Acknowledgments Written and Edited by: Tiffany Tillman, Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids Coordinator, Sustainable Schools Project, Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont Contributing Writers and Editors: Heather Taylor, Editor, Connect magazine, Brattleboro, Vermont Jen Cirillo, Project Coordinator, Sustainable Schools Project, Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont Holly Brough, Shelburne Farms Brian Shupe, Program Director, Smart Growth Vermont, Burlington, Vermont Diane Gayer, Project Director, Vermont Design Institute, Burlington, Vermont Betsy Rosenbluth, Legacy Project, Burlington, Vermont Casey Lalonde, Burlington Neighborhood Project, Burlington, Vermont Developed By: Sustainable Schools Project, Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont Smart Growth Vermont, Burlington, Vermont Manual Reviewers and Partners: Jen Cirillo, Project Coordinator, Sustainable Schools Project, Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont Brian Shupe, Program Director, Smart Growth Vermont, Burlington, Vermont Colleen Cowell and Pat Fitzgerald, Fourth/Fifth-grade Teachers, Champlain Elementary School, Burlington, Vermont Anne Tewksbury-Frye, Kellie Smith, Julie Brown, and Alison Novak, Fourth/Fifthgrade Teachers, Lawrence Barnes Elementary School, Burlington, Vermont Sarah Gordon, Fifth-grade Teacher, H.O. Wheeler Elementary School, Burlington, Vermont Angela McGregor and Lucy Seefried, Sustainable Schools Project, Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont Manual Design: Holly Brough, Publications Coordinator, Shelburne Farms, Shelbune, Vermont Tiffany Tillman, Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids Coordinator, Sustainable Schools Project, Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont Photography: Principal Photogapher: Andy Duback - Cover, pages 25, 27, 38, 48, 51, 63, 78, 82, 94, 100, 116, 126, 144, 148, 151 Other photographs by HN/HK Staff Special Thanks to the teachers, students, and administrators at our three pilot schools: Champlain, H.O. Wheeler, and Lawrence Barnes Elementary schools in 5 â€˘ Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids Project Guide ÂŠ Shelburne Farms, 2007
Burlington, Vermont; Mayor Peter Clavelle; Burlington City Council Members; Steve Goodkind, Burlington Department of Public Works; the Community and Economic Development Office; Center for Community and Neighborhoods; Burlington Neighborhood Project; North Street Revitalization Project; and our numerous other community partners who supported teachers in implementing this complex and dynamic project. We’d also like to thank Beth Humstone, Sarah Judd and Evan Goldsmith, previously of Smart Growth Vermont, for the conception and implementation of this project during the pilot years. Lastly, we’d like to thank Megan Camp, Shelburne Farms’ Director of Programs, and Erica Zimmerman and Anne Bijur for their work with the Vermont Education for Sustainability Project that built the foundation for the Sustainable School Project. This project was made possible by the following generous sources: The Bay & Paul Foundations; City of Burlington, Vermont; the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation; Fletcher Allen Community Health Foundation; the Turrell Fund; the Starbucks Foundation; and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
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From the Creators “Your class has the potential to become an empowered and reflective group that’s thoughtful in decision making and unified...for the common good of making their “neighborhood” a better place--something fourth and fifth graders never get involved in because they are too young, right? WRONG! Be prepared to see your children become articulate speakers, letter writers, and problem solvers as they unify themselves while talking to town and city managers about changes that would make a difference in everyone’s lives.” -Anne Tewksbury-Frye, Fourth/Fifth-grade Teacher Lawrence Barnes Elementary School, Burlington, Vermont
he Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids project was initiated in 2003 by Smart Growth Vermont, in partnership with Shelburne Farms’ Sustainable Schools Project (SSP). It was designed to introduce school students to concepts related to community design, public safety, civic engagement, and personal health, focusing on the relationship between the “health” of our neighborhoods and our personal well-being. By using SSP’s framework of Education for Sustainability (EFS) and tools from Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s Understanding by Design, in conjunction with Smart Growth Vermont’s research and understanding of Vermont’s settlement patterns and the relationship between neighborhood development and design on public health and safety, this project was developed to support current curriculum and the goals of education standards while engaging students in developing sustainable communities. In collaboration with the Burlington School District in Vermont, Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids projects were piloted at three Burlington schools: Champlain, Lawrence Barnes, and H.O. Wheeler Elementary Schools. These pilot projects, which were widely considered great successes, helped develop the Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids model, test the project’s assumptions, and fine-tune the activities and associated tools in this guide. The guide was developed to serve as a map for interested teachers and school officials to successfully facilitate and implement activities in other communities. In addition to the contents of the guide, Shelburne Farms hosts professional development institutes for educators in related content. Through participation in the Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids curriculum, elementary school students can form partnerships with health care, community, and environmental organizations for hands-on education, outreach and demonstration projects to combat inactivity and poor health. Students can learn about what makes a neighborhood “healthy” and improve their over all health by engaging in neighborhood revitalization and community planning.
