Integrating Sustainability Into Teacher Education: Examples from San Jose State University
UMC Aspen Rooms
Today's students face multiple, accelerating, and intertwined "Grand Challenges" to sustainability including climate destabilization, resource depletion, and biodiversity loss, underscoring the need for education at all levels to address complex and growing environmental, social, and economic problems. Although progress is being made, sustainability-related instruction is sparsely represented in K-12 schools, in part because it had no place in science education standards issued nearly two decades ago. The recently-released Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) address sustainability through incorporation of "Earth and Human Activity" as a core idea and attention to previously neglected topics such as climate change and interactions among natural and human-designed systems. To translate the NGSS successfully to classroom practice, educators need support for mastery of new content areas related to sustainability and for toppling traditional disciplinary silos. Teachers also need tangible examples of how to shift instruction from isolated lessons and fragmented factual information to integrated learning sequences - coherent, sequenced investigations of significant, real-world questions and issues.
In response, the Bay Area Environmental STEM Institute (BAESI) is collaborating with the Green Ninja Project (http://greenninja.org/) and Creative Change Education Solutions (www.creativechange.net/) to support educators in implementing the NGSS using sustainability as a timely and engaging context. With funding from NASA and the Clarence E. Heller Foundation we are pursuing several multilevel strategies: 1) summer and Saturday professional development workshops for in-service teachers; 2) self-paced online modules addressing climate change, ecosystem services, and human impacts on the Earth system; 3) "Science, Society and Sustainability" courses for a) pre-service elementary teachers and b) practicing teachers enrolled in SJSU's MA in Science Education program; and 4) development of a multi-day NGSS-aligned "Solutions-Based Science" unit for grades 6-8 which focuses on the science of climate change and various strategies and opportunities to mitigate its impacts.