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Developing a Curriculum for the Climate Crisis

N-12 Leader in Sustainability Education

Holistic Student Education on a Complex Topic

The Harley School, an independent N-Grade 12 school located in Rochester, New York, received a traditional EE Ford grant to:

1) develop a comprehensive climate change curriculum in the Upper School and upgrade learning spaces for hands-on, climate-oriented projects;

2) create our own Sustainability Plan to align our practices with our commitment to reducing climate change; and

3) disseminate our curriculum and learnings both locally and nationally. 

Education for sustainability is a priority at the school. Harley offers a range of innovative electives from the Food & Farm Lab to Design & Engineering. Our Biomimicry Club was honored in national competitions two years in a row. The state-of-the art Commons building is a “living building” generating its own energy, housing science classrooms, centers for Mindfulness and Civic Engagement, a MakerSpace, greenhouse, and teaching kitchen. Yet we are still developing a comprehensive approach to teaching climate change for all Upper School students.

We aim to improve our ability to empower all graduates as empathic and informed leaders who act on innovative solutions to address the impact of climate change, in part through the work of this grant.  

Moving Forward

EE Ford Grant: Significant Goals

  • Climate curriculum development led by Dr. Betsy Vinton and Upper School faculty
  • Update Harley’s MakerSpace to support projects
  • Sustainability plan led by Sustainability Committee, created during 2021-22 school year
  • Summer of 2023 and beyond: Community outreach for sharing work through online course for students, teacher training, Horizons at Harley collaboration

2022-23 School Year:

Individual brainstorming sessions with faculty
Freshman experience planning and curriculum integration (sample project: Leaves as Thermometers: A Collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution)
Summer Institute and summer reading
Documentation and reimbursement process
15 Climate change lessons integrated into the US curriculum this trimester

Dr. Betsy Vinton

Harley Math & Science Teacher and Developer of the Harley Climate Crisis Curriculum

Seth O’Bryan

Commons Co-Director

Seth led the creation of the sustainability plan in collaboration
with Dr. Terry Smith and the sustainability committee. Seth is the
co-leader for managing the overall climate grant.

The Harley School Sustainability Statement

We are committed stewards of our planet and each other. In this way, we are advocates for a sustainable future. Learning through a lens of sustainability provides an essential framework for understanding our world.    

We believe sustainability: 

  • relies on a balanced system. 
  • embraces the interdependence of the environment, the community, and the economy
  • builds on the past, is attentive to the present, and aims for a viable future.

Sustainability Committee Charge

The Harley School Sustainability Committee is a community-wide, inclusive committee, whose members may include faculty, staff, trustees, students and other members of the community with expertise and interest in sustainability. The Committee’s work is informed and guided by the Harley School’s Sustainability Statement (below). The Committee supports the School to live its Mission, including its commitment to “care for others and the world.”  In its work, the Committee focuses on a limited number of areas (from one to four at most) that are decided upon in concert with School leadership, and that can change periodically. These areas may include the School’s curriculum relating to teaching and learning on sustainability (both in and out of the classroom), the School’s policies and practices to improve its sustainability as an institution, and issues of sustainability as they relate to the broader Rochester western New York community. The Committee will periodically report on its work and may make recommendations to School leadership (administrative and trustees) regarding these areas. While the committee focuses its work on a limited number of areas, from time to time in response to important developments it may take action on related issues. Sense of place, specifically the Harley School’s home within the Rochester and wider Finger Lakes region, ecosystems, and indigenous heritage informs the work of the Committee, including both how we understand and how we impact our surrounding area and community.  

Area(s) of Focus

An important area of focus for the academic year is for the Committee to develop a sustainability plan that assesses the School’s current baseline of greenhouse gas emissions, and sets one or more goals, including but not limited to a goal, timeline, objectives, and activities for reducing our carbon footprint. Additional goals could potentially be set to address other areas such as food sourcing or waste and recycling, though these could be subsumed under a broader carbon-related goal.

Related Work

Pollinator Project

Pollinator Project

Stop in to learn more about the importance of pollinators for our environment and region. Harley’s own Trish Corcoran is a passionate pollinator advocate. Learn more from her about how to protect our pollinators and help them prosper! Watch the video here! ...

Daily Challenges and Trips with Kima Enerson, Maker Educator

Daily Challenges and Trips with Kima Enerson, Maker Educator

Kima Enerson, Maker Educator Follow the link to the Maker Education landing page to explore the daily Maker Challenge, Lego Challenge, Everyday Mystery, and Virtual Field Trips! ...

Science Insights with Josh Frye ‘15

Science Insights with Josh Frye ‘15

Josh Frye ‘15, graduated from Haverford College in 2019, where he studied Archaeology and Chemistry. He is spending this year in Rochester, researching, subbing, and coaching at Harley before starting his masters in the fall. Penicillin: Why Does It Work?...

Documentary, “The Promise of Biomimicry”

Documentary, “The Promise of Biomimicry”

Ever wonder how an idea inspired by nature gets brought to market? Biomimicry looks to the natural world for creative, sustainable solutions to solve our greatest design challenges.

Rochester and the Erie Canal

Rochester and the Erie Canal

Learn about the history and development of the Erie Canal and its impact on Rochester with Jay Stetzer Watch here!

The Harley School

1981 Clover Street
Rochester, NY 14618
(585) 442-1770

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