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About the Partners
he partnership between Smart Growth Vermont and the SSP was integral to the implementation of the Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids pilot project and the preparation of this guide. Together, these organizations combined a working knowledge of public policy, community planning and neighborhood design with professional grounding in education and the ability to facilitate professional development opportunities and partnerships with schools. Smart Growth Vermont (formerly the Vermont Forum on Sprawl) is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1998 in response to widespread public concern about sprawling development patterns in Vermont. The mission of Smart Growth Vermont is to preserve Vermont’s unique working landscape and quality of life while encouraging economic vitality in community centers. To promote this mission, Smart Growth Vermont: • Conducts research, training and public education on issues related to the causes and effects of sprawl on Vermont citizens and communities; • Develops technical resources and tools to help Vermonters plan for “smart growth” in their communities; • Works with business groups, state and local governments, housing and conservation partners, and citizens to foster development that preserves and enhances the quality of life in Vermont communities. Smart Growth Vermont works collaboratively with other states, national organizations and foundations, sharing information about its research and activities and providing technical assistance on federal and state programs. It is Vermont’s only organization devoted exclusively to promoting “smart growth.” The Sustainable Schools Project (SSP) is a program of Shelburne Farms, a membership-supported, nonprofit environmental education organization and National Historic Landmark on the shores of Lake Champlain in Shelburne, Vermont. Shelburne Farms uses its 1,400-acre working farm as well as connections with many community partners to achieve its mission: to cultivate a conservation ethic by teaching and demonstrating the stewardship of agricultural and natural resources. Shelburne Farms launched the SSP to support schools in using place-based education tools to improve teaching and learning. The project uses the lens of sustainability, defined as improving the quality of life for all—socially, economically, and
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environmentally—now and for future generations, as an integrative context to advance curriculum, community partnerships, campus ecology and practices, and teacher collaboration goals. The Sustainable Schools Project is a whole-school model that integrates content areas such as social studies, science, literacy, and mathematics with vital skills such as communication, reasoning, problem-solving and civic responsibility. The Education for Sustainability/Education for Sustainable Development (EFS/ESD) framework is based on understanding the interconnectedness of our world, knowing human and natural communities, and opportunities for civic engagement. By involving students in community-based, service-learning projects, SSP helps students make connections, experience the real-world relevance of their work, and take more ownership of their learning. This cutting-edge whole-school initiative uses the big ideas or habits of mind of sustainability to help a school build a curriculum map, develop integrated units of study and build long-lasting community partnerships (see, “Big Ideas of Sustainability,” in the Appendix, p. 163. The Sustainable Schools Project assists schools in improving school practices based on the community’s needs, goals, and resources. As part of a rigorous evaluation program, the Place-Based Education Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC), SSP is assessing the effectiveness and promise of their model. More information, reports, and evaluation tools can be found at: Shelburne Farms: www.shelburnefarms.org Sustainable Schools Project: www.sustainableschoolsproject.org Smart Growth Vermont: www.smartgrowthvermont.org Place-Based Education Evaluation Collaborative/PEER Associates: www.peecworks.org
