Last spring, I received a call from Martha Foote, Head of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Martha has studied the Reggio Approach, has visited the schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy and is an early childhood advocate. We met when she visited schools in St. Louis for several conferences. Martha asked if I would consider coming to Texas A&M University-Commerce as a Visiting Scholar to work with her faculty in August... this time, not focused on the inspiration from Reggio Emilia, but on Sustainability and Sustainability Education. Texas A&M University-Commerce is working on STEM initiatives as well as Global Education and Martha felt that my visit would address both of these efforts and coincide with the first day back in school for the faculty. She warned me that it would be really hot in August in Texas! I was honored to accept and looked forward to going.
My day with the faculty of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction on August 19, 2013, was wonderful in all ways. Having worked closely with the Cloud Institute, The Center for Ecoliteracy, The Sustainable Schools Project and most recently, Matt Dubel, Director of the Fields Pond Audubon Center in Maine, I had lots of options and resources to choose from. As it turned out, Martha and her colleague, Carole Walker, and I co-planned the day. It included thinking together about the challenges and opportunities students today are likely to face in their lifetimes and the skills and dispositions that they will need to meet these challenges and seize these opportunities. The day included looking at exemplary student work that I carried with me, inspired always by our friend and colleague, Ron Berger to take work that people can touch and feel. We also heard strong and articulate student voices, from The College School where I taught for many years, and from California from the STRAW project where students and teachers have restored 20 miles of a watershed in Marin County.
The faculty concluded the day reflecting on their strengths as a department in all these areas and also areas for growth. They wanted to plan future meetings such as the one we shared, where they could think together about integrating sustainability across their campus and community. They wanted to recognize the power that they have to influence the school districts that they work with in positive and proactive ways. They were eager to create plans and act on them. One of the most exciting ideas came from Chip Fox, Assistant Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Agriculture...to initiate a certification program for Sustainability Education.
I am so impressed with the openness, energy and commitment of this faculty. Now, I think we should all keep an eye on Texas A&M University-Commerce for new initiatives in Sustainability Education. We need more leaders in this field and they are ready.