KLSD Leans Into Teaching Sustainability
Educating and empowering students to tackle the climate crisis
If creativity had a color, this gathering would be a vibrant shade of green. Cheney Munson, educator and founder of the Climascope Project, had asked the group of fifth grade leaders to tun and talk for a few minutes about sustainability initiatives they wanted to see at Meadow Pond Elementary. With that invitation, the students began wishing, dreaming, riffing and running with ideas they might have not even realized they had. Each group also had an adult who wrote down the ideas and asked for more.
The workshop with Munson was as much for the educators in the room as well as the students. It was professional development for the teaching of sustainability, a key focus area for Katonah-Lewisboro Schools this year and moving forward.
"What if ...!"
Teaching sustainability is different than every other subject
“We are at a critical time to prevent irreversible climate change,” said Steve Zoeller, the district’s staff developer for STEAM and sustainability. “We are working to empower students at all levels to lead the charge to change our habits at home and in the community.”
Teaching sustainability is different than every other subject. There’s an inherent dimension of advocacy that isn’t part of English, math or science. Munson, a long-time trainer with Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP), realized this. He found that applying the TCRWP workshop model to sustainability education gives teachers and students a structure that maintains engagement. He created the Climascope Project to crowdsource and share lessons and projects that change behavior.
modeling best practices for teachers
Munson modeled best practices for a sustainability lesson or club meeting, speaking first to students then directly to the teachers.
“What sustainability initiatives do you want to lead before the school year ends?” he asked the students. “How can you inspire and motivate your peers as well as the other teachers in the building? Think about what you can do as a group, a grade or a school.”
“Try to avoid acting as a team member,” Munson said to the teachers. “You are more of a facilitator. Our big job is to figure out the logistics for kids.”
The educators present were all part of the district’s Sustainability Committee, convened by Dr. Mary Ford, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. The group's quarterly meetings have helped them find ways to infuse sustainability and climate change into their teaching. Results include Recycling Matters club members interviewing Paul Christensen, the district’s director of operations and maintenance, and sharing the video across all elementary schools, as well as an all-district Recycling Road Trip, and Environmental Physics students sharing models of their "passive houses" with elementary students.
Speaking envonmentalist to environmentalist
Before Munson left the fifth graders, he spoke to them environmental activist to environmental activist.
“I showed your video at PS 290, Manhattan New School, earlier today,” he said, referring to a video that the Recycling Matters club created about reducing waste.
“It really inspired the students and teachers I met with. It’s such a concrete example of what students can do. You are already having a big impact.”