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Using this Guide of PROJECT PURPOSE edition t s r fi e th o t e y m h The purpose of this project is to engage youth in community Welco ds/Healt o o h r o b planning and revitalization activities by encouraging them to d Neigh is geare Healthy e d i u g s draw connections between the design and condition of their ide. Thi y and r Kids Gu a t n communities and impacts on their health. Through evaluate ate elem l d w r o a w H ing the health and safety of their neighborhood and initiatto des. ool gra h c s d e e l t ing service-learning projects that address their findings, p midd sily ada a e e b youth play key roles in developing solutions to community can le ever, it f multip o s d e e issues. Given a voice, and the opportunity to make a real the n n action to meet e z i t i c difference in their community, youth make connections vels and e l g e n i d y f a i r l g across curricula and their lives, become excited about imp either s y b e s h t p g u their learning, and become active and engaged commugro nhancin e r o t n te nity citizens, now and in the future. Involving youth in ood the con ighborh e n t u o community decision-making benefits everyone: youth, h ab researc adults, and the community. s. feature
Project Flow The project begins with youth exploring their relationship to, and the uniqueness of, their Neighborhood and Place. After reflecting on what they know and how they feel about their neighborhood, students develop a list of Quality of Life features to define who and what contributes to a safe and healthy life for all. Students then decide which features they want to be the focus of their learning and community work. They invite local experts into the classroom and research topics related to the Quality of Life features list. They might ask questions about the planning of their neighborhood, the function of community organizations, or how their neighborhood makes decisions about those features. Students use this research to guide the creation of Report Cards to grade the current condition of specific neighborhood features. On a Neighborhood Walk that includes students, parents, volunteers, and community members and leaders, participants examine and document the condition of specific neighborhood features, using the report cards as a guide. In the Sharing Results component, students compile neighborhood walk findings and make recommendations for fixing or enhancing conditions they deem unsafe and It is critical that your students unhealthful. They share their findings and recommendaunderstand how the project tions with appropriate community members, officials, and flows and how each piece is organizations through presentations, letter writing, or connected to what has gone bereport writing. During Project Planning, youth choose fore and what will come after. and implement neighborhood improvement projects that Discuss the project flow before address report card findings and recommendations. Lastly, you begin, and then periodically participants organize and hold a community Celebration throughout their work. and Reflection where they honor and acknowledge their participation in making a difference in their community.
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Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids Project Flow 1. STUDY Neighborhood and Place D
Students explore their relationship to, and the uniqueness of where they live. They reflect on what they know and how they feel about their neighborhood.
Students develop a list of quality of life features to define who and what contributes to a safe and healthy life for all. Students then decide which features they want to be the focus of their learning and community work and research topics related to those features.
2. DEFINE Quality of Life
I IT Y OF L
3. CREATE NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT CARDS
E WA L K
Based on their quality of life research, students develop Report Cards that they will use to grade the current condition of specific neighborhood features.
4. CONDUCT A NEIGHBORHOOD WALK Together with parents, volunteers, and community leaders, students explore their neighborhood to examine and document the condition of specific neighborhood features, using the report cards as a guide.
5. SharE Results S
T PL ANN
Students compile Neighborhood Walk findings and make recommendations for fixing or improving conditions they deem unsafe and unhealthful. They share these results with appropriate community members, officials, and organizations through presentations, letter writing, or report writing.
6. PLAN A Project Students choose and implement a neighborhood improvement project (or projects) that addresses report card findings and recommendations.
