Education for Sustainability Campaign


The Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network’s

Education For Sustainability Campaign & Shared Green Roof Proposal

A Vision & Educational Program Preparing Students and Educators for the 21st Century

The students in the Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network or BLS YouthCAN want to educate our community about sustainability and provide a model for how our entire school system can integrate education for sustainability, save energy, and green their facilities while cultivating youth leaders and engaging students broadly in service-learning. Most youth green groups focus mainly on greening their own facility, but BLS YouthCAN has developed a successful model for greening schools across Massachusetts, all fully documented on the YouthCAN website for replication by other schools. The website provides evidence of measurable impact, and helps demonstrate the power of youth-leadership for sustainability.

      Our Educational for Sustainabiltiy Vision

The Need:

Today’s students need their educational experience to prepare them for the future. Today’s educators need to integrate the big ideas of sustainability into what they teach. The world needs promising youth leaders and inspiring educational programs paired with educational facilities such that they have the power to really impact the way young people think about and engage in the world. To solve the problems of global climate change, and make the shift to a more sustainable global community, students need to learn how to think in terms of the world’s interconnected systems, and they to learn how to collaborate. Boston Latin School’s youth-led Education for Sustainability Campaign and Shared Green Roof proposal are already serving as powerful educational model that is fostering both innovative shifts in thinking as well as collaboration.

Once completed, the facility and educational programming will provide a much-needed opportunity for students and educators in the City of Boston and beyond to be educated for sustainability in a space where school and community partnerships happen all the time.  The student-led Shared Green Roof Task Force, representing schools and community service organizations from across the City has created a powerful roadmap for how educational facilities paired with meaningful curriculum and programming can give rise to the kind of education and change we most need to see in world, and how today’s young people are leading the way to making it a reality.

An Innovative Education Vision: Educating for Sustainability

BLS YouthCAN’s goals of youth leadership, education for sustainability, energy conservation, facilities improvement, and community partnerships all come together in our Education for Sustainability Campaign and our Shared Green Roof and Community Learning Center proposal.

The Power of “Systems Thinking” & The Facility as the “Third Teacher”

Our EfS Campaign and our Shared Green Roof proposal specifically designed to help learners begin to think in terms of these interconnected systems. The Green Roof’s outdoor classrooms, green house, green technologies, large sculptures, and creative design features, will help foster the big-picture, systems thinking necessary for meeting the issues challenging today’s global community.  The facility will not only serve as a powerful “third teacher” in educating for sustainability, It will serve as a much-needed place where educators, students, environmental organizations, and other our community can engage in hands on, inquiry-based learning and education for sustainability.  It will provide a year-round educational facility where Boston can focus on educating for sustainability, and provide a space for collaboration on sustainability initiatives, a clearinghouse for sustainability curriculum, and a green schools facilities model for how to save energy, reduce CO2 emissions, curb heat island effects and encourage youth leadership and service-learning.

Education for Sustainability Campaign & Shared Green Roof Proposal Core Educational Commitments

The EfS Campaign and the Shared Green Roof proposal are structured around the following core educational commitments:

1) Providing interdisciplinary EfS Curriculum for grades 7-12

2) Providing hands-on, inquiry-based learning experiences

3) Offering curriculum, paired with an educational facility, that together promote “systems thinking”

4) Engaging students in service learning

5) Providing learning experiences that cultivate Youth-Leadership

6) Creating educational opportunities for collaboration and community partnerships that educate for sustainability and foster commitments to social justice

7) Sharing a successful student-led model for school-wide emissions reductions, facilities improvements, energy efficiency, and healthy sustainable schools

The Rationale for Educating for Sustainability (EfS) and Environment as an Integrating Context (EIC)

The idea behind educating for sustainability is that educators across disciplines will begin to help students recognize and understand connections between the core curriculum students are already learning and how that content relates to overarching ideas that are integral for being able to think and strategize for future sustainability. Equipping students with these skills is key for preparing effective leaders, and is central to YouthCAN’s mission. Futhermore, YouthCAN’s track record reveals that young people who are engaged in meaningful service-learning  projects are likely to be more engaged in their own learning in ways that yield vastly improved outcomes with regard to student learning.  This combination provides a compelling case for YouthCAN’s vision of educating for sustainability. 

What Does EfS Look Like In Practice?

Economics teachers are helping students begin to think in terms of a triple bottom line – understanding that economic systems and decisions impact far more than just economics, they also have corresponding effects that impact the environmental and social structures. In order for students to consider what economic approaches will contribute to overall sustainability, they need to understand the interrelatedness of these systems.

Science and mathematics are proving to be much more engaging when they are conducted in the service of safeguarding the Earth’s and humanity’s future, as opposed to science or math lessons confined to the blackboard, the textbook, or the pages of an exam. It is no surprise that research indicates that doing greatly reinforces and enhances learning and understanding.  Seeing themselves as activists and agents of what they perceive as critical change, YouthCAN’s students pursue invaluable leadership opportunities and experiences that, as their achievements indicate, are extraordinary for their age, but more importantly, represent critical experience and integrated big picture problem solving skills that the world needs today’s young people to gain.

Our successes with youth leaders who are themselves actively educating for sustainability and pushing for educators to join them offers clear evidence that today’s students aren’t content just being passive, empty vessels to be filled with static knowledge that they reiterate. They have a deep desire to bridge the gulf between their classrooms, their academic work, and the world-at-large. They want to connect learning and understanding with doing, and that passion for engagement is a powerful motivator.

