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It's not easy being green! - Kermit T. Frog   Home K-12 Schools 12 Steps toward Sustainability Teaching

    Students learn about planting native species.
    Photo courtesy EPA
Teaching and Research

    ISE's annual Keep Connecticut Cool! conference educates and assists K-12 students who want to green their schools and communities.
  Organizational Assistance   Best Practices  
  • The School as a Learning Laboratory
    Having curricula focused on ecology and sustainable energy is not only a good way to expose students and staff to climate change solutions and energy use issues, but also ensure that your school is a learning laboratory. Create green spaces within the school grounds, especially those composed of native species. They serve as examples of local ecology, and are places where students can gain valuable ecological training. Hosting community gardens at the school is another valuable experience, as well as a home-school-community link. Use renewable technology to demonstrate possible sources of alternative power. Making these systems an ordinary sight by demonstrating their use promotes sustainability, while dispelling myths about their ineffectiveness. For more on use of on-site renewable energy see the Energy Purchasing portion of this website. Every school should make environmental studies, ecology, sustainable energy, or sustainable development part of students’ core curriculum. Every student should be required to demonstrate at least a general understanding of the local ecology and technology being promoted in K-12 schools.
  • Demonstrate Sustainable Technology
    When teaching sustainable practices, schools should practice as they preach. Sustainable technology gives students live examples of the very systems they are learning about. Use renewable energy, water conservation systems, advanced building designs or other sustainable technologies as educational tools within the school. Not only do these reduce environmental impact, but they also provide positive learning experiences for students. The presence of these technologies on school shows the student body how these technologies work.
  • Teach Environmental Literacy
    Environmentalism carries with it a jargon like any discipline. Ensure your students can understand the vocabulary of ecology, earth science, and sustainable technology. It is imperative for students to be able to draw their own conclusions as to which environmental and energy options seem plausible and which do not. This enables students to make rational, informed decisions concerning the environment.  
  • Engage in Community Outreach
    As significant members of the local community, K-12 students should participate in community outreach programs targeted at sustainability. Have students develop and manage these programs. Students, faculty, and staff can also participate in public policy dialog at the local, regional and state level.
  • Take an Interdisciplinary Approach
    Taking an interdisciplinary approach to sustainable development is not only a scientific concept; it is also one that is philosophical, sociological, political, and economic. When teaching sustainability at your school, discuss how all of these disciplines are important and how many are related to one another.
  • Strengthen Core Programs to Promote Sustainability
    Your environmental and earth science curricula are likely to already have lessons that incorporate environmentalism and sustainable energy. However, other academic areas should be encouraged to engage students on the economic impact of environmental policy and sustainable technology. Anthropology and sociology can also highlight the effects of humans on the environment and demonstrate the cultural, historical or social responses to environmental activism and environmental regulation. It is also necessary to examine environmental and sustainability issues from a philosophical standpoint rather than treating these issues through social science alone, as philosophy can often offer valuable perspective on many ethical issues. Sustainability also requires students to think systematically, something that philosophy prepares students for.
Best Practices
  • Staples High School, Westport
    • Hosted Ecofest, a concert designed to entertain and educate the public about sustainable living.
    • Had students follow a professional energy auditor to learn how to do energy walkthroughs themselves.
  • Lyman Memorial High School, Lebanon
    • Worked with Boy Scouts to organize a town green cleanup
    • Set up booths to teach young kids about environmental sustainability and green energy sources
  • YGreen, New Haven
    • Developed a game to teach people how saving energy will save money
Want to learn more? Visit the Keep Connecticut Cool website!
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