7. CelebratE and Reflect E B R AT I O
Students organize and hold a community celebration where they honor and acknowledge their participation in making a difference in their community. 11 â€˘ Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids Project Guide ÂŠ Shelburne Farms, 2007
Note on Project Flow In order to provide students with the necessary background information, skills, and experiences, we recommend completing all components in this guide. This will ensure that students can effectively plan and initiate highly engaging servicelearning projects. However, it is not required to utilize every tool or facilitate each activity. Let your needs and curriculum goals guide your implementation of the project. We expect every project to look different. We’ve created a framework with multiple activities and tools from which to choose. Throughout the curriculum, you may find activities that will initiate your unit or serve as a culminating product. Because there are endless possibilities for project completion we recommend that you: 1. Write a goal and purpose statement; 2. Set time parameters; 3. Read through the guide to become familiar with all components and activities; 4. Select components and activities that meet specific needs; 5. Create a timeline and tasks list for project implementation. A final consideration when shaping this program is the type and character of your community. Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids was developed in the city of Burlington, which is more urban than most communities in Vermont. While many of the state’s cities and villages have compact, walkable neighborhoods, some aspects of the program will likely require adjustments to address rural settings. Walking to school for many students, for instance, is not a safe option when they may live several miles away from the school, with no interconnecting sidewalks or paths—not an uncommon situation in Vermont. Neighborhoods may be defined more broadly in rural settings, but kids will still have a sense of their special places, their trip to school, and how their home fits into the larger community. Teachers will find that the Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids curriculum can be easily integrated into existing social studies, science, literacy and health curricula. The curriculum was piloted in fourth/fifth-grade classes and focused on science, health, literacy and social studies standards specific to fourth/fifth grade. However, there are numerous opportunities for integrating the curriculum with national and state standards as well as grade-level expectations. Depending on your interests, your students’ interests and grade level, the time frame, and the needs and issues of your community, you can either address one or many standards.
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Focus on Vermont Framework of Standards and Learning The Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids curriculum was designed with Vermont Standards in mind. However, there are many opportunities to integrate the activities with your existing curriculum no matter where you teach. First and foremost Healthy NeighborVermont Standards: hoods/Healthy Kids addresses Vermont Vital Results 3.9, 3.9 Sustainability Sustainability, and 4.6, Understanding Place (see box at Students make decisions that demonleft). Other Vital Results that may be addressed include: strate understanding of natural and 3.5 Healthy Choices, 3.7 Informed Decisions, 3.10 Teamhuman communities, the ecological, work, 3.13 Roles and Responsibilities, 4.1 Service, and 4.2 economic, political, or social systems Democratic Process. See the table on the following page within them, and awareness of how for list of standards addressed by specific topics in this their personal and collective actions guide. affect the sustainability of these interrelated systems.
In creating Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids, we realized the need for a general, integrated curriculum that 4.6 Understanding Place met standards but also one that offered specific opportuStudents demonstrate understanding of the relationship between their local nities for students to connect what they were learning in environment and community heritage the classroom to what they were seeing in the communiand how each shapes their lives. ty. Teachers shared with us their concerns about meeting portfolio requirements and ensuring that students were able to meet specific standards, especially in relation to literacy. Because of this focus on literacy, you will see many opportunities for students to show, through writing, their understanding of social studies, science, and community issues. In the Sharing Results component, students communicate their report card findings and research to city officials through letter writing and written presentations. In the Celebration and Reflection component, students document their work in report format. In developing this curriculum, we used Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s Understanding by Design framework. We worked with teachers to develop assessments that would be appropriate for evaluating their students’ understanding of major concepts and the ability to transfer knowledge. Throughout the guide, sample assessment tools can be used to assess specific content or project components (see “Report Writing Checklist,” Sharing Results, p. 105). Educators may also informally assess their students’ understanding and learning by documenting anecdotal evidence or asking reflection questions during the closing circle of each activity (for ideas, see “Reflection Activities,” Celebration and Reflection, p. 154).