Furthermore, research indicates vast knowledge gaps in critical understandings related to sustainability such as population growth, loss of biodiversity, climate change and air pollution.  According to the 2005 Roper/NEETF report ‘Environmental Literacy in America’, most Americans (~80%) believe they know more about the environment than they actually do, and just 12% can pass a basic quiz on awareness of energy topics.  Without additional efforts today to prepare K-12 students for contemporary challenges, traditional curricula and educational standards will continue to fall behind rapidly advancing frontiers of knowledge.  According to the National Council for Science and the Environment, there is a need in schools for curricula, including content, tools, and materials such as real-world case studies and examples of best practices.  To date, K-12 schools in the Boston area have had limited opportunities for professional development in the content and process of Sustainability Education aside from those provided by BLS YouthCAN. 

The 21st century calls upon educators to prepare students to be active citizens in a complex world.  Education for Sustainability is a framework that engages students in all subjects by using the real-world context of the interconnections between vibrant communities, strong economies, and healthy ecosystems both locally and globally. It provides constructive context for instruction and promotes the development of important 21st century skills.   It offers educators the means to effectively use global sustainability as a contextual framework for teaching core subjects. Educating for sustainability allows educators to help students examine the trends that shape global issues in the 21st century by outlining the interconnectedness of issues like population, poverty, consumption, economy, conflict, and the environment - and explore ways in which students can participate in their solutions.

The Education for Sustainability Program paired with the Shared Green Roof facility is already providing students and educators with proven curricula, interdisciplinary curriculum design and instruction, inquiry-based instruction, student-centered learning models and project-based learning, all of which have been shown to enhance student learning through increased relevance and understanding.  Lieberman and Hoody’s 1998 report ‘Closing the Achievement Gap’, studied 14 schools employing the Environment as an Integrating Context (EIC) approach and compared EIC students with traditionally taught peers.  According to standardized test scores and GPAs, 92% of EIC students performed better than traditional students at science, math, reading and social studies.  Five of the schools analyzed student behavior, attendance and attitudes and found 100% of EIC students outperforming their peers.  YouthCAN’s education for sustainability program provides interdisciplinary curriculum design and inquiry-based instruction and promotes systems thinking, and interdisciplinary problem solving skills. 

Beyond the AP “Arms Race

In a college-preparatory school such as BLS, teaching and learning are to a great extent molded by the college application process. A recent Boston Globe article suggested that topflight students are engaged in a kind of Advanced-Placement-course arms race, with colleges concerned about them taking more than ten or twelve AP courses. However, high scores on Advanced Placement tests are one of the important measurements of academic excellence that enhance a student’s chances for admission to a highly competitive college.  Advanced Placement courses require students to master very large quantities of knowledge within a specific discipline. Very few secondary schools have any offerings that help students connect and integrate knowledge across those different domains. The end result is often referred to through the metaphor of silos. The best and brightest secondary students have siloed learning - deep reservoirs of isolated and disconnected knowledge.

The value of interdisciplinary thinking and sophisticated problem solving skills may not be an easily quantifiable indicator for college admissions staff as AP courses and grade point averages are, but they clearly provide a far more important predictor of future preparedness and success than either of the other two because they represent the underpinnings of the critical thinking skills that are necessary for addressing 21st Century challenges by enabling students to connect what they have learned in the standard disciplines to more comprehensive understanding about the larger world in ways that position them much better for success. 

The Venn Diagram of EfS

Imagine educating for sustainability as a Venn diagram. You would see a crucial overlapping of Economics, globalization, and supply chains; History, politics, and public policy; a broad cross section of the Sciences; Statistics; mathematical and computer science modeling; and all of it intersecting with questions of ethics, social justice, and the concept of stewardship. Today, whether they be in the public or private sector, leaders who can’t connect the dots at this higher level, leaders who can’t break the walls between those knowledge siloes, are ineffectual. Educating for the 21st Century requires teaching students an advanced form of interdisciplinary systems thinking and sophisticated problem solving that has only a miniscule and embryonic foothold in current educational offerings.

In The Future of Value: How Sustainability Creates Value Through Competitive Differentiation, Eric Lowitt describes the importance that sustainability will have to businesses in the near future. It won’t be a mere public relations, branding or “feel-good” issue. Rather, sustainability will be central to profitability and competitiveness. Companies and leaders of business who don’t understand the complex, multilayered challenge of sustainability will not thrive.  Enterprises that fail to think in terms of the triple bottom line: one for financial profit and loss; one measuring how socially responsible an organization has been; and one measuring how environmentally responsible it has been will fail to have taken full account (according to British economist, John Elkington, who coined the phrase in 1994) of the “costs” of really doing business.

Of course this sort of accounting is vastly more complex, and involves the highest order of evaluative critical thinking. “The full cost of a nuclear accident like Three Mile Island cannot be adequately captured or measured in monetary terms. The cost to society of a lost forest is equally difficult to quantify. The cost of child labor cannot be measured. Nevertheless, there is an urgent need for the world’s future thinkers to learn how to think in ways that prepares them to attempt to account for each of these costs and more.

Where will these new leaders come from who have the capacity to see the BIG PICTURE, to think outside the box (or the silo), and chart the new course?  Where will the nimble minds come from that can wrestle with the interdisciplinary labyrinths of sustainability, climate change, globalization, and the like – that family of challenges that intertwines science, economics, politics, and social justice?  They are coming from the Greater Boston area where BLS YouthCAN’s Education for Sustainability Campaign is motivating students across the region to engage in a valuable work ethic, intellectual curiosity, respect for knowledge and sophisticated interdisciplinary critical thinking and problem solving by bridging academic disciplines and linking academics and youth leaders to the world-at-large.

