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Scientists and Educators > Education: Schools that are Making a Difference

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message 1: by Ann (new)

Ann  L (annmlove) Is your school or your children's school a groundbreaker in the realm of environmental education? Do they have a school garden? Are classes held outdoors? Is the food in the cafeteria from local, sustainable sources?

Come tell us about it! Share how it started and how it's working. These grassroots efforts on the part of individual teachers and schools are what is going to make a difference in the lives of future generations!

message 2: by Ann (new)

Ann  L (annmlove) I'll start! :)

A friend of mine from grad school teaches environmental science, among other things, at a school in the Detroit Public School system. This is a system which is notorious for underachieving. Her school is a special high school for girls who are pregnant or have small children. There is a daycare/preschool program on site for their children. These are students that many schools would write off. Her students, though, are accomplishing amazing things. They put together and tend an organic garden on the school grounds. They also raise goats, rabbits, honeybees and chickens. They have a partnership with another local group that gets their produce to the Eastern Market, the largest farmer/food/artisan market in the area. Their efforts have been recognized nationally as a leading intiative in urban farming, urban renewal and sustainable agriculture. They have been invited by the Urban Youth Entrepreneurship Program to speak at an international conference on the subject in South Africa. What an amazing story! Girls who would've been ignored by virtually every other school system are going to take the international stage to educate people about their project. This did not happen because of legislation or curriculum mandates. This happened because a group of dedicated educators saw the potential in their students, in themselves and in their community. I really think that these kind of grassroots efforts are going to be what motivates change in education, in the US and around the world.

message 3: by M (last edited Feb 17, 2010 05:06PM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments You have started with an amazing story, Ann :)
And what a nice title for this new thread " Schools That Are Making a Difference "
This is an inspirational, optimistic example to motivate change in Education. We need to know how dedicated educators, students and their community take action, with grassroots efforts, in Education for Sustainable Development.

I'll add in a few days some best practices set in Europe, in Education program from Comenius (School Education), Erasmus (Higher Education), Leonardo Da Vinci (Vocational Education and Training), and Grundtvig (Adult Education)

message 4: by M (last edited Feb 21, 2010 10:18AM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments Two stories of International initiative to protect nature, the Environment and develop Education for Sustainable development.
The first one, set in Bolivia present a local initiative to protect nature and the Environment. The second one, set in Africa-Kenya, present an another initiative to develop Education with a motto " Our life, our world "

Here's an extrait from a report by Niels Boel, Danish journalist, correspondant for the UNESCO Courier

" Despite Bolivia’s extraordinary biodiversity, it has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. Meanwhile, massive migration towards the fertile lowlands is hampering sustainable development. Conservation International is using games to raise public awareness.

Inside a green marquee, eight year-old Juan throws a dice in a game of snakes and ladders painted on a wooden board. He throws a four. He moves his counter forward and lands on a square marked “deforestation”. He is penalized and told to “go back three squares”. On his next turn he lands on a square showing a river basin. He is asked what can be done to preserve a water source. “Plant more trees!” he replies. He is rewarded, and can move forward five squares.

We are in the Amazonian village of Rurrenabaque, inside a military enclosure, not far from the Madidi conservation area. A crowd of children, most of them between 6 and 11 years old, jostles around the puppet shows, memory games and puzzles..... That evening, there will be the first performance of a play written and performed by a group of young actors, inspired by suggestions made by the “Green Tent” teachers, travelling throughout this tropical area of Bolivia. All the activities have a common theme - pollution and protection of the environment.
The travelling show uses interactive teaching methods designed for learning about sustainable development, in an attempt to make up for the absence of environmental issues in the Bolivian school curriculum. The approach works well in this country, steeped in oral culture.....They travel from village to village, at the request of local people, staying for four to five days at a time.
Set up and administered by the international environmental organization Conservation International, together with the Bolivian conservation association Trópico, the Green Tents project is run by a group of about fifteen agronomists, biologists, foresters, teachers and communicators, most of them volunteers. The project’s annual budget comes from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bolivian National Service for Protected Parks (SERNAP).
Eduardo Forno, Director of Conservation International’s Bolivia office and initiator of the Green Tents, is keen to point out that “the teaching materials are not dreamed up in offices in faraway cities, but by pupils, teachers and foresters from the region. They are the ones who decide which myths, stories and pictures they will use. Descriptions of the games are then sent into town, where they are manufactured by carpenters and artists, and dispatched to the schools. Specialists are on hand to make sure the content is accurate.”
The Madidi Park conservation area lies in a corridor linking the Cordillera de Vilcabamba mountain range in Peru to the Amboró National Park, near Santa Cruz (Bolivia). This corridor is thought to harbour the richest biodiversity in South America. But thousands of people are coming to live here, fleeing the fragmentation and arid conditions of the high plateaux of the Andes and looking for other ways to survive. This continual influx is causing considerable environmental damage - every year, some 300,000 hectares of forest are destroyed in Bolivia, according to the Environment Ministry.
According to Eduardo Forno, environmental education is one of the few means to maintain the services provided by healthy ecosystems. “It is fundamental for the preservation of nature and to keep Bolivia green,” he says. "

message 5: by M (last edited Feb 21, 2010 10:19AM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments The second one, " A day in the life of Chanuka " set in Africa - Kenya, present an initiative to aware children and their parents of sustainable development.
Here's an extrait of Yvonne Otieno and Susan Scull-Carvalho's report , from Jacaranda Designs for The Unesco Courier.

