Friday, January 22, 2010

Smart by Nature

Smart by Nature is based on four guiding principles: Nature is our teacher; Sustainability is a community practice; The real world is the optimal learning environment; Sustainable living is rooted in a deep knowledge of place.

Nature is our teacher

To envision sustainable communities, we look to design principles evolved since the advent of life on Earth. We can pattern human societies and institutions after the patterns found in sustainable ecosystems. We can learn from traditional and indigenous societies that have thrived for centuries following these same patterns. Accepting nature as our teacher helps educators focus on basic ecological principles, think from the perspective of systems, practice solving for pattern, and support.
Ecological Principles
Core ecological knowledge for creating communities whose practices are compatible with nature's processes.
Systems Thinking
Ecological understanding requires shifting to a new way of thinking.

Sustainability is a community practice

The sustainability of a community depends on the health and inclusiveness of the network of relationships within it. Successful schools act as "apprentice communities" for learning the art of living in an interdependent world. Schools also teach by how they act in the world, use resources, and relate to the larger communities of which they are a part.
Creating Communities of Caring
In a thriving school community, students feel cared for and learn to care for others.
Collaborative Decision-Making
Collaborative decision-making teaches skills needed for living in communities.

The real world is the optimal learning environment

Sustainability is best learned in the real world. Students experience nature's patterns and processes as they occur. They become engaged in activities that matter and participate with people where they live and work. They observe and try out skills needed by change agents, and discover that their contributions can make a difference. School buildings and campuses provide opportunities to explore and demonstrate sustainable practices in action.
Immersion in the Natural World
Children should encounter nature's processes in the rich ways they actually occur.
Campuses and Buildings That Teach
The campus becomes both the classroom and the lesson.

Sustainable living is rooted in a deep knowledge of place

Places known and loved deeply have the best chance to be protected and preserved, so that they will be cherished and cared for by future generations. Studying a place in depth helps create a sense of kinship. It allows students to see through the eyes of the people who call that place home. It helps them imagine and contribute to locally based solutions to problems.
Knowing Your Place
Loving a place often begins with knowing it well.
Locally Based Solutions
Solving problems locally promotes sustainability and community self-sufficiency.

The schooling for sustainability movement recognizes that young people in school today will inherit a host of pressing (and often escalating) issues.

The Center for Ecoliteracy has identified a number of these that seem particularly germane to schooling for sustainability. A systems perspective reveals that many of these issues are connected. Responding to them will require understanding them in themselves as well as the patterns of relationship that connect them. In addition to addressing these issues in the curriculum, schools "teach" students about them through their institutional actions (e.g., how and where they procure food for school meals, whether their buildings and transportation systems conserve or waste energy, how they purchase supplies and manage waste).  

Richard Levins - Looking at the Whole: Toward a Social Ecology of Health
Richard Levins
Solutions designed to solve isolated problems can exacerbate or give rise to new ones.
Three Sisters: An Ancient Garden Trio
Sara Marcellino
The "Three Sisters" — corn, beans, and squash — provide a meaningful context for school garden education.
John C. Mohawk - Wild and Slow: Nourished by Tradition
John C. Mohawk
Degenerative diseases like diabetes can be reduced by shifting from refined carbohydrate diets to traditional wild foods.
Lisa Bennett - River Crossing Environmental Charter School
Lisa Bennett
This excerpt from our book Smart by Nature tells the story of a teacher who knew that progress starts with "not knowing" all the answers.
Kenny Ausubel - Farming the Future
Kenny Ausubel
Future food security will require new crops of farmers with a diversity of approaches adapted to local conditions.
The Art of a Watershed: "Tenderness of Cranes"
Sara Marcellino
Hands-on classroom and field activities that produce dramatic and beautiful nature-based poetry and art.
Alan Greene - Brain Food for Kids
Alan Greene
Children's behavior, intelligence, and performance are significantly affected by the quantity and quality of what they eat.
Margaret Adamek - Hooked on Sugar
Margaret Adamek
Sugar and other refined carbohydrates are linked to diabetes, depression, and addictions in our children.
Sandra Steingraber - But I Am a Child Who Does
Sandra Steingraber
The author’s children, growing up with locally grown food and without television, prefer fresh vegetables to junk food.
Vandana Shiva - Bringing People Back into the Economy
Vandana Shiva
The renewable energy of ecology, sharing, solidarity, and compassion must counter the destructive energy of greed creating scarcity at every level.