What does sustainability mean to you? To Morag Watson and her colleagues at Learning for Sustainability Scotland (LfS Scotland), it’s a concept that encompasses 4 important pillars:
- Citizenship education
- Sustainable development in education
- Outdoor learning
- Children’s rights
The creation of this United Nations-recognized Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development has resulted from a profound change in the way that people think about sustainability and education, and required buy-in from leaders at all levels. This change in how people think about sustainability and education has had a significant impact on the Scottish education system.
Morag will present “Learning to Lead Sustainable Development” at Mount Royal University during Kappa Delta Pi’s upcoming Learning, Leadership and Practice: Educating Global Citizens conference, October 2-4, 2014. She will also share the process of establishing principles of sustainability in Scotland’s public school system.
Morag is the Development Manager for LfS Scotland. From 2011-12 she was one of the lead members of a group of education decision makers tasked with formulating 31 recommendations that comprise the Learning for Sustainability Report, Scotland’s road map to embedding “Learning for Sustainability” in all schools.
“Before the Scottish National Party won a majority in 2011, sustainability was referenced in education policy but it wasn’t something all teachers were expected to incorporate into their teaching. Morag says. “After the election, the Scottish Government made a manifesto commitment supporting the creation of a One Planet Schools Working Group bringing everyone together to make recommendations and a plan to act on them. Learning for Sustainability is the culmination of that process.”
The group defined Learning for Sustainability as “a whole school approach that enables the school and its wider community to build the values, attitudes, knowledge, skills and confidence needed to develop practices and take decisions which are compatible with a sustainable and equitable society”.
A key element of the group’s success was attaining buy-in from local authority and government leaders.
One of the catalysts that led to the rethinking of sustainability education and the ambitious nature of the Learning for Sustainability recommendations was a leadership program – The Natural Change – which Morag led in 2010-11. “We would have meetings about learning for sustainability but it would be all the usual suspects that turned up,” Morag says, “everyone was enthusiastic but we weren’t in a position to change policies on an institutional level. We had expertise knocking on closed doors and we needed leadership to answer.”
“We went looking for 12 influential leaders in the education sector to participate in The Natural Change and help us open those doors. It took us 12 months to find leaders willing to commit time to the program; to build passion, enthusiasm and commitment. When we started we had no set outcome. We wanted to find out, if you fire people up in this way, what happens? We are now the first country in the world where sustainability is an entitlement for every school pupil, and embedded into Scotland’s Professional Standards for Teachers,” she says.
Morag and her team recently visited Hazelhead Academy, a large school in Aberdeen that has embraced sustainability. “Biology students could work in a local park. Then they got enthusiastic to do things on their own time, like volunteering as weekend guides in the nature preserve,” she says. “We saw pupils gaining confidence in participating effectively in community groups.”
“Previously there was an exodus of wealthier families in this area to private schools. But now they are staying in the state school because their children are getting an excellent education. Exam results underscore this,” she notes.
“There’s a big emphasis now in Scotland on values and how to live them. We expect to see sustainability in the 4 Cs in the schools: Curriculum, Campus, Cultural and Community. Embedding sustainability into curriculum and campus is easy. But when we see things happening within the community and on a cultural level, we know we are succeeding,” Morag says.
Morag Watson has worked in the field of Education for Sustainable Development for nearly two decades. Prior to LfS, she worked as Senior Policy Officer on Education for WWF Scotland and for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Learning for Sustainability Scotland is headquartered at Edinburgh University.
Kappa Delta Pi is an International Honor Society in Education. It was founded in 1911 to foster excellence in education and promote fellowship among those dedicated to teaching.
The Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension at MRU is privileged to host this prestigious conference of educators.
— by Karen McCarthy