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Cloud Institute

Cloud Institute ... Education for Sustainability (EfS) ... Is this Education for Sustainability? - Jaimie P. Cloud


Peter Burgess

Jaimie P. Cloud

Sunday, June 7, 2015 at 9:25PM

'The significant problems we face cannot be solved with the same level of thinking we used to create them.' Albert Einstein

Is this Education for Sustainability?

The questions I ask faculty and administrators to consider when I am invited to a school to audit their sustainability education program are:

  1. Have you chosen a set of EfS benchmarks for the faculty to design, teach and assess with?

  2. Do you document and map the curriculum? If so, is it a living document that is continually improved and innovated over time?

  3. Does the faculty use the benchmarks to assess for evidence of EfS?

  4. Do they explicitly communicate quality EfS performance criteria to their students?

  5. Do you have student work as evidence of the enduring understandings, knowledge, skills and attitudes of EfS?

If the answer is “no” to all the above, then my next question is,

6. Is there a shared understanding within the school community of what Education for sustainability is?

If the answer is “no”, then my next question is,

7. What can I see? Where can I look for evidence of EfS in the Curriculum? I learned a long time ago that even if the answers to all my questions are “no”, it doesn’t mean people are not educating for sustainability. It simply means we have to ask the next question, which is “how can we know?”

The way The Lovett School in Atlanta Georgia addressed my last question was to provide me with an extensive list of Stage 3 (UbD) curricular activities that the K-12 faculty was asked to prepare so that I could help them determine to what extent they were, indeed, educating for sustainability.

I read through the list with great interest, honored that they took the time to carefully describe what they have been doing. I didn’t actually consider using any of it in my audit because anecdotal information is not evidence I can assess. However, after some conversations back and forth with the leadership team, we agreed that it would be valuable to all of us if I were to annotate the descriptions I was given to let the faculty and administration know how we can know if they are educating for sustainability at Lovett.

Ordinarily I would have recommended that we use the Cloud Institute’s EfS Standards and Enduring Understandings as benchmarks against which I could annotate their descriptions, but I am working with the Journal of Sustainability Education to build consensus among EfS thought leaders and scholars on Sustainability Education Benchmarks which will be published this summer, and we all agreed that Lovett should wait for the new Benchmarks—since our work will be influenced by them going forward. So, I decided to use my experience and my knowledge of EfS to inform my annotations. I do this kind of work with faculty all the time in conversations during our coaching sessions. The work of “sustainablizing” the curriculum is difficult to describe if you are not the one experiencing it—maybe even if you are. I do hope that by capturing this work in writing, that I can increase understanding and shed some light on what it means to educate for a sustainable future, and how that is similar to, and different from, other types of education. Some themes you will see over and over again:

Document document document. That way we can know what to keep, what to change, what to stop doing and what to start doing. If you design, document and map in a robust mapping software, we can do all the analytics we want to do with the push of a button.

If you use UbD/Backwards Design to document and map the curriculum, Stages I and II (Outcomes and Assessments/Performance Criteria) will be clearly articulated so when we look at Stage III (lessons/descriptions of lessons) we can look for congruence between the 3 stages. “If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.”

Collecting, sorting and calibrating student work as evidence of EfS is essential if we want to get this right.

A shared understanding of what EfS is, will send a consistent and reinforcing message to students, and will have synergistic results over time. It is critical to differentiate between educating about sustainability, educating about un-sustainability and educating for sustainability.

Open PDF ... Click Here to read excerpts from The Lovett School descriptions with my annotations.
Brief History

Education for Sustainability (EfS) is defined as a transformative learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking we need to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of the living systems upon which our lives depend.

In 1987 the Brundtland Commission formally defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland, 1987)—echoing values and traditions of many cultural and geographical minorities worldwide. In 1992, at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, for the first time, discussions of sustainable development paid specific attention to the educational system. Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 of the Rio Declaration directly addresses issues of education in relation to sustainable development in four main areas: (1) improve basic education, (2) reorient existing education to address sustainable development, (3) develop public understanding, awareness, and (4) training (McKeown et. al, 2002). Responding to the political call to implement Education for Sustainable Development, in 1994, the Earth Charter was formed to reorient educational goals with respect to Chapter 36 of Agenda 21. As a result, many organizations, educators and individuals began to refine the original goals of Agenda 21 into their own practices. Education for Sustainability was formed out of the recognition that there is a distinct difference between “education about sustainable development and education for sustainable development.” The former was seen to be a theoretical exercise while the latter asked for the educative process to be used as a tool to achieve sustainability (McKeown, 2002). The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education was founded in 1995 as a program of The American Forum for Global Education known as the Sustainability Education Center. From its inception, The Cloud Institute has been a pioneer of Education for Sustainability. Jaimie P. Cloud, founder and president, has dedicated over twenty years to distinguishing the importance of educating for sustainability, rather than about sustainability, in K-12 education systems.

Cloud Staff

Jaimie P. Cloud - Founder & President Jaimie is a thought leader in the field of Education for Sustainability. She has authored The Cloud Institute’s EfS Framework, and several peer-reviewed journal chapters and articles on Sustainability and the significance of Education for Sustainability. Jaimie works extensively with educators, administrators, and school boards across the nation. She designs and facilitates professional development programs and directs the collaborative development of numerous instructional units and courses for K-12 and Higher Education designed to teach and learn across disciplines through the lens of sustainability. In addition to her commitment to furthering the mission of The Cloud Institute, Jaimie serves as an advisor, board member or committee member to several organizations with related goals and interests. To learn more about Education for Sustainability, read more of Jaimie P. Cloud’s publications.

Angela Carr - Executive Assistant Angela serves as Executive Assistant, providing administrative support to senior staff, ensuring smooth office operations and working to further The Cloud Institute's mission. She holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas, and has more than a decade of experience as a professional administrator. Angela previously managed a small business, and has worked with several non-profits that provide support and resources for women and children.

Charlene Turner - Managing Director Charlene's role at The Cloud Institute is to provide strategic direction in the areas of administration, human resources, and development, as well as coordinate programs and client services. She specializes in improving business efficiency by leveraging technology and best-practice project management processes. Charlene earned the designation Senior Professional Human Resources (SPHR) in 2010, and is a long-time member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Passionate about volunteerism and youth leadership, she has served as a volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club of America in Utica, NY, and as an advisory board member for Project Re-Generation (PR-G) in Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn.

The text being discussed is available at

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