The true purpose of schooling, the reason we invest our tax money and give our attention to our local schools, and the reason we hand our children over to teachers for 12-plus years of schooling is to prepare them for an active, purposeful and well-informed life when they become citizens of the local and global community. We want a bright and meaningful future for our community members. In general, elementary schools focus a good deal of attention on the essential skills of language and math, and focus to a lesser degree on science, social studies and the arts. How can educators support the essential basic skills and also integrate a sense of purpose into elementary education?
One area these crucial aspects of learning come together is “sustainability.”
Sustainability can be defined, as it is by the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, as “a vibrant economy, an equitable society and a healthy environment in the interest of meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” When economy, environment and community are considered equally and are cultivated with thoughtful decisions, your society can grow and evolve in a way that supports its members now and in the future.
One of the guiding principles at Saltonstall is to establish a school and community culture that is based in real-world connections. At Saltonstall, we strive to give students a sense of purpose and help them realize that our decisions and actions have an impact on our local community. We have recently adopted the term “sustainability,” but we have long-standing traditions about being “green.” For example, we have a yearly Earth Day, now called our Sustainability Fair. During this celebratory day, we invite local Earth-support agencies and volunteers to present information about sustainability in a fun, informative way that helps young children focus on people, place and profit. This year, we have a grant from the Salem Education Foundation for a project called “Mindful Munching.” This project helps children understand that making healthy food choices has a positive impact on the economy along with personal health. Adults are well aware of this because of the rising cost of health care, in part a consequence of lifestyle choices.