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Tying Student Learning to, Um, Sewers?

Posted: 10:11AM May 9th, 2012 | Comments

This project, in a New York City school, is an inspiring example of how schools, city government, and non-profit organizations can come together to engage youth in learning while accomplishing a real and meaningful project that will have far-reaching effects.  This youth led project will address the problem of overtaxed wastewater-treatment plants - a problem only expected to grow as climate change results in more frequent and intense rain falls - while transforming a run of the mill, asphalt playground into the kind of inviting, engaging, green play space that draws children in.  Sewerage overflows are a serious problem all across the United States.  And, right here in our backyard, Milwaukee and Chicago are taking a hard look at their own waste water infrastructure having experienced the destructive impacts of sewerage overflows in recent years.

This project seems like a trifecta -- improving student learning while leveraging community resources to collaboratively address a concrete community problem.  There is growing evidence showing that this type of learning, which in educational jargon is often called place-based learning, has positive impacts on student educational and social-emotional outcomes.  It is a great example of the potential to be tapped when you bring together our schools and the larger community to work towards sustainability together.

So let's take a moment during this Teacher Appreciation Week to acknowledge the tremendous talent and dedication of our teachers many of whom are always looking for innovative ways to make learning come alive.   Let's also pause to think about what we can do differently to support our teachers and schools as we take on the great responsibility -- all of us -- for preparing our youth for the future.  


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