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Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids: Connections to Vital Results, Standards and Grade Expectations :
Vital Results 1.8 Reports 1.9 Narratives 1.11 Persuasive Writing 1.12 Personal Essays 1.15 Presentations 2.1 Types of Questions 2.2 Problem Solving Process 2.10 Fluency 2.12 Flexibility 2.13 Product/Service 2.14 Planning/Organization 3.5 Healthy Choices 3.6 Physically Active Lifestyle Choices 3.9 Sustainability 3.10 Teamwork 3.11 Interactions 3.13 Roles and Responsibilities 4.1 Service 4.2 Democratic Process 4.5 Continuity and Change 4.6 Understanding Place Standards 6.7 Geographical Knowledge 6.9 Meaning of Citizenship 6.10 Types of Government 6.17 Governments & Resources 7.14 The Human Body Grade Expectations H & SS 3-4/5-6:11 H & SS 3-4/5-6:12 H & SS 3-4/5-6:14 H & SS 3-4/5-6:15 H & SS 3-4/5-6:16
g d d in lts e & oo su n oo nn rd Lif e h a h a f l r io ion r L R t C o P o L o g t b ce ra ct b A rt ty in jec igh Pla uali ER leb efle igh alk po ar o e e e V e r h R C N & R S P N W O Q
X X X X X X X X X X
X X X
X X X X
X X X
X X X X
X X X X
X X X
The Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids curriculum can be implemented in multiple ways. The Standards and Grade Expectations covered by completing this project depend largely on where teachers and students decide to focus. Some Standards and Grade Expectations will be addressed by completing any portion of the project. Others will be specific to individual projects or topics. It is up to the teacher to create assessment tools for specific topics and areas of study. 14 â€˘ Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids Project Guide ÂŠ Shelburne Farms, 2007
Topics You will notice this guide is more of a framework for facilitating a civic engagement curriculum than a resource of topical information. We hope educators and youth use the guide’s tools and activities to help them research and evaluate any topic they choose. Topics, or features for study may include, but are not limited to: • Access to healthful and nutritious food; • Water quality; • Green spaces; • Safe streets and sidewalks; • Community decision making; • Building design; • Affordable housing; • Places to play.
Guide Structure This guide is organized into seven components. Each component addresses a different aspect of neighborhood improvement and includes opportunities for service-learning projects. Each component includes an Overview, Activities, and Tools. For components with a lot of preparation and planning, we’ve included a Tips and Notes page to help educators think about all the necessary logistics. Preview these pages to prepare effectively for implementing the project. Overviews include summaries of each component, instructions on how to integrate it with other components, and background information. Overviews also list major concepts and skills addressed by component completion, and related resources. Activities include objectives, materials, time frames, and extensions. In most components, the activities are sequential. In Neighborhood and Place and Celebration and Reflection, however, the activities may stand alone or be facilitated in any order. For any activity, be sure to read the preparation section first to see whether you need to make any adaptations to meet personal or curricular needs. Tools can be used as is or adapted to include relevant or site-specific information. Some tools can be visual aides to guide group discussion or be given to individuals as a scaffold to document learning and thought. It may be helpful to create a notebook for students to organize project notes and tools. (Either bind selected tools together at the beginning of the project or add them to a notebook as activities are completed.) Some tools help you to create more project-specific tools, as is the case with developing Report Cards.
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Finally, we often refer to students working in “groups.” The project is intended to be completed in groups or teams of students. Evaluating and improving our neighborhoods and communities requires the effort of many people, young and old. It is essential that students learn how to work with a variety of people who have diverse perceptions, ideas, backgrounds, and experiences. This necessary skill paves the way for creating active citizens who participate in building sustainable communities. By working together, students will be more successful and empowered to tackle real community issues and implement positive change. Also, we have found that when youth work together they are less overwhelmed and more creative. Ultimately, however, it is up to the participants (youth and teachers together) to decide how to structure this project. If there is a need for solo work, adapt the activities and tools to suit your specific needs, interests and time frames.
