Cultivating Pathways wins international award!

IMG_3331.JPG


Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability
a project launched from VTLFF in partnership with Shelburne Farms, a keystone member of the Greater Burlington Sustainability Education Network, has been recognized as a Flagship Project by the United Nations Regional Centers of Expertise (RCE) for Education for Sustainability!

2018 RCE Awards for Innovative Projects on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Established in 2012, the RCE Award celebrates projects and programmes on ESD within the Global RCE Network, honouring RCEs who have made outstanding contributions to address local sustainable development challenges in their regions. 

The Award recognises projects and programmes that bridge local and global perspectives on sustainable development, those that engage with transformative learning and research, and initiatives that contribute to community engagement, research & development and capacity development of stakeholders and partners.

The winners of the seventh annual RCE Awards, presented at the 11th Global RCE Conference held in Cebu, Philippines from 7-9 December, 2018 covered projects across the SDGs and themes of Disaster Risk Reduction, Traditional Knowledge, Agriculture, Arts, Curriculum Development, Ecotourism, Forests/trees, Plants & Animals, and Waste. 

Congratulations to Lindsey Halman, Jen Cirillo and Kate Toland who launched CPS together in the fall of 2016!

Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability 3: "powerful, engaging, just what we needed!"

IMG_5827.jpg

On October 3rd and 4th, the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms was full to bursting with the animated voices of middle and high school students from across Vermont. Teams of students, teachers and community partners gathered to learn and plan together, designing projects to address real challenges locally and globally: the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Crossett Brook Middle School students are writing a business plan for their Cougar Coop, several schools are targeting waste and resources, and the Youth Lobby is building their network of partners and planning for the upcoming legislative session. VTLFF has been a proud supporter and partner of CPS since the concept was first launched. Check out some photos of the days, and be inspired!

VTLFF stands with allies to fight against racism

Vermont Learning for the Future stands with partners and allies who have signed on to the following letter in response to Representative Kiah Morris's announcement not to seek another term in office. Rep. Morris has been a steadfast and courageous advocate for justice and equity and we're proud her work on important pieces of legislation to improve the lives of Vermont's children and families. She will be missed in the legislature, be we have no doubt that she will continue to be a force for good.

Systemic Racism is Real

What happened to Representative Kiah Morris is a crisis for Vermont.

The Bennington state representative, and the only black woman in the Vermont legislature, recently announced that she would not seek a third term, in part because of repeated racist threats made against her and her family.  

Rep. Morris has been a champion of racial and social justice during her time in the legislature. She has been an outspoken critic of the status quo and has brought a voice to those who are often marginalized and mistreated by our system.

Yet the threats to Rep. Morris were not motivated by the policies she fought for or the politics she pursued, but because of the color of her skin. They were made by Vermonters who are angry and upset to see a black woman in a position of leadership and power. The harassment of Rep. Morris and her family show once again that white supremacy is alive and well in Vermont and we are not doing enough to stop it.

The fact that Rep. Morris stepped down amid ongoing racist threats and harassment, and a perceived lack of support from Vermont’s institutions and leaders, is unacceptable. It is deeply troubling that the only black woman in the Vermont legislature has been compelled to withdraw from politics – Vermont needs more representatives who reflect the experiences of its increasingly diverse communities, not just in the State House, but in all levels our government, state agencies and leadership in our communities.

This is a huge loss for the state, but deeper down it is indicative of broader problems of systemic racism and hate in this state, problems that Rep. Morris worked to change as a legislator.

As a state we are at a critical juncture, and we must take action. Vermont’s leaders - and all other Vermonters - need to recognize the significance of Rep. Morris’ decision and how poorly it reflects on our institutions and our state. For too long we have propped up systems that work better for white people than for those of color. The silence of the white majority in Vermont allows this problem to persist.

We are at a crossroads as a state and as a community, and where we decide to go from here will be telling. Do we value a society that is free from the stains of institutional racism? What values do we as a people hold true and just? And what concrete steps are we willing to take, consistent with those values?

