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With the methodology of teaching sustainability through community action projects, educators can increase student, school and community wide engagement with sustainability thinking. Sustainability-centered community action projects enable educators to engage students with sustainability through an interdisciplinary, student-centered approach. By designing and orchestrating community improvement projects, students gain firsthand, practical experience in creating a more sustainable, resilient society.

What’s in it for students?

Well-designed community action projects provide opportunities for student growth across a wide range of outcomes, and allow students to gain a deeper understanding of classroom lessons on sustainability. At the end of such an experience, students are left with a firm belief in their ability to succeed in accomplishing hard tasks and addressing challenging situations.

Students learn lifelong lessons of self-efficacy and taking action.

Career Benefits

  • Provide valuable hands-on experience in field of interest
  • Make classroom learning and research analysis come alive
  • Develop students’ leadership, collaboration, teamwork communication and critical thinking skills
  • Connect students to broader community, local resources and network of community leaders
  • Integrate diverse subject areas

Personal Benefits

  • Encourage reflective thinking
  • Help students take accountability for their actions and gain control over their lives
  • Boost self-efficacy, self-esteem, and moral development
  • Encourage interpersonal development and sense of unity
  • Break down common misconceptions

Sustainability-centered community action projects equipped students with the skills needed to address real-world challenges they will face upon leaving school. Through research, field-testing, planning, and first-hand practice, students take meaningful action on environmental, economic and equity issues affecting them and their community.

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Gaining buy in from NGOs and government agencies

Community action projects provide opportunities for local NGO and government agency leaders to serve as mentors to young people and develop a pipeline of talent. On an interpersonal level, older generations are encouraged to recognize young people as knowledgeable, resourceful community stakeholders who, with the right support, can serve as partners for NGOs and government agencies.

Measuring Success

Both student learning and community improvement objectives must be taken into consideration when designing assessments for community action projects.

Public assessments of student learning:

  • Students can use YouTube to submit video logs documenting their research, activities or events
  • Students can submit photos and/or blog entries related to their research, activities or events

By submitting assessments onto digital and social media platforms, students can encourage community awareness, sharing and involvement from the project’s onset.

Private assessments of student learning:

  • Require students to submit private journal entries that encourage self-reflection
  • Task students with developing their own personal objectives for their involvement with the project
  • Assign short essays that probe students to evaluate and analyze the research they conduct
  • Have students conduct interviews, field studies or surveys with local community members to assess the success of their project
  • Evaluate the group’s plan for sustaining the project long term

Conclusion

Now that you have a solid understanding of the benefits and core tenets of sustainability-centered community action project, it’s time to develop project parameters that align with your department’s unique curriculum requirements. Check out our follow up post, 4 Simple Community Action Projects On Sustainability For HS Educators, when developing a framework for your classroom application.

 

Sustainability educators – do you have experience organizing a community action project with your students? Share your experience in the comments.

 

Barack Obama Green Charter High School
Barack Obama Green Charter High School is New Jersey's first sustainability-focused charter school, cultivating the next generation of STEM and environmental leaders, with a 100% college acceptance rate!