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The Promises and Challenges for Improving Community Health
ow our neighborhoods are designed and the condition they are in affects the health and safety of local residents in many ways, both directly and indirectly. Understanding these relationships is the first step toward advocating for positive change to improve community health. When new neighborhoods (often called “subdivisions” or “planned developments”) are being planned, we need to pay attention to the design and density of housing, the mix of land uses allowed, the layout of streets and pedestrian facilities, and the relationship to existing built-up areas. Smart Growth is a term that describes new neighborhoods that incorporate these features of a healthy neighborhood. Sprawl is a pattern of development characterized by automobile-dependence and land consumption, often single-story buildings with lots of parking area around them. While most schools using this program will likely be located in established neighborhoods, understanding the distinction between smart growth and sprawl is helpful, especially in communities that are experiencing rapid development.
Challenges Air and Water Quality Neighborhood design that emphasizes reliance on the automobile at the expense of pedestrians, bicycling, or public transportation has serious implications for public health. Most directly, automobile reliance contributes to poor air quality. In Vermont, motor vehicles are the largest source of toxic and carcinogenic air pollutants (Vermont Air Pollution Control Division), while nationwide, increasing vehicle emissions have been identified as one cause of the sharp increase in asthma and other respiratory diseases. An absence of neighborhood trees, including street trees, also diminishes air quality, because their leaf canopies present a large surface area in which particulate pollutants can be trapped, reducing the formation of ozone and cooling temperatures on hot summer days (Nowak and McPherson, 1993). How we build our communities also directly affects water quality. Clearing vegetation can cause soil erosion and sedimentation of streams. Creating impervious surfaces (e.g., paved parking lots) increases the rate of stormwater runoff and introduces pollutants into nearby streams and other surface waters. Identifying how parking areas are drained—and whether the resulting stormwater is allowed to filter into the ground—helps to determine a neighborhood’s impact on water quality. Likewise, ensuring that streams are bordered by a vegetated riparian buffer has a direct impact on water quality, water temperatures, and aquatic wildlife. Obesity Neighborhood design characterized by sprawl has been shown to contribute to the well-documented rise in obesity, including among children (Ewing, 2003). One study
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found that residents of compact neighborhoods with sidewalks and proximity to destinations like shops, schools, and work, have on average a lower body mass index (BMI) than residents of sprawl communities. (The BMI is a standard measure of weight-to-height that is used to determine if people are overweight or obese.) Good neighborhood design should incorporate safe and attractive alternatives to the automobile. Safe, well maintained sidewalks or walking paths, well marked crosswalks, and “traffic calming” features that slow automobiles all contribute to pedestrian safety and fewer accidents, and thus promote more active lifestyles. Having schools, workplaces, or local stores that sell basic necessities within walking distance also contributes to community health. Access to parks and other recreation facilities that are safe and conveniently located likewise discourages sedentary lifestyles. These facilities can also improve the character and appearance of neighborhoods. Parks can come in all shapes and sizes, from ball fields and basketball courts to small “pocket parks” and space for community gardens, which have the additional benefit of creating a healthful, local food supply for neighborhood residents. Civic Engagement Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, documented how the physical fragmentation of our lives is directly linked to decreased civic participation. Many people work in communities that are different than those in which they live. In Vermont, the length of the average daily commute increased by more than 31% between 1980 and 2000 (U.S. Census, 1980, 2000). Longer commutes leave less leisure time for family, friends, and neighbors. We have fewer opportunities to meet with our neighbors in informal settings (e.g., at the post office or coffee shop), which limits our ability to establish ties to our neighbors and neighborhoods. Consequently, our engagement with our communities—through participation in local elections, volunteering on local boards or commissions, or simply developing an understanding of how Vermont’s citizen-based form of municipal government functions—is diminishing over time.
