through collaborative initiatives that are developed through school and community partnerships. Education for sustainability is a whole systems approach to education. Lasting transformation in education requires innovation at the curricular, institutional, and community levels. By linking schools and communities, kids and adults are thinking differently, learning and working together—all for the future we want.
A healthy and sustainable future is possible. Call us. We will help you educate for it.