New Jersey Learns Mondays

February 8, 2010

Dodge has teamed-up with the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education for a Monday blog series that is sure to help beat the February blues! 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.

Cloud Framework

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).

Kicking off this series is Stacey Kennealy, the Director of Sustainability for GreenFaith, New Jersey’s interfaith coalition for the environment. Stacey also directs the GreenFaith Certification Program.

GreenFaith’s mission is to inspire, educate and mobilize people of diverse religious backgrounds for environmental leadership.

GreenFaith logo

Stacey Kennealy

By Stacey Kennealy

I live, eat, and breathe sustainability. As sustainability guru at GreenFaith, it’s my daily work, and what I believe to be my life’s work. I can talk ad nauseam about environmental problems, and I know every “green” solution under the sun. And those two areas—problems and solutions—used to be the central focus of every workshop and class that I led.

After enough of these workshops, I began to sense that I was missing something. The reactions from the audience consistently suggested this—and were completely different reactions from those experienced when GreenFaith’s Executive Director, an Episcopal priest, was at the helm. With me, the audience would walk away informed, mildly satisfied and quickly forgetting what they heard; after an environmental sermon, they’d walk away deeply affected, and with energy and motivation.

This left me seriously questioning my teaching style. Was being ordained a prerequisite for changing people’s hearts and minds? Then the NJ Learns opportunity came across my desk. As I filled out the application, where I was asked to describe my perceptions of “Educating for Sustainability,” I sensed the same uneasy feeling I did after my workshops. I realized that I wasn’t quite sure what “Educating for Sustainability” meant. Did I really know how to educate for this issue that I cared so deeply about?

A New York Times article last week, “Is There an Ecological Unconscious?” discusses the idea that each of us is experiencing “solastalgia”—a subconscious homesickness as our home, earth, is being degraded—and other experts report that “nature deficit disorder” is rampant in our society, particularly among children. These ideas capture my uneasy feeling: environmental problems are just an indicator of larger, much more deeply rooted issues. No amount of “greening” advice will cure us of these maladies. Educating for Sustainability must dive as deep as these maladies run.

NYTimes Ecological Unconscious

Artwork by Kate MacDowell; photograph by Dan Kvitka for The New York Times

This concept was my NJ Learns “aha” moment. I realized that it takes a complete reworking of our mindset to change our wildly destructive consumption habits. “The significant problems we face cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that we used when we created them”—wise words of Albert Einstein, and the driving mission of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education. NJ Learns not only awakened me to this idea, but provided me with the tools and community support to help make these powerful theories a reality.

Do I use the Cloud Institute material in my presentations now? Yes. But the training gave me so much more. It shifted my own thinking to such an extent that everything I do is reflective of the ideas we learned. Every time I craft a document, build a curriculum, give a talk, or guide a congregation or school through the greening process, I educate for sustainability and not just about problems and solutions.

The most significant result was the way in which the training influenced the design of GreenFaith’s Certification Program—the first interfaith environmental certification program for houses of worship in the country. Similar to other certification programs like Sustainable Jersey or LEED, our Program provides a process and set of requirements that houses of worship must fulfill to be designated as leaders. Many of the concepts learned in the NJ Learns training—backwards design, systems thinking, and viewing sustainability as an opportunity to tell a different, more powerful story—laid the foundation for the overall process that GreenFaith asks institutions to follow. As Jaimie Cloud (founder of the Cloud Institute says, “It’s not sustain guaranteed, but sustainable.” The GreenFaith Certification Program embodies this vision, by teaching institutions how to create the conditions for sustainability that will guide them well into the future.

Wantage Dedication

The first progress reports from these institutions arrived a few months ago. We are on target for our goal: environmental stewardship is becoming a living, breathing program at these institutions, with congregations taking on sustainability as a way of life, similar to alleviating poverty. This is what Educating for Sustainability is all about; if we can shift people’s underlying thinking about environmental issues, they will walk away empowered, more easily making the choices that will help to redeem this planet.

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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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