pathway to ecoliteracy

icon pathway ecoliteracyEcoliteracy finds connections in seemingly disjointed problems, perceives patterns instead of pieces, and designs communities based on the interrelatedness of all life.

It views schools as living, breathing ecosystems. This alternate perspective has a profound effect on how school relates to students and the community at large.

Ecoliteracy is hands-on, it makes learning come alive, giving students and everyone involved a justified feeling of healthy excitement and accomplishment.  For students, classes are transformed into interconnected building blocks that stimulate a desire for new knowledge, weaving together personal interests and projects, exploration, growing talents and abilities, career possibilities, and satisfaction in daily life.

Take food as one example: Using a problem-solving perspective, policy makers and administrators might look at childhood obesity and work with the school cafeteria to reduce calories in the school lunch. This could help overweight students, but would harm school athletes and cheat the sports programs.

An ecosystem perspective, focusing on systemic problems affecting food, would chart a solution integrating students, teachers, curriculum, school grounds and buildings, public policy, and the community at large. Applications might include:

  • Planting a school garden or working with a community garden to teach children about nutrition—not all calories are created equal! Besides bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to the school nutrition program, a garden would provide exercise opportunities and a platform for learning a host of other things like economics, science, biology, math and even history and art.
  • Reaching out to local farmers, creating a farm-to-school program to provide locally grown produce. Locally grown produce is fresher, lasts longer, and is healthier than produce that is processed and shipped from half way across the country, and students could have opportunities to visit local farms.
  • Developing hydroponic projects that, besides supplying vegetables, also teach biology, math, chemistry, engineering, physics and even geography. But perhaps the best solution is the opportunity to reach out to the community to create Linked Learning programs.

But perhaps the best solution is the opportunity to reach out to the community to create Linked Learning programs. One of the major components of today’s education reform movement is the integration of academic instruction and career and technical education. Linked Learning combines real-world experiences through internships, entrepreneurial opportunities and on-the-job training. It helps keep students in school by creating programs that are not only interesting and engaging but which also prepares them for, and helps them secure, a lifelong career that by its nature protects and preserves the environment.

Ecoliteracy allows our policymakers and administrators to work with our teachers, students and community to help solve these and other systemic problems. In the process, we create sustainable supplies of locally grown and processed food, generate electricity from sustainable energy sources and build net-zero cities that can even help solve our growing water crises.

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