Sustainable Education? Sustainability Education? Education for Sustainability?

Whatever it is – we need it!

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Environmental education has truly proven itself as an incredibly influential and successful tool over recent decades. Working within the field myself, I have found this practice to be incredibly rewarding for a variety of ways, particularly that I am able to simultaneously and positively impact both children and the environment that we all (or most of us, at least) cherish – not to mention it’s fun, too.

Today, as I further my postgraduate education by studying sustainability, I can’t help but stay away from education.  A sort of addiction, but hey, things could be worse. This time, though, it’s none other than sustainability education (or whatever you want to call it). I truly believe that the most effective way to create a regional shift towards more sustainable lifestyles and choices is to educate the region on sustainability itself. By doing this, the vulnerability and enthusiasm of such students (particularly youth) will consequently create a sort of ripple-effect throughout our schools, homes, and overall region.

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania throughout my past 22 years, it’s become apparent that both environmental and sustainability education are key to creating this “shift.”  As our climate continues to change, our lifestyles must, too. This holds particularly true to those of us in the Pittsburgh area. Known as the Steel City, Hell with the Lid Off, and other seemingly disturbing nicknames, Pittsburgh is proving to be the ideal location to practice such a shift and thus education.

Fortunately for me, I currently work for a K-12 outreach program for the Falk School of Sustainability within Chatham University located in none other than Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Here’s my chance! While I’ll admit it’s been rather frustrating helping to build a program from the ground-up, it’s been incredibly rewarding at the same time! Watching local children both learn about and experience first-hand what sustainability is pretty cool, to say the least.

Located at Chatham’s new Eden Hall Campus, the program is evolving with the property itself (and sustainability itself, I suppose). The nonstop development of all of the sustainable features throughout the campus is providing a living laboratory for both Chatham students and K-12 students, creating a pretty spectacular collaboration of the three bodies – campus, students, and even more students.  

Now, it wouldn’t make much sense for me to tell you about the program without telling you exactly what we do, would it? Here we go:

  • Educator Open Houses
  • Problem- and place-based learning curriculum
  • Access to state of the art facilities and resources
  • “Learning expedition” opportunities to Eden Hall
  • Benedum Teacher Fellowships
  • Student Leadership Academy
  • Community Create Nights
  • Advisory Committee for local teachers
  • Partnerships with other organizations and universities

Pretty cool for a program that’s only roughly a year old now, right?

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I don’t intend for this to serve as a promotion for the program. I simply want to spread the word about sustainability education and the ultimate power it has to jump-start this regional shift towards sustainability here in the Steel City. If sustainability is aimed to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future, let’s spread the word now to those who are our future – our students.

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