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Children have an innate inclination towards empathy. We allow children to develop a relationship with nature before we impart responsibility for it. Children are given the opportunity to develop biophilia: a love for all living things. We provide personal experiences in the early years to nurture relationships with animals, plants, and living systems.
We teach children to care for themselves, others, and the Commons. The Commons are resources that belong to the whole community such as the air, water and land. The Commons at our school are our learning materials, art supplies, furniture, plants, food, energy and water. Children learn responsibility for them by performing tasks such as taking care of plants, sorting materials, recycling, and composting.
“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.” –The Cloud Institute for Sustainability
What is the approach to sustainability curriculum at Compass?
Compass cares for the learner as an individual and takes into consideration a child’s developmental, social, and emotional needs. The curriculum for the Sustainability Studio is designed to inspire children to work with their hands, hearts, and minds. Students are encouraged to be divergent thinkers that engage in cooperative and inquiry-based science and social studies projects . The units of study are place-based, arts integrated, and developmentally appropriate. The curriculum is aligned with national and state standards including the Education for Sustainability (EfS) Standards, Common Core State Standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards.
In grades K-2, students will immerse themselves in the natural world and begin scientific inquiry through play, exploration, and hands-on activities. In grades 3-5, students will participate in civic engagement by researching natural and built environments, and designing and implementing service projects within their own community.
All students will foster a wonder and appreciation for the beauty and diversity in nature, themselves, and others.
What does a day in the Sustainability Studio look like?
Students meet in the Sustainability Studio at least twice a week and engage in on-going units that are nested within the larger Integrated Sustainability units. Students meet at the circle for a thematic discussion, poetry reading, puppet show, song, or dance. An experiential, hands-on project integrating science, art, and nature is incorporated into each lesson. Students are also given choice time to learn and explore independently through play. Centers are placed around the room such as recycled art, fairy home building, water and sand tables, research stations, and gardening. We also explore outside in the neighborhood as much as possible. We have many green spaces to visit such as Fort Greene Park, Cuyler Gore Park, Prospect Park, and the Carlton Bears Community Garden. Students spend time observing living things that inhabit the schoolyard and surrounding neighborhood. As our school grows we will have on-site green spaces to develop and integrate into our curriculum. In the later years, students will be actively involved in social justice, ecological economics, community service, and cooperative learning projects.
How does the work in the Sustainability Studio impact the broader culture and curriculum of the school?
Compass is built from the ground up using an ‘all hands-on deck’ approach. Together we work to create a culture of love for learning. We model empathy, cooperation, and celebration of our diversity. We care for all people through an inclusive learning environment and emphasize the value in community. It is a culture that will contribute to the vision and building of a sustainable future.
Sustainability is woven throughout the entire curriculum at Compass Charter School. In addition to Studio Time, classes work on their Integrated Sustainability Units during Project Time at least three times a week. Teachers and staff meet every week to plan the Integrated Sustainability lessons.
Sustainable practices are implemented throughout the school such as vermiculture, composting, and recycling. Our community members help to provide healthy snacks, cleaning products, and water bottles for our students. The classrooms at Compass offer natural environments that contain wood furniture, plants, and signs made by the students and teachers.
Students transfer what they learn in the studio throughout their day at school and at home. Families donate recycled materials for arts and crafts projects. Students recycle and reuse materials by transforming them into new objects. On our blacktop playground, students collect items from nature and build villages under the trees. Everyday a student comes into school with a new object from nature that they must share or a piece of writing about the Earth. A love for nature permeates through the work and play of each day.
“Give children a chance to love the earth before we ask them to save it.” –David Sobel
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