Sustainability Education Led Discussion of Citizenship and Pathways for Green EconomyNovember 4, 2011 - In September 2010, leaders from higher education, business and industry, labor, government, and non-governmental organizations came together in Washington D.C. to discuss the evolution of education’s role in sustainable development, and particularly the growth of a vibrant economy. The Summit was required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act to create actionable items that utilize education as an agent of transition toward a sustainable, green economy. Note that according to congressional law, a sustainable, green economy must start with sustainability education.
In his address at the 2009 United Nation’s Summit on Climate Change, President Obama stated: “Our generation’s response to this challenge [of climate change] will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it boldly, swiftly, and together, we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.”(1) The Sustainability Education Summit reemphasized the important role sustainability education plays in the future of our economy and planet, and contends that Federal policy around sustainability education is a critical step to addressing the challenge.
Through sustainability education, students learn to become conscious, responsible citizens. The Summit identified the need to “ensure that all graduates are eco-literate” and that “students are able to advance in careers at all levels…to participate in the emerging green economy.” (2) Today, members of tomorrow’s green work-force are learning critical skills in career and technical education (CTE) schools, traditional secondary school, and higher education institutions. It is the responsibility of education and business institutions to lead by example in this arena. By providing cutting edge sustainability training and education now, the next generation of workers can be successful in the global marketplace and prepared to lead the nation’s green economy.
More specifically, it is critical that the next generation work-force be prepared to design, engineer, and construct sustainable buildings. Learning green construction starts in students’ own school building. During the 2010 Summit, U.S. Under Secretary Education Martha Kanter “highlighted numerous schools and programs that are connecting sustainable facilities with curriculum and hands-on learning, and spoke of the importance of integrating sustainability education to ensure students are prepared for the 21st-century workforce.”(2) Green Education Foundation’s (GEF) Green Building Course, addresses this critical need by educating high school and college students on green construction and sustainable building for the new economy. This, along with GEF’s career-tech program, is designed to be adaptable to the specific needs of schools across the nation to foster a collective momentum toward a more sustainable world.
GEF understands that empowering K-12 students and their teachers with sustainability education is vital to a paradigm shift to change our collective thinking and actions. To that end, on November 1, GEF officially launched its Sustainability Education Certification Program by offering its foundation course Sustainability Concepts and Teaching Methods for free to all interested teacher across the U.S. and English speaking countries. This program goes beyond eco-literacy to educate and train educators on sustainability concepts, as well as how to integrate elements of sustainability into existing curriculum while continuing to meet state and national standards.
The key to the Summit agenda’s success is mobilizing from the local and regional level. Federal legislation will not happen on its own. The Summit recognized the need for grassroots momentum in the marketplace and in educational institutions to carry the conversation and policy recommendations to the Federal level.
To read the full proceedings publication visit the Department of Education’s website at http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/strat/sustainability/summit-2010.doc. On request, the publication is available in alternate formats, such as Braille, large print or compact disc. For more information, please contact the Department’s Alternate Format Center at 202-260-0852 or at 202-260-0818.
About Green Education Foundation (GEF)
GEF is a non-profit organization committed to creating a sustainable future through education. GEF offers free school programs that provide curricula and hands-on activities to excite and inspire K-12 students and teachers to think holistically about global environmental solutions. GEF’s mission is to empower a new generation of environmental stewards while preparing them for the new 21st century clean energy economy. Visit www.greeneducationfoundation.org to become a member.
About GEF’s Sustainability Certification Program
GEF is developing a Sustainability Concepts Certification for K-12 faculty and students who are interested in obtaining an official certification in sustainability education. This program features a foundational course, grade-specific teaching instruction, student projects, and topical content electives. The goal is to provide the knowledge, skills, and curricular resources essential for teachers and students to integrate sustainability education into their current disciplines and degree programs.
About GEF’s Green Building Course
The Green Building Course is a one semester elective that educates high school students on sustainable building attributes and benefits, and provides them with the educational resources necessary to understand, identify, and improve environmental inefficiencies within their own school buildings. Topics covered include: sustainable sites, energy sources/conservation and water efficiency and indoor environmental quality as related to building construction, operation and maintenance. Students participate in weekly audits of their school building where they will be instructed to prioritize areas for enhanced efficiencies. For their end of semester capstone project students analyze and recommend building improvements based upon feasibility, greatest need and return-on-investment (ROI). www.greenbuildingprogram.org
About GEF’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Sustainability Program