Select Page

SUMMER 2022

FEATURES

Climate Crisis Curriculum: Holistic Student Education

The Harley School has been awarded a $96,225 grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation to advance our climate change curriculum, enhance our sustainability plan, and help us disseminate educational resources to schools across the country. Because this is a matching grant, Harley has successfully raised the matching funds from our community to secure the grant. Work has begun on a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary curriculum for students in Grades 9 to 12 within our school.

Seth O’Bryan, grant coordinator, and Dr. Betsy Vinton, curriculum manager and developer, provide a look into the work accomplished so far and the goals ahead.

The Edward E. Ford Foundation seeks to improve secondary education by supporting U.S. independent schools and encouraging promising practices.

 

by Seth O’Bryan, Grant Coordinator; Dr. Betsy Vinton, Curriculum Developer

July 13, 2022

The climate crisis is present in our lives today and will continue to become more urgent and more complex.
Research has shown when students have a meaningful solutions-focused educational experience around climate change, not only do they better understand the scope of the problem, but they tend to be more optimistic about their role in addressing it, and make climate-friendly choices throughout their lives. 

These outcomes provided the core motivation behind the grant application and the inspiration for faculty to develop a new climate change curriculum. This year, Dr. Vinton (DV) has met individually with each Upper School faculty member to discuss their interests and concerns around climate change and ways they can seamlessly integrate it into their existing curricula. Examples of this intersection between climate and coursework include data analysis and statistics, justice and equity, language and indigenous cultural practices, and the scientific underpinnings of climate change. Based on these conversations, DV and Seth are offering professional development opportunities as part of the Climate Change Summer Institute at Harley that will be held virtually and in person during late June. Speakers will include curriculum specialist Michael Occhino, and former Harley teacher, Dr. Karen Berger, both from the University of Rochester. Additionally, the Harley team is working to develop a “Freshman Experience” curriculum that consists of the basic tenets of climate change, including causes, mitigation, and adaptation strategies. They will discuss climate anxiety as well and what Grade 9 students can expect over the course of their time in our Upper School.  

The goal of this curriculum is that every student graduates from Harley with a solid understanding of the interdisciplinary and systems- thinking approach to climate change education with a sense of at least one way they could make a difference. At the same time, we believe students need to see Harley as a role model for addressing sustainability issues as part of its institutional priorities, and to visibly demonstrate this is much more than just a classroom topic. In other words, it is not simply enough for Harley to talk the climate-change talk, we must also be willing to walk the walk. The sustainability committee has been working on a school-wide sustainability plan with three major themes: reducing our carbon footprint, improving our ecological output, and strengthening our sustainable food practices. An ambitious and timely project, it includes a diverse team of stakeholders and educators. 

The grant work will result in a powerful curriculum that can be shared with other schools and communities locally and beyond to expand climate change education across the country.

The goal of this curriculum is that every student graduates from Harley with a solid understanding of the interdisciplinary and systems- thinking approach to climate change education with a sense of at least one way they could make a difference.

At the same time, we believe students need to see Harley as a role model for addressing sustainability issues as part of its institutional priorities, and to visibly demonstrate this is much more than just a classroom topic. In other words, it is not simply enough for Harley to talk the climate-change talk, we must also be willing to walk the walk. The sustainability committee has been working on a school-wide sustainability plan with three major themes: reducing our carbon footprint, improving our ecological output, and strengthening our sustainable food practices. An ambitious and timely project, it includes a diverse team of stakeholders and educators.

The grant work will result in a powerful curriculum that can be shared with other schools and communities locally and beyond to expand climate change education across the country.

Betsy Vinton, PhD—a nationally recognized climate change educator and 20-year leader of the Harley faculty—is our academic point person for the development of our new Climate Change Curriculum. Betsy is spending half of her teaching time this year and next working with Upper School colleagues to re-engineer parts of their curricula to form that program.

 

Seth O’Bryan is the co-director of the Commons, a facility with programs devoted to exploring sustainability and student leadership. Seth is the co-chair of the sustainability committee which is working on the school-wide sustainability plan.

The Edward E. Ford Foundation seeks to improve secondary education by supporting U.S. independent schools and encouraging promising practices.