Students Teach Teachers about Sustainability at DAIS

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by Michael E. Baldwin

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This summer eighteen Dalian American International School (DAIS) students took part in leadership training and then provided professional development for the entire teaching staff of the school on sustainability. The leadership training which took place on August 5-6, 2015, was offered to students who demonstrated interest in leadership through summer internships or were enrolled in Environmental Applied Studies. On August 7, the students then taught the teachers about sustainability in their community using the Compass Sustainability model.

The students were trained in the Compass model and systems thinking through a variety of hands-on activities. After two days of training, the students engaged the entire teaching staff in thinking about how communities and individuals can organize and cause positive improvements in their environment. The Compass model is a tool for thinking about community issues from the perspectives of nature, economy, society, and well-being. This model helps us to have a balanced view of community and global issues that includes the important factors linking individual perspectives and group needs. Through the use of this model we become better problem solvers and systems thinkers.

One teacher commented that “I believe it is an excellent model, and would serve our students well in the classroom” and another said “It is a good framework for understanding reality and the messy implications of interconnectedness”. Overwhelmingly, teachers have asked for concrete ways to implement the model in the classroom. Presently students are planning how they can present the model to all the secondary students through the advisory class. In the future the students hope to share these activities with parents and community members.

This student leadership and professional development opportunity is part of the DAIS initiative to become the Sustainability Campus for Northeast China. According to our project goals, the DAIS Sustainability project will permeate the curriculum, inspiring and empowering students to contribute to the local and global community. Our school will serve as a “lighthouse” and resource for sustainability practices and education for the greater China community. We will develop students who say “This is who I am” in the context of sustainability.

The Compass Training was provided by Michael Lees and Robert Steele of Compass Education. We would like to thank them for bringing this internationally recognized program to our students and teachers. Our students hope to provide these exciting activities soon to our local community. Contact me if you would like more information about how students can become leaders at your school.


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Article reposted with permission from Michael E. Baldwin, 2015, while serving as Science and Curriculum Coordinator at Dalian American International School, China

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