Last week, I was honored to speak on a panel at the Massachusetts Association of SchoolCommittees/Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents conference in Hyannis, MA. Before my panel on ‘the sustainability agenda in schools’ I was able to watch the keynote speaker, Tony Wagner, the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard.
Mr. Wagner’s presentation discussed his book, the Global Achievement Gap, which identifies 7 survival skills for career, college, and citizenship through extensive research and interviews with business leaders, community leaders, educators, and recent high school and college graduates. I couldn’t help but notice that the 7 survival skills closely align with the educational objectives of sustainability education.
1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Being a successful employee today means analyzing what you learn and seeking your own answers. You can’t look to your executive for answers. To succeed you need to be able to find them yourself.
2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
Employees must be able to work with a variety of stakeholders and develop leadership skills that rely on influence rather than authority.
3. Agility and Adaptability
Successful businesses are able to quickly change to meet market demands. Employees must be able to seamlessly fit into many roles by learning quickly and adapting to new initiatives.
4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
To be a leader in the world economy, businesses must be innovative. Innovation is no longer the job of the executives. At many successful companies, failure is encouraged because it means you’re experimenting with new ideas. Eventually, one of those ideas will succeed and push the company ahead of the competition.
5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
This seems obvious, but many recent graduates cannot effectively communicate their ideas because they lack thinking and reasoning skills. Without these skills they can’t develop a coherent and persuasive argument.
6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
Students are accustomed to receiving rapid information from the Internet. However, the successful employee must know how to decipher the information to decide what is credible and applicable. They also know how to think critically about the information to make good decisions.
7. Curiosity and Imagination
This is the springboard for innovation. Companies want every level of employee to want to have the next big idea.
As defined by GEF, Sustainability Education provides educators with the real-world applied learning models that connect science, technology, and math education with the broader human concerns of environmental, economic, and social systems. This definition removes the silo of subject based learning to connect important themes across subject areas and with the greater world. Through sustainability education, students learn to interpret and analyze information, convey the results effectively, and even imagine solutions. The best example is GEF’s Green Building Course. After completing 6 units and their corresponding hands-on audits, students analyze and recommend building improvements based upon feasibility, greatest need and return-on-investment (ROI).
We must continue to ask students to research, write, and have ideas of their own to foster the next generation of successful sustainability minded citizens!