Last week, 40 teachers and community partners from across Philadelphia gathered for a three-day professional development focused on climate change. Not only did the training teach about the science and impacts of climate change, but it also provided insight into direct action teachers can take within their school communities. Teachers collaborated with one another and gained practical skills to bring into the classroom. A diverse partnership among the School District of Philadelphia’s Green Futures, The Franklin Institute, National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools, Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants, Arizona State University, and Fairmount Water Works worked collaboratively to bring this professional development to life.
Day one began at the Franklin Institute with an introduction to the School District's GreenFutures plan and its Education for Sustainability (EfS) platform from Megan Garner, Sustainability Manager for the School District of Philadelphia. Next, Rachel Valleta of the Franklin Institute provided a technical explanation of the science and impacts of climate change, as well as the local impacts seen in Philadelphia. Molly Cashion of Arizona State University then introduced different ways of modeling sustainability, and asked participants to think about what sustainability means to them. The day ended with an explanation of National Wildlife Federation's Eco-Schools program from Holly Gallagher and how Philadelphia teachers can get involved.
Day two continued at the Franklin Institute with a teacher panel on how EfS standards are currently being implemented in diverse ways, from aquaponics systems, to high school math, to classroom climate. Then, Mary Ann Boyer of Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants expanded upon the Eco-Schools framework, and provided practical advice for teachers starting the program in the schools. After some exploring of the Franklin Institute's Changing Earth exhibit, Rachel Castro-Diephouse discussed how to effectively communicate topics related to climate change, particularly with students. Teachers then had the opportunity to learn more information about the resources available to them throughout the school year, through a Resource Fair.
Day three moved to the Fairmount Water Works (FWW), where participants received a short history of the Philadelphia Water System from Ellen Schultz. They then learned about the FWW curriculum that was developed using the EfS Standards. After getting an overview of the curriculum, participants broke up into teams, and worked on one of the potential projects that students could partake in. The remainder of the day focused on teachers and partners creating their own action plans, one of the steps of the Eco-Schools framework. Teams discussed reducing waste by promoting reusable utensils in the lunchroom, conducting a waste audit of paper products used in the restrooms, and identifying macro pollutants in nearby waterways.
Over the three day professional development, both teachers and community partners gained a better understanding of Education for Sustainability and the Eco-Schools framework as well as climate science and impacts. Not only that, but participants also learned actionable steps to take in their classrooms and within their school communities to further the efforts discussed. At the end of the training, participants were asked what steps they would take next. Responses ranged from creating a Green Team at their school and completing a waste audit to talking with principals and other teachers about what they learned. When asked what they enjoyed most about the professional development, teachers’ responses included, “The active engagement pieces that allowed me to collaborate with other educators” and “Learning about what resources are available to support sustainable efforts in schools.” In the end, teachers not only received valuable information and resources from the professional development, but also started a network of support that can better assist them to achieve their goals.
Written by Chesa Ramacciotti, PHENND Fellow VISTA, GreenFutures, The School District of Philadelphia