Shared Green Roof Community Learning Facility

The proposal features a plan for a state-of-the-art community green roof where students and educators from across the city will come to learn how to think in terms of the world’s interconnected systems. The intent is for rooftop learners to literally be inspired by the facility itself as well as the programming and curriculum associated with it.  Learners will be inspired to think in new ways about what a sustainable future requires, and gain the skills and habits of mind needed for an adequate response to the challenges of the 21st century.

Youth Partnerships Promote the Education Program & Shared Facility

BLS YouthCAN’s initiatives and proposals represent an educational model that is already preparing students for the future and building youth leadership and collaboration in the process. The vision for this shared facility was spearheaded by students who engaged local architects and engineers to work with them to design a space where the community can learn how to think and act more sustainability. The direction of the Shared Green Roof Community Learning Center has been shaped by a coalition of students and teachers in schools and community groups across the city working together to realize the project because YouthCAN students wanted to be sure that the design for the facility met the needs, diverse ages, experiences, and educational interests that future users of the facility actually have. Thus the roof will feature opportunities for students in a high school carpentry program to study green construction, while teens in community farming program have had input into how the rooftop greenhouses should specifically educate about local farms and their connection to sustainability. More than 20 area schools and community service organizations meet regularly to work with YouthCAN students to develop and promote the Shared Green Roof project.

Partnerships with City Officials

Youth CAN would not be able to be as effective at cultivating youth leaders and furthering our education for sustainability goals in the community were it not for continued partnerships with of city officials. We have actively cultivated relationships with adults working towards sustainability in city government. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, James Hunt, III,  the former Chief of Energy and Environmental Services for the City of Boston, and Boston City Councillor, John Connolly have all partnered with YouthCAN students on numerous occasions.  City Officials have been great champions of Youth CAN’s work, providing guidance and encouragement on many initiatives.  The encouragement of City leaders has been a critical element in YouthCAN’s efforts to promote education for sustainability in the broader community. In October of 2011, James Hunt traveled to France with YouthCAN where we were invited to share information about   youth leadership and working with city officials at a regional conference on sustainability outside of Paris.

Initiatives Largely Youth-Funded

So far the project has been funded largely by students through contests, grants, and prizes adding up to over $240K.  YouthCAN students have a demonstrated track record that illustrates what young people who are engaged in meaningful service-learning can really accomplish and provides a compelling case for the vital learning and important skills that are acquired along the way.  Equipping students with the skills to be effective leaders is central to our mission, and educating for sustainability supports these goals in powerful and timely ways.

Beyond A Regional Impact to a National Model

The Shared Green Roof project and Education for Sustainability campaign aims to create a national model for what educating for sustainability should look like. It has already engaged hundreds of youth in meaningful service-learning and provided youth with opportunities to collaborate with the exciting and diverse variety of groups that are part of the task force. Together task force members have envisioned a place where school groups, community youth organizations, educators and others can come to explore the fundamental interrelatedness of issues like equity, social justice, health, security, access to resources, sustainable development, economic stability, and protection of the natural environment.

YouthCAN’s work in promoting its Education For Sustainability (EfS) Program, and Shared Green Roof proposal has already successfully prepared 5 graduating classes of YouthCAN students, many of who have already gone on to successfully pursue environmental degrees in college. It has resulted in 19 students at other schools in Massachusetts being trained and supported in conducting school energy audits and creating energy action plans for their own schools.  It has inspired educators to develop over 150 sustainability lessons that are being implemented at schools across the Commonwealth.  It has more than tripled the number of environmental electives at our school, and has resulted in 22 YouthCAN groups getting started at other schools across the region.

This is because YouthCAN’s educational goals, curriculum and educational programs have been highly successful in motivating youth leaders. BLS YouthCAN’s programs have served and been shared with the broader community, encouraging replication at every turn.  YouthCAN’s focus on educating for sustainability and teaching systems thinking has begun to shift the way both students and educators understand and engage in the world.  By focusing on the environment and sustainability as an integrating lens and context, YouthCAN’s programs and curriculum have been able to emphasize and educate about the interconnectedness, interdependence, interrelatedness, equity (the big ideas of sustainability) as a means of helping students develop a more comprehensive and connected understanding of the connection between the physical world, the world’s economic realities, and to the world’s social issues.

These skills and complex understandings represent the sort of big picture “systems thinking” that that future leaders most need to be able to do.  It is an educational model that is preparing students for the future and building youth leadership in the process. Our curriculum and programs are already meeting these core educational goals by inspiring students and educators across the region to start to think in terms of these interconnected, interdependent systems at our Annual Climate Summit, Annual Teach-In, Summer Teacher Trainings, Teen Garden Program, Teen Green Jobs Energy Audit Program, Youth Mentoring Program, and Youth Network.  BLS YouthCAN is further exporting these understandings to others through curriculum and programming developed for the Shared Green Roof.

What is BLS YouthCAN?

BLS YouthCAN is an award winning after school environmental club at Boston Latin School that is pursuing a wide array of high-impact sustainability initiatives, and engaging in extensive outreach, community service and youth leadership on behalf of these initiatives. In their own words, BLS YouthCAN students say: ‘We want to educate BLS and the larger community about sustainability and provide a model for how our entire school system can integrate education for sustainability, save energy, green our facilities and cultivate youth leaders through engaging students in inquiry-based service-learning projects.’

