We always hear that educating for sustainability (EfS) is about the environment, the economy, and social justice. That’s why I get discouraged when schools emphasize recycling or energy conservation while ignoring equity issues — like the fact that students of color are more likely to attend schools with unhealthy learning environments. To be honest, this blind spot felt like a lost opportunity to me, especially since social justice is one of the values that inspired me to start Creative Change. Granted, discrimination is a huge issue to tackle, and maybe that’s why it remained on the sidelines.
That is, until now.
I recently returned from Atlanta and the Green Schools National Conference. To my delight, equity was front and center, with powerful opening talks by Atlanta Mayor Hakim Reed and social justice educator Dr. Antwi Akom. The messages repeated throughout the conference were clear:
- Healthy schools are a civil rights issue.
- Every child deserves to learn in a school with clean air and water, nutritious foods, and green spaces that invite play and outdoor learning.
Given the location of the conference — just two miles from the tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — the messages were especially poignant and profound.
Being the Change
I was honored to participate in a panel on equity in environmental education alongside Green Schools National Network Executive Director Jennifer Seydel and sustainability expert Abby Ruskey. Together, we highlighted promising practices and the growing body of research showing the multiple, positive impacts of equity-focused sustainability education.
As I spoke with audience members after the presentation, two themes emerged:
- We want to do this at our school, but how do we know we’re ready?
- We’ve started down this path, but how do we assess our efforts?
Are You Asking Similar Questions?
We can help you get some answers. Our Readiness Assessment Guide provides questions and indicators to evaluate if you’re on the right path. Clients say it’s a great tool to guide big-picture program planning. If this sounds right for you, contact Susan to set up a consultation, and we’ll send you the Assessment Guide to jumpstart the conversation.
The bottom line is that conferences and talks like this — which are reflective of what’s happening in schools — have energized the field. The momentum is picking up and we can help you lead the charge.