Portland School District Guest Speaker Program

Grounding Sustainability Education in Its Underlying Theory – Living Systems Theory

Portland School District Guest Speaker Program

Our goal

I can’t imagine sustainability becoming a reality if it’s not deeply imbedded in our public education system.  Essential to this imbedding process is education professionals knowing the theory that underlies sustainability — LIVING SYSTEMS THEORY.  From this single idea a plethora of new ideas emerge many of which have been laid out on the ‘AppreciativeSustainability’ website:

The ethics required to be sustainable;

A context of time from which we can discern necessary exponential improvements for achieving sustainability, and a definition of sustainability based on ecological and social harmony (The Curve of Hope);

The re-blending of major paradigms – from a knowledge to a wisdom culture, from a mechanistic to an organic way of thinking, and from (perceived) scarcity to a (limited) abundance world-view (Archetypes for Sustainability);

The generic flow and attributes of all (Living Systems); and

Solving currently intractable problems by discerning our school systems, their embedded organizations, and the communities they serve all as living systems.

How we are doing it was used as the basis for teaching this work as a guest faculty to Middle School students, presenting to business organizations, preparing class material for graduate school administrators, and being a guest faculty for a graduate sustainability course in Urban Planning and Development.

What we are learning

The material sounds difficult, but it is readily understood and embraced by the students. In two sessions with Middle School students, the ‘Archetypes’ and ‘Curve of Hope’ were taught in one 1/2 hour session, and the Living System Flow & Attributes in a second 1/2 hour session. There seems to be a natural affinity — an awakening of an innate understanding that is more easily aroused in younger students because they have less to unlearn.  Although the non-linearity of living systems makes them seem more complex than linear mechanical systems, there is an authenticity since life isn’t linear, and this authenticity brings with it its own elegant simplicity.

School Information

School: Portland School District Guest Speaker Program
Grade level: 6-8
Number of students in your project: 60
Subjects: Other (please specify in box below)
Other subjects: I was an outside guest given 30 minute sessions with 6 groups of about 10 students each
Number of students in your school: 60
Project initiator: Pro Bono Consultant

Contact Information

Milt Markewitz, Pro Bono Consultant
3001 NW Fairfax Terrace  Portland,  OR  97210

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