Monday, September 15, 2014

Tying ESD, Service Learning & Eco-Schools Together

Often in chats and meetings the concepts of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Service Learning seem to get blurred. Also confusing is the Eco Schools program which we are proud members of. Consider this article it an eco-education 101 for new and returning families.

Our ESD curricular framework was the first to be established at ISKL, four years ago. The idea behind it is that students who complete their studies at ISKL have a solid understanding of sustainable development, its dimensions and interconnections. To complement that, of course, are a host of skills that are essential for 21st century learning: Collaboration, multiple perspectives (what we call "lenses") systemic thinking, etc.  

Two years ago we took the extra step in making ESD more meaningful with the introduction of service learning. Service learning is a teaching approach that we utilize both in classroom and out-of-class learning. It complements ESD very well in terms of skills developed and understandings generated but can also be utilized independently, making it particularly effective. 

The use of service learning works very well in any capacity. Case in point: The Green Council which is largely the school-wide leadership group with regard to Eco-Schools initiatives. The Eco-Schools program has fit us "like a glove" in that it allows our students to work with local organizations, to form authentic links with the community and ensure that our internal programs go hand-in-hand with external ones. But it is also about focusing on community needs and addressing them in an authentic manner: Authentic learning by doing.  

For example, numerous IB CAS projects (which are sometimes counted as Eco-Schools projects) utilize the service learning approach. More times than not such projects also relate to the ESD curriculum either directly or indirectly, More importantly, they also increase the capacity for change making and community building, both pillars of molding global citizens. 

The versatility of these three elements - ESD, service learning and Eco-Schools - has created a win-win situation for student learning at ISKL. From gaining the knowledge of ESD to practicing authentic learning through service strategies, and extending themselves to out-of-school authentic collaboration the learning is quite exceptional.

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