Throughout the process of the EFS program, the largest takeaway I took as a teacher and a person is that creating a sustainable community begins with building a community. There are many issues that our students face in their school and home lives that can be addressed by creating sustainable solutions, but if those communities do not hold shared understanding of the need and value of these solutions there is unlikely to be enough momentum to keep these solutions ongoing.
Involving student voice has been a key aspect of putting community first as a school is typically situated in the community that many of them live. Involving them and their families in the planning process means that we are actually addressing the needs of the community. Building those relationship is always a tough job, but the first year in person post-COVID presented many obstacles to garner family involvement.
Additionally, the instability of the year led to a higher than average truancy rate that made planning and working difficult. With this obstacle-combined with the normal obstacles facing any underfunded, overburdened, urban classroom-creating opportunities to involve a sustainability focused curriculum in my classroom has been mostly unattainable this year.
Moving forward with the lessons learned and the goals of EFS still in mind, I plan to continue to integrate more of this community first approach to sustainability into my curriculum. Projects next year will be smaller in scale and more attainable, with the expectation that as school returns to our new normal after COVID and students continue to acclimate back to in-person school there will be increasing complexity to the work.
I hope that by spending the beginning part of next year building student confidence, I can help them feel more comfortable taking the lead in larger projects in the back half of the 2022-2023 school year. Specifically my goal is to have them find and collaborate with a community partner of their choosing that fits with the sustainability issues that resonate with their community and can be addressed with creative or arts-forward solutions.