About the Institute
What is Sustainability Education?
One of the most interesting things we have learned about sustainability education is that nobody knows what it is. It’s not defined in the traditional sense, and if you research keyword searches on Google you’ll find that people around the globe are searching ‘what is sustainability?’ This gap allowed the GEF Institute team to define sustainability education in a way that also defines the education we develop:
Sustainability education utilizes applied learning models that connect real-world circumstances with the broader human concerns of environmental, economic, and social systems.
Everyone is talking about green jobs and the new green economy. What about the education that gets you there? Or what if you need to learn sustainability concepts to stay competitive in your current employment? The education GEF Institute is developing is designed to prepare professionals and students to be informed, conscientious global citizens and to be successful in the new green economy. By incorporating hands-on learning strategies that make deep connections with what participants are most familiar with – their homes, their workplace, and their communities - the outcomes become more meaningful and lasting. This type of education demands critical thinking, analytical writing, and multi-dimensional understanding that is often absent in traditional curriculum or training. These skills, developed by studying topics like energy technology or the economics of sustainability, put participants at an advantage in their workplace or in higher education classrooms.
After many months of content development, research, and outreach, we launched our first online professional development course pilot in November, 2011. The course was designed to introduce educators to sustainability education concepts and effective teaching methods. In doing so, the principles and practices of sustainability become a foundation for STEM learning as well as a basis for community and school based initiatives. The course was an overwhelming success with over 700 pilot participants, and provided the impetus for GEF to forge ahead with GEF Institute and with development of a sustainability concepts certificate program for students, educators, and professionals in the workplace.
This year, the Institute will continue to meet the demand for sustainability education online and in classrooms nationwide with many new courses based on sustainability topics and strategies. We’ve found the demand to be from a variety of sources including career tech schools, educators of all levels, traditional K-12 institutions, businesses, and universities. As such, the curriculum in development is designed to meet the needs of a diverse stakeholder group. To be successful going forward we must, and we will:
- develop engaging, multi-format courses that include hands on activities, live narration, check for understanding questions, and participant interaction.
- provide the opportunity to earn academic and professional development credit for those who pass course assessments.
- engage with our stakeholders to understand and meet their evolving needs create agile products that can easily adapt to stakeholder needs for length and subject matter areas.