By

Erik Ketcherside

Educators are in a unique position to be able to shape future leaders, not only in familiar academic disciplines, but in areas that can affect cultural awareness and public policy. Recognizing this resource, ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability created the Sustainability Teachers’ Academy.

The academy provides tools and strategy to equip educators to incorporate knowledge of sustainability issues into lesson planning and campus projects. Curricula were designed through a partnership of sustainability researchers and expert educators, with lesson plans that include “Choosing Sustainability,” “Measuring Your Eco Footprint,” “Zero Food Waste Challenge” and “Teaching Sustainability with Flash Fiction.”

Any educator can access free online resources through the academy website, which also provides information about continuing education units through ASU Online. Educators who wish to go further with their sustainability curriculum can take advantage of two advanced professional development opportunities: the Wells Fargo Regional Sustainability Teachers’ Academy and ASU’s National Sustainability Teachers’ Academy.

The Wells Fargo Regional Sustainability Teachers’ Academy is a two-day workshop that prepares teachers in grades 5 – 9 to integrate a sustainability curriculum, lead campus projects and champion community engagement. The academy has established a network of like-minded educators that facilitates future interaction and collaboration. Offered through partnerships between ASU and communities nationwide, the workshops also encourage educators to apply for up to $300 to create sustainability projects at their schools.

The NSTA invites two-member teams of middle- and high-school teachers to apply for a one-week professional development workshop held on an ASU campus. Selected teams work with sustainability scientists, education experts and community sustainability leaders in a curriculum aligned with national standards for a range of grade levels. The training addresses issues that include poverty, privilege, social capital, circular economy, food systems and urban ecology.

Kelsey Palmquist uses tools she learned from one of the regional academies at her school, Northeast High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She said sustainability goes beyond the recycling opportunities her students are already aware of. “It’s reusing water in various ways. It’s the food you buy and where it comes from and what it’s grown in. I’m exposing my students to something that’s very, very important for their future, and something they need to start taking a part in.”

The Sustainable Teachers’ Academy is one of the Wrigley institute’s Sustainability Solutions Initiatives funded by a $28 million grant from Rob and Melani Walton.