Education for a Better World
By Angela Decker
Willow Wind students are confident of their ability to shape the future of our planet and make a difference in their community. This understanding as students is partly because of our focus on education for sustainability. Education for Sustainability (EfS) is teaching and learning about issues such as climate change, biodiversity, social justice, sustainable consumption, nutrition, and how each of us can impact our community; EfS is not an add-on set of classes, but a philosophy integrated in the school's curriculum. Willow Wind's academic programs, teachers and its very campus play a role in showing students that their curiosity, knowledge, and imagination can lead to far-reaching change.
In EfS, teachers and staff are encouraged to consider how sustainability relates to and shapes their work, from course content to class supplies, the use of outdoor play spaces, and connecting with families. Every decision is guided by a search for the best intersections of environmental and social integrity, health and community service.
"When we learned about education for sustainability we realized that was us, and we decided to embrace it," said Robin Hawley. Teachers and staff found that much of what was already being done at Willow Wind fell under the broad umbrella of EfS. Many classes and activities help students connect their study and actions with their community. For example, Lacy Kleespie's 1st-grade core class focused on friendships, helping others, and accountability. They formed buddy groups with seniors at Skylark Senior Center during the course, linking their social studies with personal connections in the community.
Sue Pindell's 4th grade core class created a set of plant-identification cards for the Cascade-Siskiyou Monument. During another term, the middle school group did an inquiry into initiating an interpretive trail by the creek, thus learning about the Willow Wind campus environment and creating an opportunity to share it with the community. "A huge component of EfS is inquiry-driven learning. You start with a question and move on, and hopefully it leaves a mark. It's a huge piece of their learning," said Robin.
The Willow Wind campus is rich with opportunities for kids to connect with the environment. In addition to core courses, classes such as farm stand, wilderness hikes and games, and activities with the Klamath Bird Observatory all help students make vital connections between themselves and the world around them.
Robin points out that service learning is a key aspect in EfS. Every core class is required to do a service project that is identified and driven by the kids. In the past, students have participated in the Maslow Project, collecting clothes and hygiene products for homeless teens in the valley. Classes have also organized local food drives, health and nutrition projects, and wild-space clean-up efforts. "We try to keep it local because getting out into our community is so much of what sustainability is all about. Making a difference in the world starts right here," she said.