A student-led delegation from Boston Latin School, one of the first U.S. Eco-Schools to earn a Green Flag award, recently traveled to France to present about their sustainability work, visit the American Embassy, and meet with French students at a partner school. You can read more about Boston Latin School’s sustainability work in our June/July 2010 case study. Below is a description from the school about their cross-cultural experience in France.
In October, three students from the Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network (Youth CAN) were invited to France to present about the after-school youth-led environmental organization's work and partnerships in the greater Boston community on behalf of sustainability. The all-expense-paid trip was organized by a French firm that saw a story about Youth CAN on the Today Show. Jean Claude Durousseaud, the organizer for “Les Respirations,” a conference on air-quality and sustainability, wanted to enable Youth CAN's student leaders to present about their work and how the students’ close collaboration with school and city officials has helped further the success of their youth-led initiatives.
The students told conference attendees about their endeavors, including:
The students were accompanied by BLS Youth CAN Faculty Advisor Cate Arnold, Gail Sullivan of Studio G Architects, and James Hunt III, the Chief of Environmental and Energy Services for the City of Boston, among others. BLS Youth CAN, as well as Jim Hunt and Gail Sullivan, were recognized with Oxygen Awards for their work in reducing carbon emissions in Boston.
The student-led delegation also met with U.S. officials at the American Embassy in Paris along with student partners from Notre Dame Providence in Enghien Les Bains in France. The two partner schools launched a new International League of Green Youth Ambassadors aimed at promoting youth-led, school-based sustainability projects and collaboration in identifying best practices internationally. They also announced plans to donate a state-of-the art solar tent to support a youth-led sustainability project in a developing country in honor of the new League of Green Youth Ambassadors.
Youth CAN Co-President Eshe Sherley said of the trip, "As a youth organization focused on sustainability, we've spent a lot of time exploring what "sustainability" means to people in the United States, and especially Boston. But it was amazing to have the opportunity to explore those same questions regarding sustainability from a European, and more specifically a French perspective. It gave us a chance not only to learn new things, but also to reexamine what we do back in Boston."
In an industrial area on the south side of Chicago, sandwiched between a truck parts manufacturer and a pallet company, 200 students (grades K-3) attend school at the Academy for Global Citizenship. Vegetables burst from raised beds in the schoolyard garden, three chickens cluck and strut in a green-roofed coop, and a wind turbine and solar panels harness renewable energy on the school grounds. Each day in the cafeteria, students fuel up on organic, nutritious meals (both breakfast and lunch) that emphasize fresh, local foods—and any waste is carefully sorted into bins for recycling, compost, or scraps for the chickens or worms.
All this sets the stage for the powerful experiential learning that takes place at this Eco-School, where the mission is to “empower all students to positively impact the community and world beyond.” The Academy for Global Citizenship is a public charter school that uses the academically rigorous International Baccalaureate framework. The school seeks particularly to foster international awareness and environmental stewardship. Of course, these two goals are interconnected in many ways, and the Academy provides an excellent model for exploring the (now retired) Global Dimensions pathway of the Eco-Schools program.
The curriculum is built around six-week-long units, each focused on an overarching concept with an environmental and global theme (such as water or trees). All subjects and standards are incorporated into the study of this theme, and lessons are taught with an inquiry-based, experiential focus. Frequent field trips take students out into the community. For example, they have met the farmers who produce the food they eat and experienced the Chicago mayor’s new green roof initiative. Of course, the school facilities also offer many opportunities for hands-on learning, from the “edible schoolyard” garden to the chickens that provide eggs and daily lessons about animal care. And the wind turbine and solar panels, instead of being up on the roof, are both at ground level where students can see and monitor them.Building on the learning that takes place in their own community, students expand their view through international connections. The Academy seeks out relationships with schools in other parts of the world and encourages students to both teach and learn from each other. For example, two of the school’s teachers recently traveled to Tanzania and helped to plan and implement an organic garden at a school there. Now the students in Tanzania and in Chicago are engaged in a dialogue, via letters and photos, about their gardens.
For other schools wishing to foster international relationships, the school’s founder and executive director, Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, has several tips:
Extending learning out into the wider world is another part of what this school is all about. They are working hard to help other schools launch environmental initiatives and benefit from the experience they have gained. For instance, they have created a Sustainability Handbook for Schools that is available online and chock-full of useful ideas for greening a school building and curriculum. And, recognizing that regulations prevent many schools from using produce from the school garden in the cafeteria, they’re currently working with the USDA to develop a school garden food safety manual to help schools get authorized to use their home-grown produce. In our global society, it’s all connected, and the Academy for Global Citizenship is using those connections for the benefit of all!
Click here to learn more about environmental stewardship at the Academy for Global Citizenship.
Download the Sustainability Handbook for Schools (PDF) for lots of great ideas about how to implement environmental initiatives.
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