Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sustainability Academy; Shaping SMC Students.

 The Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes school in Burlington is, perhaps the most remarkable school I have ever been associated with. Back in 2004/5, the year before I started at S. Mike's,  I was the math coach at the school back when it was just Lawrence Barnes elementary school. That experience changed my life when I realized that math was not the same the world over. Working with children and their parents from all over the world I soon realized that the math they were bringing with them form Asia Africa, and easter Europe was quite different from the math the we were expecting them to learn here.

As a cognitivist educator, I believe that what we already know affects what we are learning and so it became incredibly important for me to know and understand the nature of the math the newcomers were bringing with them. They clearly brought different languages with them but what was the nature of the math they were bringing? Answering this question has been my primary professional interest for the past ten years.

The Sustainability Academy is now an even more remarkable school than it was back then due to the dedicated principal and faculty who inspire children from all over Burlington, and the world,  to learn through the application of  the ideas of sustainability. As you walk through the school you get a sense of purpose, the students seem to have a commitment to learning and to being part of the community that is not always apparent in the typical elementary school.

Earlier this year the school won an award  when the  National Wildlife Federation presented the school with the Eco-Schools USA Green Flag Honor, the first school to receive such an award in Vermont. The school was also featured in the local press this past weekend, and again in The Atlantic.

The most wonderful thing for me,  however,  is that I get to place most of the students in my Teaching Elementary Math and Science course at the school for their 20 hour (2 hours per week) public school classroom experience each semester. This practicum experience has such a profound effect upon my students as they learn how to listen to and observe students from all over the world as the learn and celebrate the mathematical aspects of the elementary school curriculum. 

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