Promises Education We know that students learn best when they are actively engaged addressing real community issues. This not only makes education relevant for students and their teachers, but helps improve the community with their thoughtful and creative solutions, recommendations, and insights. Currently, however, schools are faced with the challenge and pressures of helping all learners to meet standards, pass tests, master different subject areas, and—at the same time—become active citizens.
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These are enormous tasks. However, it is possible to integrate students’ explorations of and service to their communities with curricular goals and demands. Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids is a model for doing just that. Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids, based on SSP’s framework for Education for Sustainability (EFS), intends to engage students in the study of issues influencing their communities’ health and safety. To do this effectively, students need to know about the natural and human communities in which they live, and how those communities are interconnected with their lives. Building this understanding might include meeting with elected officials to discuss stormwater drainage, or interviewing senior citizens about the safety concerns seniors may have. It also might include asking questions about how natural communities are affected by community decision-making. How do animals use the school grounds? What are the habitat and food needs of animals? How does transportation impact the quality of nearby water? Which animals are impacted by poor water quality? As students investigate these questions they begin to get a better sense of who and what lives and works within their community and how the world is interconnected. Suddenly students see that what they are learning in class is related to real community issues. This helps students to develop a sense of place and a sense of self. One of the components of Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids is service-learning. Once students have conducted their research and made recommendations, it is time to make a difference! Service-learning offers students a structured opportunity to develop self-efficacy and civic engagement skills. It also brings down the barriers between schools and communities by helping each to see the benefit of cooperating with the other. This activity is crucial to students’ futures as active citizens, no matter where they live. If they develop the skills necessary to initiate and complete a neighborhood improvement service-learning project, they are more likely to become citizens engaged in creating sustainable communities. Community Decision Making and Civic Engagement In Vermont, most of the decisions about how our neighborhoods grow and develop are made by local residents who volunteer to serve the others in their community. These decisions can include how streets and sidewalks are maintained, how and where street trees are planted or replaced, whether new parks are created, and countless other day-to-day matters that affect the health and quality of our neighborhoods. Decisions related to how new neighborhoods are developed, or how new development occurs within existing neighborhoods, are made by local planning commissions and development review boards, often with assistance from municipal planning and development staff. Those decisions are made in a public setting, with opportunities for interested residents to participate in the process. Many smaller townships still hold their town meetings in early March, where citizens vote on
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Common ways local residents can affect Change: • Identify the local official(s) that can respond to your request. In most instances, elected officials (e.g., City Council or Selectboard) are the highest authority who can take action. If you have a specific request however, appointed boards comprised of volunteers appointed by the City Council or Selectboard can be the best place to start. Understanding how your municipality is governed is an important step in affecting change. • Write a letter to the appropriate official(s) to request change. The strongest letters are well documented, explain the issue, and offer specific recommendations (see Sharing Results, p.87-108). • Submit a petition requesting a particular action. Petitions—letters signed by many individuals—demonstrate the amount of local support for a particular request, and in some instances can be used to present requests directly to local officials. • Invite local officials to the neighborhood to visit an area in need of change. Getting local officials to see in person what the issue is can build greater understanding and result in faster attention to the problem. • Attend a public meeting and speak out. Being concise, documenting your concern (with photographs and illustrations, if appropriate), and making specific recommendations are useful tactics. Likewise, the more people that you can get to attend a meeting, the greater the demonstration of broad support for your concern. • Volunteer to serve on a local board, or run for office. • Vote! Encourage your friends, neighbors and family to vote as well. town programs, budgets, and other resolutions in one of the oldest working examples of democracy in action. Other decisions related to the maintenance and improvement of public facilities (e.g., roads, sidewalks, street trees, parks, street lights) are made by elected officials, typically with the assistance of municipal staff and in some instances appointed volunteers. With few exceptions, local officials welcome information and suggestions from local residents regarding ways in which neighborhoods can be made healthier. Often times, however, there is limited funding to make certain improvements, so local residents need to be persuasive. One strategy for this is to make the connection between the need for improvement and the health and safety of local residents.