BLS YouthCAN students founded a youth network that now has 22 member groups at other schools in MA.   Students organize free events that serve dozens of schools and community organizations each year. BLS YouthCAN students have fundraised for, planned, and hosted a free Annual Climate & Sustainability Summit at MIT for the past six years, an event that has served thousands of students and educators in Massachusetts. BLS students have run a Mentoring Program for elementary students on environmental issues.  BLS YouthCAN is responsible for two successful Summer Teacher Institutes about sustainability, as well as an Annual Summer Teen Green Jobs Program that has paid students to learn how to conduct energy audits in their own schools for the past two summers.

In their own school environmental projects include a successful Zero-Sort Recycling Program (which cut trash in half, and prompted the City to implement the program in 30 additional schools this fall); a Salad Bar, a School Garden Program, an Annual BLS Teach-In on Sustainability; an Energy Audit; and the Shared Green Roof Project (which has engaged students and partners across the City and been presented to the Mayor.)


The success of BLS YouthCAN’s grassroots youth- led movement has received media attention and numerous awards.  BLS YouthCAN students have been covered in the Boston Globe, on local radio and TV, including the nightly news, and were featured on the Today Show.  YouthCAN received the President’s Youth Environmental Award, an EPA Merit Award, the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education, the National Energy Education Development Youth Award for Massachusetts (twice).  YouthCAN won The Green Award, a Student Conservation Association Award, The National Wildlife Federation’s ChillOut Competition, Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2011/2012 Lexus Eco Challenge. BLS was the first public school in the country to receive Eco-School’s USA’s Green Flag Award in 2011, and was one of three schools to receive Samsung’s Sustainable Energy Award. BLS YouthCAN received special recognition from the Boston Chapter of the International Facilities Management Awards in 2010, and was invited to present about the Shared Green Roof project at the School Building expo in Chicago in 2010, and at Les Respirations in Enghien Les Bains, France, in October 2012. 

Impact in the Region & Beyond

These and many other initiatives have positioned Boston Latin School as a leader in our community with regard to sustainability initiatives. We have come to be viewed as one of the top green schools in Massachusetts, earning the title of “best green school” by Boston Magazine in 2010.  In 2012 we were one of three schools nationally to receive the Samsung Sustainable Energy Award for 10K.

Boston Latin School is quickly becoming the go-to example for how schools can become greener in all sorts of ways.   From making our basic facilities more energy efficient, to ensuring that our academic programs and classroom curriculum incorporate educating for sustainability, our successful youth leadership and community outreach on sustainability issues has established us a well-known and respected leader at the forefront of the green schools movement.

YouthCAN has been sought out by and met with visiting groups from Mongolia, Iceland, and Japan who wanted to learn more about YouthCAN’s work. YouthCAN has been invited to present at the Chicago School Building Expo, the Massachusetts Sustainable Communities Conference, the Massachusetts Environmental Educators Society Conference, a Primary Source Teacher Workshop, the West Roxbury Forum, the National School Board Association Conference, numerous area elementary and secondary schools, as well as at a sustainability conference in France (Les Respirations) in October 2011, that provided an all expense paid trip for 9 people, including 4 students, so that students could present about their youth-leadership model and successful partnerships with City officials.BLS YouthCAN has been consulted about its work by groups from California, Ohio, Chicago, and by groups from all across Massachusetts. BLS YouthCAN’s Shared Green Roof proposal with education for sustainability programming is well on its way to providing a regional and national model for what educating for sustainability should look like in our nation’s public schools.

Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network

Education for Sustainability Letter to Faculty:

The Education For Sustainability (EfS) Curriculum Pilot – Letter to the Faculty

With regard to EfS curriculum development, Youth CAN is proud to have more than 15 BLS Faculty participating in the Summer Institute on Sustainability for educators. 

1.  Professional Development:  It would be very helpful if some of the BLS teachers who are attending could at some point help Youth CAN offer a brief professional development session for faculty about educating for sustainability so that the rest of the BLS faculty has a sense of what the aims of the EfS campaign are and how they might participate in the effort.  Youth CAN's plan is to pilot the EfS curriculum developed at the Institute at BLS in the 2010/2011school year and document the results as a basis for illustrating the EfS Curriculum Pilot's success, and for purposes of promoting the pilot at other schools. 

2.  Developing Curriculum:  Faculty not attending the summer institute could still participate and help by thinking about how to incorporate a sustainability focus into lessons that you already teach.  That's the aim: to take core, required curriculum in all grades and disciplines and tweak those existing lessons so that they make explicit the connections that the lesson implicitly has to the overarching themes of sustainability (themes such as interdependence, interconnectedness, equity, cycles, etc.).  The idea is that these lessons will help students begin to cultivate the systems thinking necessary for living more sustainably and participating in solving the problems society is facing.  It will hopefully also generate lessons that are readily exportable to any teacher who teaches the subject and grade level that the lesson was designed for.    

3. Volunteers to Pilot Curriculum:  Youth CAN is likely to have extra lessons available (that will be developed at the summer institute by non-BLS teachers).  Youth CAN students are seeking BLS faculty who might be willing to implement a lesson developed for their particular subject and grade level that was created by one of the Institute participants.  The purpose is to get the benefit of having the broadest possible array of the curricular materials piloted. 

