Fostering a Sustainable Future at School of the Future

At School of the Future, students are most passionate about building school community through field trips to local places of interest. My teaching team is committed to finding valuable connections between this goal and sustainability issues. As of right now, the students have become interested in trips to the Discovery Center, local nursing homes, community gardens, and more through research. I intend to encourage students to interview community leaders at these locations so that they can learn more about key issues and how they may get involved. Students can use this information to write blog posts and spread them throughout the school community, perhaps on social media, email newsletters, or more. This could advance the students’ goal of building more fellowship and camaraderie within School of the Future. Students reading about their peers doing important things can encourage more action and involvement in these field trips.

It was initially difficult to rally student interest in environmental sustainability, but my teaching team soon discovered another important issue at the forefront of students’ minds: gun violence. Gun violence is critical to sustainable, safe neighborhoods. Moreover, there are many connections between community gardens, stewardship of the environment, and mitigation of gun violence in communities. I hope to explore this relationship through field trips and potential high school internships at the Mantua Urban Peace Garden as well as other gardens in the area. Recently, I have also compiled a list of potential anti-gun violence organizations in Philadelphia that may be willing to partner with School of the Future either through virtual speaking engagements, field trips, or internship opportunities for the students. These centers include the Institute for the Development of African American Youth, the Juvenile Law Center, and NOMO Foundation.

Another ongoing challenge has been a shortage of staff, forcing many teachers to take on more class coverages than they can handle. This decreases the amount of extra time that teachers can spend planning trips for students, since many times even their lunch periods are occupied.

Nevertheless, School of the Future has successfully initiated a handful of local partnerships. Last month, the founder of Kids First Project visited students and introduced their efforts to mitigate child homelessness in cities. Another partnership is underway with the sites that offer discounted tickets through the Philly Art-Reach program. Our hope is that this partnership will make all field trips accessible and affordable to as many students as possible. Next, our team is looking forward to the latest field trip: a visit to the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden for the annual Sakura Matsuri Festival this upcoming week. The overarching goal is to plan one trip a month, gradually progress to two a month, and finally normalize one trip per week.

Lastly, in addition to the trips, our team is exploring the potential for a peer-to-peer tutoring program. This idea was spearheaded by Robert, a student of Ms. Conquest and Ms. Newman who has expressed interest in student-led academic support programs after-school. Tutoring would be instructed by students and facilitated by teachers. The program could also accommodate college and community partner visits that may be relevant to the tutoring subjects at hand. For instance, a local climate organizing group could visit on a day in which students are tutoring on topics in earth or environmental science. Though this concept is still in the incipient brainstorming stages, our teaching team looks forward to more student-generated ideas like it in the near future.

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