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The Sustainability Compass at The Green School

Many schools are moving towards having ‘sustainability’ stated somewhere in their mission, vision or values. However, oftentimes, it is merely an interjected word and only truly lives in the documents. At Compass Education, a recurring request we get from schools and educators is to ‘do sustainability’ better. It is not a lack of desire to bring sustainability to life, but a lack of understanding how it looks, sounds and feels like when they do.

Where would you place yourself on the continuum of knowledge on how to incorporate sustainability and the SDGs in your school or classroom?

On Wednesday, November 9th, I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar panel with The Green School, Bali, as the Compass Education representative to discuss how using the Sustainability Compass has supported the Green School’s mission to create a global community of learners, making our world sustainable. They have grown a global community both face-to-face and virtually through their Green Educator’s network.

The panel included a moderator, a student, a middle school teacher, an administrator and myself. The different voices involved in the webinar’s panel were an active demonstration that sustainability requires and values multiple stakeholders’ perspectives. Sustainability and the SDGs require all of our attention at all levels.

This webinar focused on the use of one tool from Compass Education called the Sustainability Compass. This tool created by Alan AtKisson in the 90’s has been successfully used internationally with Governments, Non-Governmental organizations, and in both the public and private sectors to help guide organizations toward balanced decision-making and action-taking.

So, what is the Sustainability Compass?

It is a tool that helps you look at any issue, challenge or decision through the four system conditions for sustainability. It can serve as a tool that allows for multiple perspectives to be uncovered and using the Sustainability Compass can help your students deepen their learning on any topic. It is a tool that can be used in combination with other tools. It is used in the real world, solving real problems. Noan, the panel facilitator, mentioned that its beauty is embodied in its simplicity. It is a tool that helps us explore complexities.

What is it not?
I wanted the participants to know that it is not a tool to master, or only use when you fully understand it, but rather a tool to explore and experiment with. It is not a tool that has hard and fast rules or right and wrong answers. This is another one of its special qualities, you can use it for exploration and you won’t ever get it wrong.

In the webinar, Gusde described how he used the tool for a recycled Wallet project that he did. Angie shared how she saw it being used as an observational tool and Dan discussed the Sustainability Compass as a perspective-taking tool. Other uses for the Sustainability Compass were also mentioned including:

  • Observations
  • Map the SDG targets
  • Unpack SDG and then map
  • Connecting the SDGs
  • Finding the relationships
  • Pinpointing the leverage point
  • 4 perspective analysis
  • Planning tool
  • Thematics classes – critical thinking skills, alignment across the subjects

Possible further uses:

  • To combine it with other systems thinking tools
  • Mapping with the SDGs
  • Applying systems thinking in order to decide on a leverage point
  • Find the leverage point in a system

What are the benefits of using the Sustainability Compass? 

  • Applying the 4 systems conditions for sustainability
  • Helps prepare kids for life
  • See unintended consequences
  • Intuitive
  • Taking on different perspectives
  • Diverse applications

If you want to learn more about how you can use the Sustainability Compass in your practice to deepen thinking and learning with any of the content you teach check out the free course Discover the Sustainability Compass or the Compass Practitioner (Level 1) online course and don’t forget to join the Green Educators Network!

Watch the video recording of the webinar below:

Kate O'Connell

Kate O'Connell

Kate O’Connell is a passionate educator, leader, speaker and coach with 27 years of experience in education. She has worked and consulted in 30 schools, 12 countries, and 4 continents. This experience includes teaching early years, primary years and middle years learners as well as leading in schools as a PYP coordinator, Principal, and Head of School. Kate leads and writes workshops for Compass Education and the International Baccalaureate (IB). She trains leaders in Trust-based Observations and the IB. Kate has spoken at EARCOS, ISS Deep Dives, Future Leaders, Schrole, and the International Business Chamber of Cambodia. She holds a BA in Elementary Education and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction from Michigan State University. She has recently completed a Certificate of School Management and Leadership through Harvard Business School. She is on a mission to make the educational systems more humane.

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