Education for Sustainable Development

This entry was posted Friday, 20 February, 2009 at 11:34 am

This is a correspondence between Marc Dreyfors, President of The Forest Foundation, and a research professor in the field of educational systems/curriculum for sustainable development, a relatively recent division of environmental education.

Dear Professor Feinstein,

Our community in the Triangle is probably one of the more progressive communities in the nation with regards to “education for sustainable development.” Focus is on localism, small scale, distributed, appropriate technology, closed loop engineering, synergistic, socio-economic sustainable livelihood interactions. Most activities are outside the traditional academic realm and some of the more advanced work is actually being done by small NGOs, individual activists/educators and smaller institutions. Central Carolina Community College may have one of the more sophisticated, small “t” sustainable technology programs in the country, focusing on sustainable ag., green building and alternative energy. Sadly, major institutions are behind in developing curriculum and training systems that reflect real “sustainability” (however that may be defined), and are having a hard time moving past old paradigms focused on science, technology and hyper intellectualizing. Fundamentally, market externalities, human psychology and a lack of moral and spiritual connection are conspiring to keep real, practical “sustainable” (shall we dare say, “rejuvenating”) educational systems from evolving rapidly. Though we are still having a hard time with the words that will shape our future, the Fair Trade movement along with traditional EE educators have been in the trenches and have been miracle workers in shifting perception, and slowly we are starting to see this new paradigm spreading into our cultural fabric.

One of my Old Testament professors cautioned me, “don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education.”

Good Luck,

Marc Dreyfors (MEM ‘90)
Board Member,
Env. Educators of NC (2005-07)
Alumni Council,
Nicholas School at Duke University (2005-10)
1505 Angier Ave.
Durham, NC 27701

Shelby Gull Laird wrote:

From: Noah Feinstein
I'm working on an international collaborative project about Education
for Sustainable Development, and my somewhat imposing task is to
summarize the state of ESD in the USA.

It's an exciting project (details below), but because I work mostly in
science education, I have a lot of catching up to do. I know that much
of the most important ESD work happens at the state and regional
level, and would really the report to reflect this. It is important to
me that the final report goes beyond sweeping statistics and captures
some of the depth and diversity of local efforts.
I would be very grateful if you could help orient me to ESD projects
and initiatives in your respective states. Almost any information is
useful, but I'm particularly interested in: success stories and local
challenges, influential state-level legislation or policy documents,
and any trends that you've observed or measured in your work.
Qualitative or quantitative, formal or anecdotal, references,
contacts, weblinks - you name it, I would love to get it. I will not
cite you if you would prefer not to be cited, and off-the-record
comments are welcome too, as they will help me get a sense of the territory.

Thanks so much for your help! Please call or email if you have any
questions or would like to know more about the project.


Noah Feinstein
Assistant Professor,
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Department of Agronomy
University of Wisconsin-Madison
(608) 262-6288

I've been asked to represent UW-Madison in the International Alliance
of Leading Educational Institutions, a group that includes member
institutions in Brazil, China, Singapore, Denmark, the UK, Canada etc.
 Each year, IALEI produces a report on an education-related topic of
broad international interest. This year, we are working on "education
for sustainable development," a topic chosen by the Danish team. The
report is intended to highlight international similarities and
differences, synthesize relevant research, and draw attention to best
practices or generalizable findings. Each representative has been
asked to prepare a report that addresses the five issues: (1) the
overall conception of ESD and its place in national education plans;
(2) The role of education in relation to the challenges of sustainable
development and climate change respectively; (3) the relationship
between ESD and climate change education; (4) the presence of ESD in
the curriculum, in relation to traditional disciplines and otherwise;
(5) the realities of ESD in classroom context, especially the possible
role of ESD in promoting pedagogical innovation. Whew! As you will
have noticed, there is an emphasis on K-12 (formal) education. We're
allowed to go beyond that focus, as long as we don't ignore it.