4.  Survey:  Youth CAN will be doing a pre-pilot survey in the fall to help establish a basis for comparison and evaluation post implementation of the curriculum.  If any of you are willing to commit to testing out a lesson for your subject and grade level that someone else has developed, or are willing to adjust one of your existing lessons so that it can be included in the Education for Sustainability curriculum pilot, just shoot me an email.  We'd like it to be a robust pilot that offers lots of points of intersection for teachers at other schools.  Let me know if you have any questions.

5. Documenting Everything: Scott Balicki's students actually put together an impressive collection of sustainability lessons for a project in his class that Youth CAN students showcased at the Summer Institute. If others have instances where you are incorporating ideas of sustainability into your core curriculum, Youth CAN would like to document them as part of the pilot.  Please let us know what you are doing that may be relevant.

Youth CAN’s Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign (MEfSC)

Our Goal & Commitment:  Educating for Sustainability

BLS Youth CAN, the group at Boston Latin School that founded the Youth CAN member group network (now with 16 member groups), has been committed to community outreach and education since its formation in January of 2007.  Within four months time Youth CAN was hosting its first annual Global Climate Change Summit at MIT for youth and educators grades 7-12 (in partnership with the Technology and Culture Forum at MIT).  By the second summit (May 2008) BLS Youth CAN had launched what was initially called the Massachusetts Climate Literacy Campaign aimed at promoting climate change education at the secondary level state wide, and forming a coalition of youth, educators and friends to develop climate literacy benchmarks and strategy for the campaign. 

Over the course of organizing several National Teach-Ins on climate change solutions at Boston Latin School, it became clearer and clearer to Youth CAN students that what they really wanted to promote was more than climate change curriculum and climate literacy, and more even than just environmental literacy.  Youth CAN students realized that climate change was only a part of what they needed and wanted to learn about in school.  Nor was an environmental class or unit really enough.  What Youth CAN students were really seeking was a shift on a very broad scale in which educators in all classes would begin to teach their particular content in ways that would address and promote sustainability.  Students began to regard the big ideas of sustainability as the perfect overarching theme for organizing course content whether it be math, economics, foreign policy, government, history, etc., Youth CAN students came to understand that they need in a wide range of classes across disciplines and grade levels 

classes where educators will incorporate the big ideas of sustainability into their existing curriculum.  Only in this way will students be best able to make sense of their learning in new ways--ways that will help them think in the broadest possible ways, in terms of sustainability.  Thus Youth CAN students changed the name of their educational initiative from the “Massachusetts Climate Literacy Campaign” to the “Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign.”

The Youth Climate Action Network is committed to promoting educational goals that will contribute to the transition to a sustainable society by equipping students with the necessary information, skill sets, and understandings, and habits of mind that will prepare them to live responsibly and within the means of nature.   Youth CAN’s educational goals and thinking have been informed by leaders in the field of education for sustainability including Shelburne Farms Sustainable Schools Project @; the Cloud Institute at; as well as the Massachusetts Environmental Action Plan; the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development National Education for Sustainability K-12 Student Learning Standards Version 3 – October 2009; the Education for Sustainable Development in the United States of America report submitted to the International Alliance of Leading Education Institutes released 19 August, 2009; and the No Child Left Inside Act.

To view relevant documents, access downloads page here:

The Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign Strategic Plan: 

1. Create a specific MEfSC Curriculum Pilot that will make available interdisciplinary (math, science, social studies, language arts, economics, etc.) sustainability curriculum for grades 7-12 (pilot development at Summer Institute on EfS for Educators 2010)

2.Align proposed curriculum with existing state frameworks and standards for the given subject

4.   Establish Education for SustainabilityBenchmarks that will indicate what a student who is educated for sustainability and about climate change should know and be able to do

5.   Make sure that the curriculum proposed promotes learning towards established benchmarks

6.  Pilot the MEfSC Proposal at Boston Latin School 2010/2011

7.   Promote piloting the proposal district-wide

8.   Collaborate with a coalition of stake holders, eg:  parents, educators, administrators, government officials - Secretary of Energy and Environment's Educational Advisory Board, Boston City Councillors, service professionals etc., as well as multiple groups in the Youth CAN membership (16 groups at present) to develop and promote the proposal

9.  Organize public hearings to promote the proposal as a state-wide requirement

Using the Proposed Sustainable Roofscape Learning Lab to Support the Education for Sustainability Campaign

In support of the Education for Sustainability Campaigh Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network has initiated a project to green the oldest school in the country and share it with other schools state-wide.  Youth CAN students have developed a comprehensive plan that weaves together their energy model and action plan, the Education for Sustainability Campaign (EfS), and a proposed green roof.  Each component, because it will be shared on the Youth CAN website and promoted via a student network, supports the ambitious education and sustainability goals set by students with energy reductions, student activism, and the creation of a sustainability curriculum pilot paired with outdoor learning space on an urban rooftop with the long-term goal of engaging students and educators in learning that will instill a sense of stewardship for our shared planet and cultivate important understandings about sustainability. The Sustainable Roofscape Learning Lab, designed by Youth CAN students in partnership with Studio G Architects, proposes varieties of vegetation, green technologies, a green house, and outdoor classrooms in a “Whitman’s sampler” of green roof features allowing students to collect and consider comparative data as a means of engaging with the big ideas of sustainability. This student-led effort is one result of an energy audit and action plan BLS Youth CAN students initiated.  The project proposes sweeping changes to the schools’ physical plant and has engaged numerous partners, including schools and community youth organizations to help develop and implement programs aimed at ensuring that the roofscape learning lab, curricular materials, data sets, and green changes from the audit will benefit classrooms across Massachusetts.