" A dozen facilitators, a pile of copies of an educational newspaper and a bus…sometimes it doesn’t take much to make thousands of schoolchildren more aware of sustainable development. In Kenya, the organizers of the “Chanuka Express” programme are inspiring underprivileged young people to become agents for change. Their motto: “Our life, our world.”

An older man was walking along the beach and came upon a sandy stretch where thousands of starfish had washed ashore.
Just ahead, he spotted a teenager picking up starfish one at a time and tossing them back into the ocean.

“Oh! You’re being silly!” he exclaimed. “You can’t possibly save all of these starfish. There are too many!”
Smiling the teenager replied, “I know. But I can save this one,” and she tossed another into the ocean, “and this one”, toss, “and this one, and…”

Each and every one of our acts is critical.

This is the message the Kenyan programme Chanuka Express has been spreading among young people—both in and out of school – for the last several years. Always do the “right thing” because we can make a difference! And young people CAN … and ARE doing just that.

In Kiswahili Chanuka means to “Get with it or ‘bloom’ by using knowledge.” A partnership between UNESCO Jacaranda Designs—with help from the private sector. Several Jacaranda Designs staff members and a dozen student volunteers run the mobile outreach training initiative out of a bus —the Chanuka Express. The slogan is " Maisha Yetu, Dunia Yetu - Our Life, Our World " and the theme is “Learning for Sustainable Living.”

Reaching teenagers in low-income primary schools and communities, the programme focuses on smaller groups of peer-selected Chanuka Club leaders who identify their own priority issues of personal safety, health, hygiene, water and sanitation, and environmental degradation. Club membership totals about 5000.
Like the young woman with the starfish, their level of determination is making an impact not only on them but on their communities, schools and families too. Sustainable development in our country is depending on them: on young people equipped with productive knowledge, practical skills and a positive character choosing to be ‘agents of change.’
In the morning, Chanuka facilitators climb aboard the Chanuka Express bound for the day’s venue. With them is a raft of teaching tools, props, and art supplies. Among these tools are copies of the Young African Express, a monthly educational newspaper published by Jacaranda Designs, aligned to the Kenyan curriculum and filled with illustrated articles, cartoons, facts and games focusing on essential life skills.

On arrival, they meet up with a pre-selected group of teenagers. Teachers and other members of the community are there too. After a short highly participatory puppet show or community theatre introduction, the youth form four Chanuka teams—Peace and Safety, Health, Water and Sanitation, and the Environment. In small groups, the young people engage in games, demonstrations, discovery sessions, role-plays and discussions to identify key local challenges and solutions. These young leaders form the backbone of the Chanuka Clubs set up in every school involved (60 out of 5000 secondary schools in the country and 150 out of 20,000 primary schools). The day ends with presentations of the identified key issues and the action plans made by each group.
The Chanuka Express visits each site 2–3 times a year. Between visits, the young people and teachers are not idle. They form Chanuka Clubs with Health, Water and Sanitation, Safety and Peace, and Environment teams. The teams recruit others in their schools, passing on the messages they created and mobilizing others to join in taking action on important issues. They record their plans, obstacles and successes in supplied notebooks, which are used by the Chanuka facilitators on return visits.
Step by step, through such activities, education for sustainable development becomes a reality.

message 6: by Grégoire (new)

Grégoire | 18 comments My example is not strictly about environmental education, but it surely involves it.

Most people agree that Brazilian public education is flawed and outdated, and that it urgently needs to be reformed/revied/bettered/changed or anything but kept as it is. Most schools lack professional teachers, and the structure comes straight from the sixties, or from the military dictatorship, including the green area that never came out of the paper plan. For an example, the students books teach young Bahian (dry tropical region) that during the winter, leaves fall due to the cold (it always reminds me how Belgian colons were teaching Congolese people that "our ancestors, the Gauls...").

The idea I wanted to share is called "Ação Griô". The name comes from the french word "griot", used to term West-African traditional storytellers. Broadly speaking, they give people a sense of community through sharing a common experience/history and giving common references (African griots are far more than simple storytellers, but let's stick to the point).

In Brazil, while there is oral tradition, there is no social character for storytellers. They are just individuals. So, since 2008, the project called "Ação Griô" tries to build this figure, by involving the individuals into the public education system. The objective is to bring a sense of community, a link between young students and their social and natural environment.

Last year, our NGO started the project too, with a single class in a local school called Nelson Pessoa. During the year, we had four different griôs visiting the class to teach the kids songs, poetry, stories about the city or the region, stories about traditions and local cultures, and so on. We also started a small garden in the school yard, to grow some vegetables.

