Sustainability literacy graduation requirement is USGBC’s goal for 2040
By 2040, U.S. high school graduates could be required to demonstrate proficiency in sustainability before they're allowed to take home their diplomas, if the National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability, developed by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is adopted by school districts across the country.
The plan outlines a robust goal for all 50 states to adopt a comprehensive green schools policy that includes a graduation requirement around sustainability literacy by 2040. This plan marks the first time in the Education for Sustainability (EfS) movement that the most notable leaders of education, top U.S. providers of K-12 academic content and practitioners on the ground have come together around EfS themes.
“When the U.S. Department of Education published its Green Ribbon Schools award which called for all K-12 graduates to be environmentally literate, we received that as a directive for the community to band together and figure out how we will ensure that happens,” said Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC. “This National Action Plan represents the perspectives of the leading minds and the strongest champions of EfS for the first time together with one voice committing to a series of actions that will ensure that every student graduating from a U.S. K-12 school will be environmentally literate by the year 2040.”
The National Action Plan was written by 15 authors and originated in a June 2013 meeting of stakeholders from 30 education-related organizations that was hosted the Center for Green Schools and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The plan calls for integrating EfS in the U.S. education system, in both curriculum via a change in pedagogy and in facilities management, according to Jenny Wiedower, K12 manager for the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools.
The plan calls for integrating environmental education beyond the STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, curricula to other subject areas.
“We believe the concept of sustainability has a home in any subject being taught, whether it’s art, social studies, English or whatever,” Wiedower said.
According to the plan, the assessment tests "could include a combination of mixed-method approaches, open-ended response items, and in-depth performance tasks" that may include "research, experimentation, and evaluation; or they could focus on modeling, design, and problem solving."
Wiedower said interpersonal skills could be assessed through community-based projects that require oral, written, graphic, and multimedia presentation, internships, and workplace mentors.
“Environmental education, systems thinking, expeditionary learning and place-based learing, these are all approaches that support this concept of educating for the future that we want,” Wiedower said.
The goal is to have a nationwide assessment model in place in middle and high schools across the country by 2040.
To prepare teachers to adopt this new pedagogy, the plan advocates for the establishment of the U.S. Teacher Education for Sustainable Development Network, a professional organization to support reorienting college-level teacher education and continuing education to incorporate sustainability concepts.
Additional goals include establishing a communication platform for the EfS movement; organizing working groups to study and implement key recommendations; the creation of a funding campaign; and the distribution of models of district and state policies, standards, and content best practices.
With the changes already under way in the U.S. public education system, the group is aware the educational system is already under stress.
“The education for sustainability community is very optimistic about the opportunity to align common core state standard with the next generation science standards; it was important for us to strike while the iron was hot, while schools and districts were analyzing current materials and making adjustments we wanted to get this information out so they could be better equipped to make those decisions,” Wiedower said.
In the meantime as the National Action Plan rolls out, schools can take advantage of sustainability education materials already available via the Green Apple Day of Service site and the Center For Green Schools.
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Companies: U.S. Green Building Council