Engaging the Community

With 200+ members, BLS Youth CAN engages the entire school community in annual initiatives like the National Teach-In on Climate Solutions and our Youth Summit at MIT.  The Greening BLS project engages broad numbers of students, faculty and administrators (70 volunteered at the green roof block party, currently more than 25 BLS faculty are planning to develop curriculum for our sustainability pilot).  Youth CAN partners with school and community organizations like Dorchester Bay Youth Force, Codman Academy, and Latin Academy to develop models for other schools to use the EFS curriculum and facilities. Youth CAN also founded the Fenway Green Roof Student Coalition, reaching out to twelve surrounding colleges and high schools aimed at bringing green roofs to each of our institutions, establishing the first green roof enclave in Boston. Youth CAN students are also seeking to partner with the Food Project to create summer programming for Boston youth using the roofscape.

Why Youth CAN Is Leading the Call for Education for Sustainability

The Youth Climate Action Network understands that the vision of the future held by young people contributes significantly to the future society that we enact.  That’s why it matters so much what young people imagine for the world, and why Youth CAN is insisting that today’s youth become educated about climate change and sustainability.

Global climate change is a problem that will impact humans in every way imaginable, changing our way of life at the most fundamental levels, bringing dramatic shifts in the availability of natural resources, economic stability, public health, as well as shifts in technology and the job market.  It seems obvious why students would want to be educated about such a critical issue.  Today’s and tomorrow’s students are the ones whose immediate future will be most impacted by the challenges and opportunities arising from global climate change.

As an extra-curricular club with a mission to take action to address global climate change, Youth CAN is working in the right direction, but student initiatives alone will not be sufficient to teach comprehensively about the issue and reach the numbers of students who need to be educated.  Therefore, at the 2008 Annual Global Climate Change Summit, Youth CAN students initiated the formation of a coalition of like-minded students, educators, administrators, parents, and friends committed to working together to ensure that students in Massachusetts learn about sustainability and global warming as a required part of their secondary school education.

Promoting Systems Thinking

Youth CAN believes that in order to adequately meet the challenges of global climate change and to have the understandings necessary to envision a shared future on a planet with natural limits, students will need to be thoroughly educated for sustainability. Part of what that means is that students will need to learn about and understand the interconnections between many of today’s social, economic, and ecological ills, and be able to identify the ways in which such problems have stemmed from ideological models and assumptions that are antiquated, incomplete and misguided, and then shift in favor of new thinking and practices that are more sustainable.  

The Big Ideas of Sustainability

Ability to make a difference: everyone has the ability to affect change or impact a system, community, self.

Change over time: all organisms/places/systems are constantly changing.

Community: all communities involve nested economic, environmental, and social systems. We need to understand the interconnections to come up with sustainable solutions.

Cycles: every organism/system goes through different stages.

Diversity: systems/places function because of variety.

Equilibrium: a state of balance.

Equity/Fairness: resources need to be shared to meet the needs of living things across places and generations.

Interdependence: all living things are connected. Every organism/system/place depends on others.

Limits: every system has a carrying capacity.

Long-term effects: we can project that actions will

have effects beyond immediate reactions.

Place: natural and human communities together make up one’s place. Every place has its own needs and limits.

Preparing Future Leaders

Already much of the professional sector has embarked on the move towards sustainability, most notably business, architecture and design, urban and rural planning, agriculture, local and state governments, non-governmental organizations and higher education.  Yet despite these trends, young people in our country are still required to spend the bulk of their formative years being "schooled” by institutions that have not yet incorporated these ideals. 

As a result, current K-12 education is having a profoundly shortsighted impact on our society's present and future prospects.  As David Orr says, “sustainability is about [nothing less than] the terms and conditions of human survival, and yet we still educate at all levels as if no such crisis existed."  It is for these reasons that Youth CAN is committed to promoting education for sustainability.  

"A sustainable society is one that is far-seeing enough, flexible enough, and wise enough not to undermine either its physical or its social systems of support."

Donella H. Meadows, et al., The Sustainability Institute, "Beyond the Limits"

What Is Education for Sustainability & Why It Is Important:

Education for Sustainability entails education across grades/subjects/disciplines that promotes student learning connected by and grounded in the big ideas of sustainability (community, interdependence, cycles, systems, change over time, diversity, equity).  Sustainability then, instead of being just one more topic that educators have to squeeze into an already full curriculum, becomes the integrating theme (the overarching concept or idea) that has the potential to connect all topics, concepts, skills, experiences that students are exposed to. 

Education understood in this way uses sustainability as the focusing idea or goal according to which curriculum is organized, such that the overall goal of teaching is to better enable students to think sustainably (to understand how the content they are learning relates in some way to community, interdependence, cycles, systems, change over time, diversity, and equity.)

By understanding the substance of their studies as connected by these big ideas, students will be better equipped to act intelligently within existing systems because they better understand how such systems work.  Such students will be prepared to become the designers of sustainable systems because they will have been prepared to think sustainably at a fundamental level.  Such students will literally be educated for sustainability. 

