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Sustainability Education Workshop Gets Everyone Thinking 

A Sustainability Education Workshop hosted by Loomis Chaffee on Thursday, February 22, was a one-day event, but the knowledge gained just might provide an impetus for a lifetime of change.  

“I want people to know we can turn the ship around, that it is totally possible to move toward a sustainable future, that it is going to require a different way of thinking, which will then drive a different kind of behavior and lifestyle, which will ultimately lead to kinds of results that we want,” Jaimie Cloud said in an interview shortly before she began her presentation at the workshop in Gilchrist Auditorium. 

Ms. Cloud is the founder and president of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education. The workshop attracted educators and students alike. About 50 people from 10 independent schools attended the joint effort by Loomis Chaffee and the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG), which supports school initiatives surrounding global perspectives and issues. Director of Operations Elsie Stapf represented GEBG. 

“We wanted to run a workshop on educating for sustainability because we see that when people think about sustainability, they only think about gloom and doom,” said Marley Matlack, the director of Loomis’ Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies and a GEBG global-educator-in-residence, in a morning break during the workshop. “So the focus is to not think about the gloom and doom, but to empower students with new techniques, models, ways of thinking so that we can truly address sustainability. And this can happen for the teachers here within their curriculum, it can happen for the students and the initiatives they are doing in their environmental leadership programs, and it can happen in their dorm room, in their interactions at home, and in their local communities.” 

Ms. Cloud led attendees through “The Fish Game,” an activity in which groups try to figure out how to work together to fish for swordfish without depleting the resource. There were many lessons in the game, including the understanding that people need to work together for a sustainable future and the recognition that short-term greed leads to long-term failure. 

Natural systems are what Ms. Cloud called “commons — we all share them, we all depend on them, and we are all responsible for them. We can certainly thrive over time if we are taking care of them.” She mentioned the Maine lobster industry as an example. It took a group effort — and a conservation ethic among fishermen — to manage the industry. 

It took a different way of thinking — another point Ms. Cloud emphasized with the attendees. Einstein, she noted, once said we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created those problems. She talked about metacognition, “thinking about how you think all the time; reflective thinking; creative thinking; systems thinking; what we call futures thinking, being able to envision the future we want, look at where we are, and figure out how to get from here to there.” 

Ms. Cloud has been on the road from here to there for a long time, devoting her professional career to educating for sustainability. The Cloud Institute, according to the website, uses educational materials “to inspire young people to think about the world, their relationship to it, and their ability to influence it in an entirely new way.” 

In the afternoon, attendees explored some sustainability initiatives on campus. Alvord Center Associate Director Jeff Dyreson led the way to the LC solar field and talked about the metrics the school uses to calculate its annual carbon footprint and how Loomis incorporated sustainability initiatives into its curriculum. Another option led by Alvord Center Associate Director Sarah Griggs, was a visit to Loomis’ maple sugaring and apiary programs and discussion of the ways the school incorporates them into the curriculum. 

For another activity, student participants were asked to write on sticky notes suggesting topics for discussion. A few samplings by the end of the day: 

“Role of large companies in sustainable development and incentives for them to participate.” 

“Reducing food waste and single-use plastic at school.” 

“Longevity of sustainability programming; how to continue the initiative.” 

“Agriculture. Sustainability around the world.” 

“A.I. and newer technologies to facilitate sustainability.” 

All of these ideas sure seem like reflective thinking, creative thinking, systems thinking, futures thinking.  


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