As organizations we are evaluating what we can do differently, looking to see what roles we have played that have created and perpetuated this culture, and what we can do moving forward to support and create equity and fairness. We are also calling on Vermont’s leaders — including in the Governor’s office, in the State House, all law enforcement officials in towns, cities, counties and state, all prosecutors in every district, including the Attorney General, and even in the media — to critically evaluate what more needs to be done to support Vermonters of color and create a state that is truly welcoming to all.

The work Representative Morris championed will continue and we look forward to her continued leadership. We must all work together to achieve the more equitable society that Rep. Morris and so many others have fought for.


 The following organizations have signed on:

Main Street Alliance of Vermont, Toxic Action Center, The Vermont Network Against Domestic Violence, Justice for All, Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance, Planned Parenthood, Vermont Action Fund, ACLU-VT, Public Assets Institute, Vermont Natural Resource Council, Vermont Conservation Voters, VPIRG, Vermont Interfaith Action, Vermont NEA, and Rights and Democracy.

Vermont Learning for the Future


(Also see related letter from the Windham County Delegation challenging racism and bigotry)

VTLFF Profiled in Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly

The Summer 2018 Edition of the Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly takes an in-depth look at how Education for Sustainability (EfS) is informing the teaching of environmental and sustainability education in K-12 schools, and how sustainability is driving systems-level change in schools and school districts. Articles explore the definition of EfS and how it compares to similar progressive education initiatives, as well as how states, schools, and school districts are looking to EfS, systems change, and whole school sustainability to inform instruction, curriculum, and leadership.  

Transforming Education for Equity, Sustainability, and Joy: Accelerating Systems Change through Diverse, Emergent Networks

Ben Freeman explains how grassroots network Vermont Learning for the Future is using systems change to transform the state's education system and provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to create an equitable, joyful, and sustainable future. Read More >

Full Issue >, including feature article by VTLFF partner Jen Cirillo of Shelburne Farms!

The Education Fund - do you really know how it works?

Education spending, tax rates, teacher ratios, cuts and compromises. Can you see through the spin and the stories to get at the facts behind it all? As someone who spends a lot of time trying to understand, I know I struggle to keep it all straight, which is why I found this clear and concise commentary from the Public Assets Institute so compelling: "There's No Education Fund Deficit". Every current and future taxpayer and voter should take a look!

Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability Regathers and Inspires!

YSHkZQKHS228e9hX6R8hWA.jpg

On Friday, May 11, over 100 students, teachers and collaborators from seven schools across Vermont returned to Shelburne Farms to share their year-long Cultivating Pathways projects. This event was a follow-up from the gathering last fall where teams convened to learn more about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and engage in a design thinking process to develop learning impact projects centered on the goals. In a sense, this was a reunion tour - a chance for teams to share and learn from one-another and build ideas for what comes next. It was amazing to see what each team accomplished in a year and the pride the students took in their learning. I can't wait to see what new ideas and projects these students will bring to the table when we reconvene with a new group for CP3 next fall!

Check out this video from the Crossett Brook Middle School for a taste of what the students accomplished. So impressive!

Power-Squared Summit magnifies student voice for change

Power2 logo&image.jpeg

On Tuesday, May 1, 2018, youth-adult partnership teams from 21 Vermont high schools and organizations descended upon the Lake Morey Inn in Fairlee to share their power at the Power 2 Summit. Power 2 is short for Power-Squared, acknowledging the synergistic force for change that happens when youth partner with adults to bring about innovations they want to see in education. Fourteen sharing sessions, ranging from the City & Lake Semester in Burlington to the Getting to “Y” team from Springfield, were presented by the teams undertaking a  change initiative. The kick-off and youth voice finale were led by the Summit facilitation team from Lamoille Union High School, partnering with Chris Castro, a junior at the Leominster Center for Excellence in Leominster, MA. Chris and his family moved to Leominster from the Bronx in 2009, when he was 8. Hunger and housing instability are challenges that surfaced in Chris’ life, but by no means have they defined him. Using song and his own words, Chris shared his story of his life and the educational path he finds himself on. Along the way, he developed a passion for connecting to understand people’s experiences in the hopes of enriching himself and those around him.

Reposted with permission from UP for Learning. VTLFF is a planning partner for Power2. 

