Chair of the Sustainability Studies Department
This year was the first year that the new sustainability academic requirements were implemented. These new requirements consist of infusing sustainability into one course that is taught at each grade level, in addition to continuing the regular sustainability course offerings. The courses that were chosen for sustainability designation at each grade level are the following:Biology for 9th grade, World History II: Revolutions and Globalization at the 10th grade level, American Literature for 11th grade, and a sustainability elective for 12th. While I realize that not all students take these courses at the designated grade level, these courses will most likely be taken by WMS students at some point in their career here.The idea behind the new requirement is that during each year at WMS, students are exposed to sustainability through at least one course so that they cannot wait until their senior year to be introduced to the tenets to which the school ascribes. Each course designated as a sustainability elective or one that has sustainability infused into it must have at least two assignments each semester that are sustainability-focused. The White Mountain School (WMS) website and all printed material were updated with these changes.
In order to prepare faculty for these new requirements, I gave a seminar to all teachers explaining how sustainability can be viewed through the lens of the economy, environment, or social equity. Using the Shelburne Farms Sustainable Schools Project materials, I explained the twelve big ideas of sustainability which range from community to place and long-term effects. Using these twelve big ideas, teachers were able to use guiding questions to see if and how sustainability can be incorporated into their curricula. I also gave teachers a curricular example of sustainability in each major discipline.
In order to ensure that courses had the requisite component of sustainability, I met with all teachers of sustainability-related courses at the start of the year to discuss their plans for incorporation of sustainability in the class. Then, I enjoyed observing at least one class from each of the teachers involved. It was exciting to see how concepts like species extinction are taught in biology, while the ethical and economic dimensions are discussed in the sustainability elective Writing and the Environment through an analysis of an essay on the extinction of giant pandas in China. In Climate and Energy, students learn the scientific underpinnings of how greenhouse gases cause the global temperatures to increase while in Religion and the Environment, they research faith-based organizations that are tackling the issue of climate change through the 350.org website.The interdisciplinary nature of the environmental problems we face makes this type of multi-faceted analysis particularly important and prepares WMS students to understand and tackle complex and layered global challenges.
Also, the school’s National Honors Society members participated in the Littleton Cleanup day where students picked up trash along the side of a stretch of road.Other community service projects throughout the year involved trail maintenance, river cleanups, and gardening at the Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network, the Rocks Estate, Bretzfelder Park, the Burch House, and the Colonial Theater. Students also served those unable to provide meals for themselves at the Good Neighbor Food Pantry and the Dinner Bell through the All Saints Episcopal Church in Littleton.
This year the school had a strong group of sustainability-related field courses in the fall and spring that deserve mention. The field courses that related to sustainability included the following:
- Green Living in the Urban World: Sustainability and Service in Montreal
- Community Service in the Dominican Republic
- Helping Others: Community Service in New England
- Winter Photography in The White Mountains
- Desert Ecology and Rock Climbing in Arizona
- Poverty, Homelessness, and Hunger: Meeting People’s Basic Needs
- A Walk in Thoreau’s Shoes
- Farm to Plate: Local Food
- Hydropower and Recreation: Explorations in Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking
- A Watershed Study of the Connecticut River: Canoeing the CT Paddler’s Trail
This year, I assisted Karen Foss, the Director of Finance and Operations, and Tim Breen, Head of School, with the process of soliciting bids for a large solar array and a geothermal heat pump system for the new Houghton Arts Center. This process is complex due to the exciting number of rebates and tax credits available for these systems. However, as a non-profit, WMS is not eligible for all of these tax credits, and the rebates are not always easy to take advantage of either. Also, I evaluated a grant opportunity for the geothermal heat pump.