Current Standards Already Call for Teaching the Big Ideas of Sustainability

The current trend of implementing standards-based education has shaped the effort to implement education for sustainability in the USA, and while only one state has adopted the explicit goal of fostering an understanding of sustainability amongst its students (see Vermont sustainability standards below), many existing content-area and performance standards already support the skills and understandings necessary for sustainability.  For example, social studies, geography, and science standards all mandate that students understand the interconnections between people, place, the planet, and technology; social studies standards also dictate the ability to view issues from multiple perspectives.

Furthermore, education for sustainability should be grounded in the pedagogical traditions of progressive, experiential education, and promote teaching strategies that are ideally place-based, project based, and service learning oriented.  Education for sustainability should promote inquiry that combines the best of what we know about teaching and learning, with the content, core competencies and habits of mind that are necessary in order to move toward a sustainable future.

Habits of mind that students educated for sustainability should demonstrate:

­Understanding of Systems as the Context for Decision Making

The extent to which one sees both the whole system and its parts as well as the extent to which an individual can place one's self within the system

­Intergenerational Responsibility

The extent to which one takes responsibility for the effect (s) of her/his actions on future generations

­Mindful of and Skillful with Implications and Consequences

The extent to which one consciously makes choices and plans actions to achieve positive systemic impact

­Protecting and Enhancing the Commons

The extent to which one works to reconcile the conflicts between individual rights and the responsibilities of citizenship to tend to the commons

­Awareness of Driving Forces and their Impacts

The extent to which one recognizes and can act strategically and responsibly in the context of the driving forces that influence our lives

­Assumption of Strategic Responsibility

The extent to which one assumes responsibility for one's self and others by designing, planning and acting with whole systems in mind

­Paradigm Shifter

The extent to which one recognizes mental models and paradigms as guiding constructs that change over time with new knowledge and applied insight

Core Content Education for Sustainability Should Address:

­Ecological Literacy

Science principles and natural laws that help us to understand the interconnectedness of humans and all of the Earth's systems...

­System Dynamics/"Systems Thinking"

Understanding systems as the context for decision-making...

­Multiple Perspectives

Truly valuing and learning from the life experiences and cultures of others...

­Sense of Place

Connecting to and valuing the places in which we live…

­Sustainable Economics

An evolving study of the connections between economic, social and natural systems...

­Citizenship (Participation and Leadership)

The rights, responsibilities, & actions associated with participatory democracy toward sustainable communities...

­Creativity and Visioning

The ability to envision and invent a rich, hopeful future...

MEfSC BACKGROUND:  Developing Goals, Working as A Coalition

The Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign, or MEfSC, brings together a broad range of interest groups in an effort to promote climate literacy and sustainability education in schools in Massachusetts, with a goal of requiring that such teaching become thoroughly integrated into the curriculum across disciplines and required by state standards.

Our Plan – Steps and Stages

On November 16th 2008 the MEfSC coalition met at MIT (in conjunction with the Annual MCAN Conference to begin discussing the specific steps that the sustainability and climate literacy campaign needed to take.  The meeting identified tasks including gathering and evaluating climate change curriculum; identifying existing state standards that pertain to climate change and sustainability, and proposing meaningful additions to the standards where necessary; establishing a list supporters for the sustainability campaign; creating and assigning specific tasks to those willing to help; piloting our proposal; and developing a strategic plan for presenting our requested sustainability standards and curriculum to administrators and legislators at a public hearing.

Recognition at the State Level

The Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign has already received favorable attention from state officials.  On December 10, 2008, Youth CAN students were invited by the Secretary of Energy and Environment for the state of Massachusetts to present to the Secretary’s Educational Advisory Board about the Youth CAN network and our Massachusetts Education for Sustainability and Climate Literacy Campaign.  Five Youth CAN students, representing 3 Youth CAN groups, Representatives from 3 Youth CAN Groups present about the MCLC to the Secretary of Energy & Environments' Educational Advisory Board 12/10/08

presented about the MESCLC, including students from Wayland H.S., Boston Latin Academy Youth CAN, and Boston Latin School Youth CAN.

Sustainability Benchmarks & Piloting a Proposal

On Saturday January 24th 2009 the MEfSC coalition met to begin establishing sustainability and climate literacy benchmarks as well as drafting plans for aligning climate change curriculum with state standards. The group committed to work towards piloting sustainability and climate change teaching at Boston Latin School (with the headmaster’s approval) and to pursue a long-term goal of piloting in the district.  Youth CAN has already spoken with BPS superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson about this possibility.

Putting it into Action

On February 5th 2009 BLS Youth CAN participated in the second annual National Teach-In on Global Climate Change Solutions.  Faculty at BLS were asked to teach about climate change and sustainability.  Several members of the faculty, as well as the headmaster were filmed and interviewed for inclusion in a short promotional video introducing the Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign and illustrating the ease with which climate and sustainability lessons can be incorporated within existing curriculum and aligned to existing state standards across disciplines. 

Ongoing Outreach

On March 4th 2009, Youth CAN students were invited to present about the MEfSC to the Massachusetts Environmental Educator’s Society conference at Holy Cross College in Worcester.  On April 3rd 2009 Youth CAN presented to 100 educators for Mass Audubon Society about the MEfSC.

Student Generated Public Service Announcements

Youth CAN groups have been encouraged to film short public service announcements about the campaign (30 – 60 seconds only) helping to promote the MEfSC (Details are on the PSA page of the Youth CAN website at 5 PSAs have been made.  The Foresight Project featured BLS Youth CAN PSAs at a Boston Green Fest Film Screening in August 2009.

