What factors lead to a healthy, sustainable culture where students, teachers, parents, staff, and administration can flourish and learn?

In this video Antioch University New England alumnus Alex Shevrin talks about how “when we open ourselves up to true, intentional relationships with our students, we make space for them to grow. Through intentional choices, we can empower ourselves and our students to achieve more than any of us thought was possible.”

Shevrin presented “”Unconditional Positive Regard” at MTA ED Talks: Big Ideas About Education on August 4, 2014, in Williamstown, Mass. She is a teacher/leader at a small, independent, therapeutic, alternative high school in Vermont. Shevrin blogs at You can find her on Twitter, @shevtech.

Bob Gliner’s film, Schools That Change Communities, is about schools as they should be. In this pedagogical age of “time on task,” “direct instruction” and a short-sighted emphasis on “Drill, Baby, Drill,” Bob shows that school improvement can be healthy, engaging and lead to significant community involvement and improvement.Most often when I watch educational videos, I get choked up with anger about the wrong-headedness of the No Child Left Behind educational philosophy. Watching this film, I got choked up because Bob shows schools that manage a combination of academic rigor, community purpose and heart that is right on the money.
Check out the Schools That Change Communities trailer below.
David Sobel

Rethinking Schools and the Zinn Education Project are partnering with an exciting project: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. You can get involved by participating in the K-12 teachers  This Changes Everything Writing Retreat. Here’s a sample from their website announcement:

thischangeseverything_collageImagining solutions to the climate crisis involves imagining solutions to a host of other social problems, from economic inequality to public health to job creation to indigenous rights—even to the quality of the food we eat. As the This Changes Everything team writes: “Climate change is more than an issue, it’s a message, one that is telling us that many of our culture’s most cherished ideas about our place in the world—from the quest for endless economic growth to the assumption of Western supremacy to the limitless capacity of humans to dominate nature—are no longer viable.” Rethinking Schools editorializes: “Confronting the climate emergency … demands that young people exercise their utopian imaginations to consider alternatives of all kinds.”


Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 12.38.35 PMThe US Green Building Council (USGBC), the folks who inspire beautifully sustainable buildings with their LEED certification program, have done it again!

This time with the help of Antioch’s David Sobel, Sue Gentile, and Paul Bocko they’ve entered into the Educating for Sustainability movement in a big way.

USGBC Center for Green Schools brought together stakeholders from academic, corporate, and nonprofit sectors to envision a future where schools support thriving, healthy, and regenerative communities. Then they created a timeline that gets us there by 2040.

It’s all in the National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability. Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 12.22.00 PMGet the Executive Summary and read the full text at

USGBC already demonstrated its ability to have an impact on the entire building construction industry, and all the related fields connected to and nested within it, such as architecture, energy, waste, and transportation.

The National Action Plan for EfS takes a similarly ecological approach examining the curriculum, assessment, teacher preparation, professional development, and leadership necessary to drive change in the complex system of American education.

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 1.07.11 PMWe are not alone. Australia published its first National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability in 2000 and updated it in 2009 setting out a framework for local, regional and national action. Australia’s plan envisions reorienting educational systems, fostering sustainability in business, and harnessing the burgeoning community spirit to collaborate for sustainability.

This is all very encouraging, as the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014) draws to close, organizations like the USGBC Center for Green Schools are taking the baton.


Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 3.45.57 PM Laura White fosters a sustainable learning environment in her Stoddard, New Hampshire classroom by connecting with families and students before school starts.

Laura recognizes that meeting students’ developmental needs requires a systems way of thinking and connecting. By visiting families in their homes prior to school starting she honors how students are nested in multiple communities of home, classroom, school, and town.

Read the whole story in this feature article from the Keene Sentinel newspaper:

Stoddard teacher meets her students on their own turf


How wonderful that we have such an articulate example of educating for sustainability from Antioch EFS alumna Mona Dalmia! Check out Mona’s classroom at the Green School, Bali, in the video below.

Mona’s classroom illustrates several aspects of organizing a classroom in ways that honor principles of sustainability.

  • The curriculum takes advantage of the community the school is nested in.
  • Her animal unit interconnects across content areas.
  • She honors student development through multiple assessments
  • And Mona fosters a flow of critical dialogue in the classroom that inspires and challenges her students.

