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Educating for a Sustainable Future

It was recently announced that the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, along with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), released a National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability. This plan is a call for action to ensure that Education for Sustainability (EfS) is accessible to all students across the United States, and outlines a goal for all 50 states to adopt a comprehensive green schools policy that includes a sustainable literacy graduation requirement by 2040.

With sustainability playing a larger role in today's economy, this plan marks a giant leap in the push to educate students about sustainability.

In a press release announcing the plan, Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools says: "When the U.S. Department of Education published its Green Ribbon Schools award which called for all K-12 graduates to be environmentally literate, we received that as a directive for the community to band together and figure out how we will ensure that happens. This National Action Plan represents the perspectives of the leading minds and the strongest champions of EfS for the first time together with one voice committing to a series of actions that will ensure that every student graduating from a U.S. K-12 school will be environmentally literate by the year 2040."

The plan contains 11 sections, authored by a different expert in the EfS field, that examine critical elements involved in ensuring that student receive sustainability education by 2040. The categories are: collaboration, economic drivers, integrated content and curriculum, leadership, policy, pre-service teacher preparation, professional development, public awareness, research, student assessment and teacher evaluation. The sections also contain additional content provided by schools and business contributors, including United Technologies Corp., Office Depot and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.).

David Sobel, senior faculty at Antioch University New England and lead author of the National Action Plan, was quoted in the press release as saying: "EfS increases student engagement, a catalyst for both academic achievement and drop-out prevention, providing a meaningful context to prepare students for careers and life beyond school. EfS allows schools, districts and states to focus simultaneously on preparation for college, career and civic life by providing students opportunities to explore and improve social, economic and environmental conditions at home and abroad. And recent national calls to prioritize STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) are deeply enriched by the interdisciplinary nature of EfS."

This action plan has been in the works since June 2013 when the Center for Green Schools and HMH brought together key stakeholders from academic, corporate and nonprofit sectors to envision a future where schools support thriving, healthy and regenerative communities. Experts had the task of recommending key actions that together outline a pathway to achieve the goal of environmental literacy within this generation. The action plan intends to propel efforts to affect policies and practices through collaboration, alignment and large-scale implementation.

Given the current state of education in the public schools, do you think it's a good idea to push for the inclusion of sustainable education?

Being involved in the architecture and construction industry, do you think that it will be a benefit to students to learn about sustainability in school before heading off to college and the work force?

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