Who will be the next Secretary of Education? Maybe we should start by asking candidates: what is education for?

As most anyone reading this blog will know, we are in the midst of a search for a new Secretary of Education in Vermont. Scanning through the news recently, I came across a conversation with Sir Ken Robinson on the future of education. One of the questions posed to him had such direct relevance to our situation here in Vermont, I can't help but share it with you. 

If you were the United States education secretary, what is the first thing you would do to change the American school system?

What is education for? In my view, it is to enable all students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens. The proper role of government is to create the best conditions for that to happen.

If I were secretary, I would encourage all schools to adopt a broad and balanced curriculum including languages, math, the arts, sciences, humanities and physical education, and develop nonstatutory guidelines and resources to support them. I would roll back the current testing requirements in favor of more informative approaches to assessment. I would support the comprehensive development of early-years education. I would institute a “soup to nuts” review of the selection, training and support of teachers. I would introduce incentives for creative partnerships between schools, families, cultural organizations and the private sector.

In these and other ways, education can and must change — for all our sakes.

ull Article: "An Expert’s View: Sir Ken Robinson," New York Times, April 5, 201

And here are a few timely Vermont perspectives:

Howard Smith: A vision for education in Vermont

VSA: Next education secretary must be ‘skilled navigator, collaborator and leader’

Whatever your opinion, get involved in the conversation however you can - now is the time to have our voices heard!

Restorative Practices

A few days ago Lindsey Halman, a middle school educator, restorative practices trainer, and active VTLFF participant, gave a professional development webinar on Restorative Practices with her colleague Annie O'Shaughnessy. Restorative Practices are emerging as a reparative, inclusive, and balanced approach to school and community justice. "The restorative approach in schools requires a paradigm shift in how we approach relationships with students, behavior 'management' and discipline," says Lindsey.

It is a shift that asks us to:

  • see creating a sense of belonging, safety and voice as essential to learning;

  • view misbehaviors as opportunities for learning and relationship building;

  • recognize every student as having something important to contribute to the success of the class and the resolution of conflict; and

  • look beyond the labels we give kids to see their essential goodness.

Vermont Learning for the Future sees restorative practices as a positive, disruptive force to realizing greater equity in education. They provide greater balance and strength to the youth-adult partnerships in learning, greater opportunity for building empathy, bridging differences, and strengthening more just, joyful, and sustainable communities.

For a deep dive into Restorative Practices in Vermont schools, watch Lindsey and Annie's webinar (embedded below), and click over to the International Institute of Restorative Practices for more Restorative Practices resources. 

Youth Voice Rising

Tragedy is tragedy, and there is no solace in the senseless loss of life. And yet somehow, in the chaos of emotions following loss, we have the power to transform our anger into passion, isolation into solidarity, fear into hope. Over the past few weeks, the powerful surge in youth voice acting in solidarity in response to the tragedies in Parkland and injustices across the nation has given many of us hope. While the outcomes at the policy level may still be murky, the message is clear: the youth voice is rising, the youth voice matters, and youth want change. 

One of the five VTLFF critical levers for affecting positive change in education and society is the emergence of authentic, powerful Youth-Adult Partnership. We recognize that it is our role as adults - parents, teachers, mentors, neighbors - to stand with our youth, to lean in and listen, to question and coach, nudge and support, and give strength in partnership with the voice of the future. This is education that matters.

If you haven't had a chance to see them, here are a few examples of empowerment, passion and partnership in action. 

Me Next? - Manchester JournalTyler Jager, 12th grade

Youth testimony video in gun control legislation deliberation and media coverage here (Burlington Free Press: VT Students on Gun Reform), here (VT Digger: Protesters Call for Lawmakers to Act) and here (VT Digger: Scott Says: 'Everything's on the table')

Youth Lobby - Rally for the Planet organizing, Climate Change, Voting Age, and more.

Young Writers' Project: Burlington students present to school board - Black Lives Matter flag flies at BHS and MHS and Community Project: Life After the Parkland Shooting

National: ASCD Express: Amplifying Student Voice

If you want to get more involved, check out the Power2 Summit - bring a team and build the movement!