The most positive impact came from the substitute teacher, at the end of the year. She told us that during their free time at school, the kids involved with "Ação Griô" were different than their colleagues. They were singing, exchanging drawings, even writing poetry...

So, that's not strictly an environmental tale. But I guess that, if it can help to build social communities, it will certainly benefit the environment, as people will start to care.

This year, we'll continue the project with more classrooms, and see what we get.

message 7: by M (last edited Feb 23, 2010 05:00PM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments Thanks for sharing your project at The Green group's thread " Schools That Are Making a Difference" , Grégoire. We have spoken about it last year and I particularly enjoy to read an another local initiative in Education for Sustainable Development. There's a way for hope and a lot of ways to take action as we all do it at The Green Group !

message 8: by Ann (new)

Ann  L (annmlove) That is a great story! Teaching those kids about their culture and giving them a reason to understand and care about the environment, and a host of other things, will be a huge benefit to them and their communities!

message 9: by Ann (new)

Ann  L (annmlove) As long as we're discussing schools that make a difference, let's discuss Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson. I'll start the more comprehensive discussion in about a week, so that people who have not read it have a chance to ge started. In the meantime, do you have any general thoughts about the book or his mission?

message 10: by Ann (new)

Ann  L (annmlove) There's now a new thread in this folder for our book discussion!

Feel free to continue posting about great schools that you know about!

message 11: by M (last edited Mar 13, 2010 04:23AM) (new)

M (wwwgoodreadscomprofilem) | 337 comments Here's a new story with this extrait from a report by Gong Yidong, journalist "China Features" , correspondant for the Unesco Courier.
Primary school students conduct a survey among villagers in Piankou Town, Beichuan County, Sichuan Province, fifty thousand schoolchildren to the Yangtze’s rescue.

The Yangtze river system produces 40 percent of China’s grain, a third of its cotton, 48 percent of its freshwater fish and 40 percent of the country’s total industrial output. It is also, alas, a depository for 60 percent of the country’s pollution. A plan to save the river was launched by schoolchildren in Sichuan province and has taken on national scope.

Foul-smelling “rubbish mountains” consisting of piles of polystyrene, cardboard cups, food scraps, plastic bags, medical needles and other debris pollute the Baicao River, which provides drinking water to the 6,600 inhabitants of Piankou Town, Beichuan County, in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

In the 1980s, this tributary of the Yangtze, China’s biggest river, was “so clear that you could see to the bottom”, recalls Zeng Wenjun, a town resident in his forties. “The Qingbo (Clean Water) Fish exclusive to the river was unmatchable in taste, but it is now regrettably extinct.”

The run-off from private gold mines and sandstone collectors adds to the filth. The mushrooming small and medium-sized hydropower stations also pose an ecological risk to the livelihoods of the people living nearby.

The 1,000-plus towns along the upper reaches of the Yangtze pump the numerous tributaries with waste, causing a huge environmental problem at the Three Gorges Dam, says Fu Zhiping, a professor of ecology at Mianyang Normal University, Sichuan.

The Yangtze river system produces 40 percent of the nation’s grain, a third of its cotton, 48 percent of its freshwater fish and 40 percent of the total industrial output. However, it is also a depository for 60 percent of the country’s pollution, making it the single largest source of pollution in the Pacific Ocean, according to the Shangri-la Institute for Sustainable Communities (SISC), a Chinese non-governmental organization.

In the spring of 2008, both professor Fu Zhiping and Sun Yao, primary school student in Piankou, took part in the Water School for a Living Yangtze under the International Water School Program sponsored by Austria’s Swarovski company, a program that also includes the Nile in Egypt and India’s Ganges.

The Chinese program, supervised by the SISC, with the Ministry of Education and UNESCO as its partners, has involved more than 50,000 students from 27 middle and primary schools in Sichuan and the adjacent provinces of Qinghai and Yunnan, as well as Shanghai, where the Yangtze meets the East China Sea.

Under the guidance of teacher Tang Ming, Sun and his classmates at Piankou Central Primary School began to monitor water quality by using graduated cylinders and test papers, which they had never used before.

The preliminary test result confirmed Sun’s concerns: the PH index stands at 5.8 at the lower reaches of Baicao River, with the turbidity reaching Grade IV, showing that the water has already been polluted to an alarming extent.

Based on further investigations in and around Piankou Town, Sun and his classmates wrote a letter proposing that municipal authorities re-arrange the 15 dustbins along the two major streets “in a more scientific way” and establish a rubbish disposal system.

To their great surprise, the town government approved their proposal, and a sewage treatment plant based on the scientific principles of a biological wetland is also under discussion.

The students went on to disseminate questionnaires to the communities of Piankou, and 89 percent of the respondents believed it was necessary to treat the river pollution.

“The project provides a platform for effective environmental protection around the branches of Yangtze, and it is a model for shifting away from the exam-focused educational system,” says Fu, who has 14 years’ experience in the field of environmental education.

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