Stumped by Sustainability

It’s so nice to have a break, and I will try my hardest to read fiction. I can’t promise that I won’t make a connection to education with the other things I read. Like this weekend, when this article: How Green is Your Real (or Fake) Christmas Tree? appeared in the New York Times. It reminded me how complicated the topic of sustainability really is. And then Thomas Friedman’s piece yesterday: The U.S.S. Prius.

When we return to school in January, our school ‘officially’ starts off with their theme on sustainability. Firstly, I think any all-school-theme should be year-long and organically integrate with the curriculum that is already there. The connections to the theme seem more authentic that way, and with a theme like sustainability, isn’t it more a way of thinking critically about our world and resources that we want our children to be engaged in?

Despite being a difficult topic for adults to understand, kids can understand that we consume resources and the earth has a limited supply of some kinds, where other kinds, are renewable (or more renewable than others if we are responsible about the way we use them).

But even take the current trend in producing electric cars: They aren’t cheap, and I don’t believe their batteries that they run on are all that green?

My approach has been to ignore the January to March idea and make it a year long theme anyway, from using recycled materials to build my back to school bulletin board, to teaching the kids where and how items get disposed of when they go into our garbage, recycling, or compost containers. We’ve also used recycled materials for art projects ourselves and hopefully, we can promote the idea of walking over driving when we explore our neighborhood a little further. I work in what will most likely be a LEED certified building and there are many areas of the building that can be used as teaching tools too. The solar panels on the roof and their corresponding meters are a good way to see how much energy we are actually generating ourselves vs. the electricity we use up. In Seattle, where hydro power is cheap (for now) and the sun is a rare sight this time of year, it will be interesting to see those differences. I also want to take the approach we have with our upper grades at our school about bullying. That is – to not be bystanders. If they see me or another student being less responsible (for example putting paper in the garbage instead of the recycle bin), they should say something.

Finally, the actual calculations regarding the topic of sustainability are complex. The best thing I think I can do for my students is to try and make sure they are aware, think critically, act responsibly if they know how and why, act if they choose, and continue to share the optimism that this planet will be here, a much better place, for their great grandchildren too.


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