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Education for Sustainable Development is about learning to: • Respect, value, and preserve the achievements of the past; • Appreciate the wonders and the peoples of the Earth; • Live in a world where all people have sufficient food for a healthy and productive life; • Assess, care for, and restore the state of our planet; • Create and enjoy a better, safer, more just world; • Be caring citizens who exercise their rights and responsibilities locally, nationally, and globally. UN Decade for ESD, www.unesco.org/education/desd
What does Education for Sustainable Development look like in practice? • Effective public participation in decision making; • Cross-sectoral collaboration and partnerships; • A holistic vision of a sustainable future; • Intergenerational commitments;
Local officials are often more willing to take on new projects—and to spend scarce tax dollars—if there is clear public support. Organizing local residents to request change is an effective means of demonstrating local support to public officials. International Implications 2005–2014 is the United Nations Decade for Education for Sustainable Development. This offers the opportunity to showcase some of the great work happening around the world in EFS/ESD and to further the efforts of organizations committed to sustainability education. Many sectors are working on promoting sustainable development, including businesses, media, government agencies, nonprofits and higher education institutions. Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids exemplifies the principles and practice of EFS and supports the mission of the UN Decade for ESD. Similar opportunities are popping up globally, although primarily at the university level. Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids is unique in that it engages elementary students in sustainable community development.
• Addressing issues of social justice, cultural diversity, and indigenous knowledge;
Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids offers students and teachers the opportunity to engage in learning about • Redefining the role of science and education; relevant and meaningful issues within • Negotiation, evaluation, and action. their community, and experience life as citizens, regardless of their ages. IUCN (The World Conservation Union), www.iucn.org Throughout the project they are offered opportunities to build these essential skills and knowledge, apply them in a real-world context, and then transfer them to new situations. This is the ultimate goal of education.
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Working with Community Partners
here are many opportunities throughout this project to build relationships with and learn from community partners. Developing partnerships with city government, community organizations, and local businesses strengthens and adds meaning to students’ learning experience, allows students to explore their future roles in the community, and provides the context they need to understand and effectively engage in community development. Teachers also benefit. Teachers are skilled at facilitating learning while community partners are skilled at providing specific content or information. What would take teachers weeks to prepare and research, community partners could provide on short notice. You’ll find working with the community to be refreshing for both you and your students. Follow the tips and strategies below for creating successful and fulfilling partnerships that last!
Establishing a Partnership
• Identify Needs. What do you need to know about your community to help prepare and facilitate a successful project? What person, business, or organization can meet your needs—whether informational, financial or resource-oriented? • Make Connections; Share a Common Goal. Whom do you know in the community who can help you meet your needs? Is there a parent, staff member, friend who has the skills you need? Connect with area businesses and organizations and introduce them to the project. Gauge community interest. • Set Parameters and Expectations: Do you want to work with a variety of community partners? What would you like them to provide? How do you want them to interact with students? What information do community partners need in order to be successful in your classroom while working with your students? Do you want community partners to provide students with the majority of background information or work with students in more of a mentoring role? • Give Thanks. Be sure to thank all community partners for sharing their time and their resources. Involving students in thanking the partner adds a special touch. The amount of preparation and communication with community partners will depend on the relationship you wish to establish. Though the effort might seem demanding, once you’ve established a relationship, a large amount of work will be lifted from your plate.
After you decide what your needs are and who may be able to meet those needs it is time to contact potential community partners.
1. Set up a meeting with the community partner to discuss their role in the project. 2. Provide the community partner with pertinent information regarding project, presentation, school rules, and student dynamics. 3. Follow up the initial conversation or meeting by filling out and sending your community partner the “Tips for Working with Schools and Students,” and “Questioning Techniques” provided in the Appendix, p. 160 & 162.
22 • Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids Project Guide © Shelburne Farms, 2007