Often people will ask that very question: What is sustainability? Other times people will assume that it's helping the environment, pure and simple. But the reality is that it's much more complex than that. This past week - Earth Week - we had the pleasure of welcoming Kate O'Connell (Compass Education), an elementary school teacher who uses tools whose focus is education for sustainability, to conduct a workshop for 14 of our ES teachers.
The premise is that sustainability is essentially the interplay of different elements - in this case Nature, Economy, Society and Wellbeing (N,E,S and W) - in a systematic manner. Much of what Compass Education focuses on is the analysis of issues, trends, behaviors, etc., through the four compass points of sustainability (the N, E, S, and W) followed by the critical thinking required to determine cause-effect relationships and systems thinking. This is very similar to the ESD dimensions that we utilize at ISKL.
What does all this have to do with our children? Well, at ISKL many of our conversations revolving around critical thinking, ethical living, problem solving, etc., are geared around those types of sustainable thought processes. Children as young as three or four can understand the concept of cause and effect. Even before the can write they know that a seed, soil, water and sunshine can result in a beautiful plant and that can, in turn, provide seeds for future generations. Just this week, for example, our PS students just enjoyed the organic cucumbers they planted a while back! But similar learning takes place across the entire school at developmentally appropriate levels.
During Earth Week - and throughout the year - our classrooms conversations revolved around issues of being in the the outdoors (especially with our MS off to Malaysia Week), meat consumption (through Meatless Mondays), organic and locally produced food supply (through our very own gardens), energy, culture, human health, stress, artistic expression, culture, poverty, critical analysis of the media and a host of other meaningful educational experiences! These are all sustainability conversations. Powerful ones.
Excellent teachers connect these conversations with sustainability thinking, add a pinch of empowerment and provide tools and processes that allow the understanding to become much, much deeper and the engagement much more meaningful.