Filming a Student-Made Documentary about the MEfSC

BLS Youth CAN students created a documentary about the Massachusetts Education for Sustainability and Climate Literacy Campaign. BLS Youth CAN students created a documentary about the Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign, view it on our YouTube channel here

Creating an Interdisciplinary Education for Sustainability Curriculum Development Team at BLS

Youth CAN presented to the School Site Council in the fall of 2009 about the MEfSC and asked that the school adopt and promote our goals of educating for sustainability and developing curriculum that educates for sustainability and teaches about climate change and global warming.   Towards that end, students called for an interdisciplinary team of faculty who would be charged by the School Site Council with developing curriculum that the school will pilot. 

Piloting Climate Education at BLS With the National Wildlife Federation and NASA The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has invited BLS Youth CAN to join a pilot climate education effort.  The NWF is the recipient of a NASA Global Climate Change Education (GCCE) grant.  These GCCE grants are to facilitate and increase educator professional development and student learning, understanding, and literacy about climate change utilizing NASA mission data and resources.  NWF proposes to coordinate the efforts of multiple, related NASA programs all focused on helping students engage with scientific data relevant to climate change including GLOBE, Science on a Sphere / Uniview / GeoDome, POWER, My NASA Data and NASA education/curriculum programs with data sets from IceSat, Aqua, Terra, Aura, LandSat.  By utilizing NWF’s Eco-School USA program, pilot schools and K-12 schools across the country and the globe will have access to these important programs and data to better understand the issue of climate change.  The project will expose students to the multiple threads of evidence that are used to understand natural systems on Earth and how they might be changing as a result of changes in our climate.

Preparing Educators to Educate for Sustainability:  Educator Training

The Massachusetts Sustainability Campaign is committed to helping prepare teachers to understand sustainability and see its relevance and importance to what they teach and to their educational mission; we need to connect students to real-world efforts to bring about sustainability through curriculum and instruction; and we need to fund the effort and the research needed to educate for sustainability broadly and well.

The 2010 Summer Institute on Education for Sustainability for Educators

Youth CAN partnered with Sarah Mills, a local coordinator for the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation to provide educator training in the summer of 2010.  Led by the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation, the Summer Institute for Sustainability Education for Middle and High School Teachers will take place July 19 – 23, 2010 at Simmons College (parking at Boston Latin School).  Join other Massachusetts educators for 5 days of professional growth, thought-provoking discussion and expert-led curriculum development in Education for Sustainability (EfS).  Learn how to provide students with the knowledge and approaches they need to contribute to sustainable development and a future that is environmentally healthy, economically sound and socially just.

Discover how sustainability can provide an integrating context for content and standards already being taught, while raising student engagement and performance.

Understand product life cycle analysis, the concept of the commons and governance and how related “big ideas” can be used as teaching tools

Learn how to apply systems thinking to curriculum by understanding its relevance to instruction

Be part of the team developing the new Massachusetts EfS Curriculum to be piloted in 2010 – 2011

Expert-led break-out sessions on subjects such as the emerging green economy;  population; renewable energy and using the school building and grounds as a learning tool.

3 Days Guided Curriculum work.  Redesign a curriculum unit independently or in grade-level groups with sustainability education as an underlying theme.  Institute faculty provides guidance and feedback as well as lesson plans and curricular materials for out-of-the-box use

Download the flyer here

Join Youth CAN in promoting the Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign

Students, educators, parents, administrators, and public officials have already begun meeting to work on creating a climate literacy proposal that draws on excellent interdisciplinary climate change curriculum, aligns it with state standards and meaningful climate literacy benchmarks.  We’re also working on steps to pilot the proposal.  If you’d like to join this effort, or receive updates about this important initiative, please email your information to

Film A PSA!

Help the Youth Climate Action Network promote the Education for Sustainability Campaign by filming a Public Service Announcement (PSA) about why schools should educate for sustainability, what that means to you, and why students need to learn this way.

PSAs are like commercials.  They should be no longer than 30 seconds to 1 minute. At the end of each PSA you create, make sure to use the Youth CAN logo (download the logo on the PSA page) and end your commercials with the tag line “For more information about the Massachusetts Education for Sustainability Campaign go to www.”  Your PSA may be funny, creative, informative, or all three, just make sure you make the point about the need for climate change education in our schools.

Send your PSA to us and we’ll put it on our website! To get ideas for your PSA, check out the PSAs already posted on the website.  Download the PSA flyer and circulate it.  Go to the PSA page to learn more by clicking here:  Youth CAN PSA

Find Climate & Sustainability Curriculum

Youth CAN is committed to making climate change curriculum available.  We’ve created a list of links to sites with climate change curriculum on our For Educators page.   You can take a look at what we’ve got there by clicking on this link:  For Educators

If you’d like to share curriculum or links that we should include on the page, please let us know about it by emailing

For more relative documents, visit our downloads page.

Watch our Student Made Video on
Educating for Sustainability
Watch our Student Made Video on
The 2010 Summit
Youth Climate Action Network Site
Education for Sustainability Campaign PSA
The Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network’s 
Education For Sustainability Program & Shared Green Roof ProposalEducation_for_Sustainability_Campaign_files/BLS%20YC%20Education%20Program%20DescriptionLast.doc
Our Educational VisionEducation_for_Sustainability_Campaign_files/BLS%20YC%20Education%20Program%20DescriptionLast_1.doc