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In the 2011-12 school year, Creative Change Educational Solutions and the River Rouge School District partnered on a project-based learning initiative focused on food systems and community health.
In the one-year initiative, we supported teachers in grades K-8 to plan, implement, and evaluate a project-based unit designed to 1) boost student achievement on power standards and 2) improve teacher practice in the areas of project-based learning and other approaches. To meet these goals, CCES provided a customized program of planning, ongoing professional development, instructional redesign, and evaluation assistance. This systemic approach ensured that the instructional change supported the district’s other efforts, particularly those related to STEM and the Promise Neighborhood Initiative.
The evaluation for this project was developed and administered in partnership with the district. Creative Change worked with teacher teams to develop pre- and post-tests on specific standards identified as high priority due to low scores on standardized tests. Scores on pre and post tests increased by up to 47%. Read the full evaluation report. Michigan Now produced an inspiring 5-minute video about this initiative.
Below are highlights from groups of K12 teams that are institutionalizing sustainability in the curriculum. These initiatives, funded by a grant from the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, were led in MI by Creative Change, and in NY by our partner the Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation.
The Jackson County (MI) Intermediate School District is guiding three high schools to create interdisciplinary course "makeovers" that meet state standards through a lens of sustainability communities, land use and urban revitalization. These topics--considered essential to Michigan's recovery--provide a context for integrating science, social studies, math, and language arts. Representing three different districts, the schools are Jackson High School, Northwest High, and Michigan Center H. Professional development and evaluation is further supported by the James A. and Faith Knight Foundation.
The Livingston Applied Technology Education Consortium (Livingston County, Michigan) in partnernship with Hartland (MI) Consolidated Schools is creating a new career and technical education program focused on biofuels, energy and green building. The new program revamps traditional CTE courses such as auto mechanics and construction to focus on career and academic pathways for Michigan's emerging green economy.
New Rochelle (NY) high school is developing a 4-year high school concentration in sustainability that will feature courses in green design, urban planning, sustainable agriculture and more. The program design will be submitted to the state for approval, demonstrating how sustainability can be a platform for innovative high school redesign.
Yonkers Public Schools, New York's 4th largest district, is infusing sustainability into its K12 curriculum map with an emphasis on connecting science and literacy. Essential questions and infusion of virtual and visual resources will support teachers to develop interdisciplinary units that engage students and connect learning with global as well as local issues.
Scarsdale (NY) is advancing a 4-year sustainability initiative by ensuring core concepts are integrated into the district-wide curriculum map. This will drive on-going professional development programs and support other district initiatives, including school gardens, energy retrofits, and numerous student-led initiatives.
Creative Change began working with Scarsdale in 2006 through a partnership with the Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation. This collaboration has provided the district with professional development for 40 teachers, support for curriculum development and redesign, and on-going leadership development to make sustainability a core goal for instruction and school facilities. The district also participated in a strategic planning initiative supported by the EPA via a grant to Eastern Michigan University.
Examples of Scarsdale's accomplishments:
Sustainability was the focus of two annual Teacher's Institutes provided by the Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation and Creative Change. Forty staff teachers attend a week-long summer session focused on content knowledge, curriculum re-design, and integration of sustainability across the curriculum.
The district created a full-time "Sustainability Coordinator" position to manage the district's sustainability education across campus, curriculum and school community.
The school board adopted a plan to reduce the district's carbon emissions to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020. Students and staff from all seven schools will begin tracking, graphing and reporting energy data. Initiatives include:
What Scarsdale's administration had to say about our work and the partnership with CELF: "I had high expectations . . . and am happy to report that your program exceeded my highest expectations. You have inspired, challenged and equipped us for tremendous school year filled with sustainability education programs for our students. Your knowledge, energy, commitment and teaching skill are unbelievable (and unparalleled). You have certainly helped our teachers develop curriculum and lessons appropriate for their programs and given them the knowledge and tools they need to be successful."
Learn more about curriculum, professional development and support packages that can help your district make sustainability a focus for school improvement.