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Change Your School

The Center for Ecoliteracy has identified a five-step process for schools becoming Smart by Nature, based on how living systems change. Change is most likely to last if it involves whole schools. Children learn from everything the school does: school food, gardens, building design and maintenance, as well as curriculum in the classroom. We discuss several of the most important areas of school practice, and strategies for making changes in them.

Five Steps to Becoming Smart by Nature

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There is no one-size-fits-all plan for schooling for sustainability. The Center for Ecoliteracy has identified a five-step process from its work with hundreds of educators. Schools can adapt the process to fit their own circumstances. The steps mirror the Center's principles of Smart by Nature education: learning from nature, community collaboration, immersion in the real world, and deep knowledge of particular places.
Essay
Educating for Sustainability at Marin Academy
How a "change of consciousness" around sustainability reverberated through one school's curriculum, student life, governance, and planning.
Essay
EcoStars
Creating a sense of place and community enables a suburban elementary school to become environmental stewards.

School Food

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The Center for Ecoliteracy has developed a planning framework, "Rethinking School Lunch," for improving school food, teaching nutrition, and using food as a focus for furthering ecological understanding. This framework, explored in an online guide, is the foundation for several Center publications and for the Center’s ongoing work around school food with educators, parents, and citizens.
Essay
California Food for California Kids Awards
The Center recognizes innovative leaders and school districts in the movement to incorporate fresh, seasonal food in school meals.
Event
Nov 14, 2013: CEL convened California school food service innovators for a day of cooking, learning, and inspiration.

Whole School Change

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Children's ability to learn is greatly affected by the culture of the school. Student achievement depends as much on the vitality and health of the whole school environment as on the textbooks, curricula, or teachers. When sustainability efforts involve the whole community and are supported by changes in structures and relationships, they are more likely to last.
Essay
Leslie Comnes and Jerry Kay - A School Community for Children
The most important factor in turning one good school into a great school was a strong school community.
Essay
Fritjof Capra - Ecology and Community
Fritjof Capra explains how nature sustains life by nurturing community.

School Gardens

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For educators interested in schooling for sustainability, a garden is often a great starting place. Even a small plot or container garden can help children learn basic ecological principles first-hand. Especially in cities, a garden may be a young person's best connection to the natural world.
Essay
Against All Odds: School Gardens Bloom in West Contra Costa
A collaborative of teachers, administrators, community members, and students creates successful school gardens in some tough places through the power...
Download
A downloadable 66-page booklet with detailed advice for designing, creating, and maintaining five types of educational gardens.

Greening the Campus

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"High-performance" design, construction, and maintenance demonstrate respect for the environment and the stewardship of resources. Eliminating or reducing toxins on campus, adopting environmentally preferable purchasing, and reducing consumption and waste are good for the environment and the health of students and staff. Decision-makers can be influenced by demonstrations of the long-term cost savings, the public and private funding available for campus greening, and evidence that students learn better and staff members are more productive.
Event
Sept. 22–25, 2013: Carolie Sly and Michael K. Stone presented to the international school ground greening community in Toronto.
Essay
Carolyn Raffensperger - A Precautionary Tale
The "precautionary principle" means acting to avoid potential harm even before harmfulness has been proven.

Changing the Curriculum

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Large-scale curricular change is an evolving process. It usually requires the engagement of a significant portion of the faculty, administrative support, professional development, and planning time. Schools that have successfully effected change have developed strategies for initiating the process, setting goals, keeping faculty members motivated, and making use of outside resources.
Essay
Lisa Bennett - Greening a K-12 Curriculum
How one school instituted changes cutting across all disciplines and grades.
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Pam Koch - Feeding Our Kids the Right Food...and Inspiring Them to Eat It
A Teachers College study sheds light on the importance of combining school meal change with classroom curriculum.

Leadership and Systems Change

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Understanding change in living systems suggests ways for leaders to become more effective. Large-scale changes often begin as small, local actions or information that disturbs the system. If the system cannot integrate the new information, the organization will either collapse or change its structure, practices, or beliefs. The resulting "emergent change" comes not from one person, but from the organization's collective creativity. Facilitating emergence requires leaders who build and nurture networks of connection and communication.
Essay
Jeannette Armstrong - Let Us Begin with Courage
In the Okanagan understanding, total community must be engaged to attain sustainability.
Essay
Fritjof Capra - Life and Leadership
The way to sustain life is to build and nurture community.
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