New Jersey Learns Mondays

February 15, 2010

On the heels of our Earthwatch guest blog series, Dodge has now teamed up with the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education for a new round of guest blog posts, “New Jersey Learns Mondays.” The reflections and stories from K-12 teachers and community leaders who have completed Cloud’s unique leadership training program “New Jersey Learns: Schools and Communities Learn Together for a Sustainable Future” will show that it is possible to lead the shift to a sustainable future.

From innovative instructional partnerships to curriculum design, NJ Learns is building capacity among educators, parents, community members, and, ultimately, our youth, to “live responsibly and well within the means of nature.” Join us for this February journey – and join Cloud for the learning journey to understand the “core content, competencies and habits of mind” to educate for sustainability (applications for the next NJ Learns training are due on Feb. 19 – see the Dodge homepage for details).

Last week, we launched the series with Stacey Kennealy of GreenFaith. This week, we hear from Winnie Fatton, who currently serves as a Project Manager for Sustainable Jersey, (which we’ve talked a lot about here on the Dodge blog!).


Winnie pic

By Winnie Fatton

When I first heard about NJ Learns, it was an exciting, untried idea that the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation was supporting. Teams of educators, administrators, parents, municipal representatives, and the general public – anyone who was committed to Educating for Sustainability (EfS) – were invited to apply for the program. I was working on “Green Jobs for NJ,” which was a pilot project to infuse EfS into the curricula of Career and Technical Schools. I brought 2 teachers to the first training session – one from the Mercer County Vocational Technical School District and one from Essex County Vocational Technical School District. I felt that it would be a great opportunity to learn from a “master” and to introduce classroom teachers to what I believe should be one of the most important educational themes in our schools.

I believe that sustainability is a theme which offers teachers from almost any discipline a way to get students involved with issues that are significant and relevant to their daily lives and to their future career choices. At career and technical schools, for example, EfS could be incorporated into the construction and HVAC trades (think green, high performance buildings), landscaping (management of stormwater run-off, recapture/reuse of wastewater, xeriscaping and other low maintenance plantings), culinary arts (school gardens, safe food/local food, composting), automotive (hydrogen fuel cells, hybrid cars), or a multitude of other career clusters. These are the jobs of the future.

But green jobs aren’t the only reason to think about sustainability; there are so many other linkages to science, math, English, history, even graphic arts. It takes some creativity, but teachers can develop lessons that relate real time/real world issues to what students are studying. Equally important, teachers can help foster the creative thinking we will need to come up with the solutions to these major challenges.

Now, in my work with the Sustainable Jersey program – a certification program for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green, control costs and save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term – I have the ability to work with a lot of different audiences. Sustainable Jersey offers over 64 different “actions” which municipalities can take to become more sustainable, from creating a Green Team, to doing energy audits for municipal buildings and establishing the carbon footprint of the municipality, to doing communication outreach and education. All of the actions in the program are supported by a series of tools which are available on the Sustainable Jersey website, as well as through training programs and workshops. Each action or “tool” is fully resourced and includes a description of the action: who should be involved, how much it will cost, how long it will take, as well as resources for helping municipalities to complete it.

My initial focus was on helping to develop “tools” which relate to the “education” sector – and in the second round of the program, Sustainable Jersey will be offering information about “Education for Sustainability” as well as “School Based Energy Conservation Programs.” The School Based Energy Conservation Programs focus on helping students, teachers and all school staff members to make behavioral changes, which can reduce energy consumption. Some participating schools have even reduced their energy bills by almost 20% through behavior modification alone. And the Education for Sustainability tool offers ideas and resources for teaching about sustainability, including, of course, the NJ Learns program.

Over 250 communities in NJ have signed up to become certified through the Sustainable Jersey program since its inception in February, 2009. Sustainable Jersey and NJ Learns offer opportunities for communities to share inspire and learn from one another as we all work together toward a sustainable future. By giving people an understanding of why it is important to be sustainable, as well as the tools we need to be a more sustainable society, we have begun to create a process that will foster collaboration, and ultimately, achieve success. The knowledge that there are so many great people out there working toward a sustainable future is very gratifying, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.

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New Jersey Learns introduces teachers and community leaders to Education for Sustainability. Education for Sustainability (EfS) is a whole system approach to schools and communities learning together for a sustainable future and includes the Cloud Institute’s EfS Core Content Standards. The program brings community-based teams to participate in one year of introductory training, implementation, coaching and assessment activities. Want to participate? 2010-2011 NJ Learns applications are due on February 19th. Apply now.

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