Nestedness, interconnectedness, development, and flow, these are elements of sustainable natural systems. Mona’s attentiveness to these principles is an acknowledgement that a classroom is a natural living system, an ecology. An ecological system where the interactions the students, the teacher, and the whole learning environment come together to form a dynamic, sustainable learning environment in the classroom.

Check out Mona’s EFS blog here Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 3.33.58 PM



And many thanks to Make Change TV for producing this video.

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Schools must strive to develop systems that serve the needs of all students.

Join us for a conference day highlighting Holistic Special Education.

Wednesday, May 22, Antioch University New England, Keene, NH

Featuring keynote speaker Kim John Payne, Director of the Center for Social Sustainability.

Followed by workshops and a panel discussion with leaders and practitioners in the field.

Topics will include:

  • the changing landscape of special education
  • what we know–mining our cognitive capital
  • benefits and challenges of collaborative models
  • transformative teaching and leading–from ablesim to inclusion
  • creating holistic and healthy classrooms–holding space for diversity

See the complete schedule here.

To Register: visit our website at: or call Peg Smeltz: 603.283.2301


In the USA independent schools are leading the way integrating sustainability into the infrastructure of their organizations, as evidenced by this recent job posting by St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH for an Environmental Steward. In addition to fostering environmentally-responsible actions the position includes making “… connections between environmental stewardship efforts and the broader ethical and spiritual motivations driving those efforts… and provide support for teachers seeking to introduce sustainability topics into classrooms.” It is encouraging that the St. Paul School acknowledge the link between environment, economics and equity in the job description and set the vision for integrating sustainability into the curriculum.

Public schools are starting to embrace sustainability, too. City school districts such as Cambridge, MA, and Denver, CO have their own Departments of Sustainability. Typically, these initiatives emphasize green practices such as recycling and energy reduction. But there is evidence that sustainability as an integrating concept is on the curriculum radar, too.

San Francisco Unified School District has created an administrative position for… Ecoliteracy Content Specialist! You can check out their sfusd-ecoliteracyinspiring work at Greening the Next Generation.

Ecoliteracy Content Specialist, Sarah Delaney, works closely with the Sustainability Director for the district and coordinates with many sustainability-related organizations in the Bay area. Sarah coordinates teacher professional development opportunities from Education Outside’s Cooking the Common Core to organizing the 1st Annual San Francisco Ecoliteracy for All Educator’s Conference.

The Ecoliteracy Content Specialist position is currently grant funded but may (hopefully) become part of the annual district budget and could become a model for other public school districts to foster sustainability as an integrating concept across facilities, curricula, and district policies.

It’s not easy making the transition from California springtime to New England mud season. I recently traveled from Los Angeles to Napa, visiting schools, meeting with teachers, and talking up Educating for Sustainability (EFS). I am pleased to report that EFS is alive and well in many California locales.

The Environmental Charter High School in Los Angeles integrates sustainability into every facet of their facility and curriculum they can manage, including repurposing a concrete patio into a green  space and using the detritus to build an outdoor amphitheater.ECHS

Place-based learning is at the core of a middle school project in Santa Cruz where students designed and installed mosaics depicting local flora and fauna on a bridge over the local watershed and at Washington Elementary in Santa Barbara where students’ ceramic tiles create a backdrop for the school garden.


Fifth and sixth graders at Pacific Elementary School in Davenport work in teams to prepare locally making_lasagnesourced food for the school’s daily lunch program.

SFUSD gardenSchool gardens are ubiquitous in California. From the Open Alternative School in Santa Barbara to the urban green spaces in San Francisco, schools are integrating gardens into the curriculum.  With the help of organizations like Education Outside a first grade class pulls up garden plants to learn about drawing science diagrams, third graders harvest kale to crisp and snack on, and afterschool programs explore life cycles by tending native plantings.

OAS gardenSystemic change is evident through the work of organizations like the Center for Ecoliteracy and the commitment of the San Francisco Unified School District to Greening the Next Generation and creating an administrative position for… Ecoliteracy Content Specialist!

Check out these innovative EFS schools and organizations through the links at the top of this blog page.

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