Whole School Approaches (WSA) to Sustainability – Principles, Practices and Prospects – Call for Contributions

It is my pleasure to share two calls for contributions in relation to the development of a Whole School Approach (WSA) to Sustainability. The first one relates to an international hybrid conference organized by the Dutch government that will take place in The Netherlands and partially online late March of 2022, the second one relates to an edited Volume on the topic in the Springer SDG4 Series on Quality Education.

  1. Call for exemplary practices of a Whole School Approach to Sustainable Development

The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy have commissioned a report to provide practical examples of how a Whole Institution/ Whole School Approach (WSA) is being used in practice around the world to engage with SDG4 – Quality Education, especially in relation to sustainable development issues as covered by the other SDGs. The reports aim is to highlight different aspects of a WSA  – curriculum development, pedagogical innovation, school management and leadership, school-community relationships, professional development of staff, and the school as a ‘living laboratory’ for experimenting with healthy, equitable, democratic, and ecologically sustainable living – especially how these aspects can be integrated to mutually strengthen each other.

We are particularly interested in so-called critical case-studies that do not only highlight best-practice strategies and success stories, but also share the struggles, set-backs and challenges underneath and ways to overcome them. The report will be published as part of the WSA International Conference happening in The Netherlands on the 30th-31st March.

If you know of such a school (primary, secondary, or vocational) from your country that can be used as an exemplary example of a WSA in action, or want further details, please contact Rosalie Mathie via email. rosalie.mathie@nmbu.no before February 15th so she can still contact people connected to the exemplary case.

2 Call for Abstracts Springer SDG4 Series
Whole School Approaches to Sustainability – Principles, Practices  and Prospects


Ingrid Eikeland, Brigitte Bjønness, Astrid Sinnes and Arjen Wals (Eds)

Schools across the globe are seeking to respond to emerging topics like; climate change, biodiversity loss, healthy food and food security, and global citizenship. They are increasingly encouraged to do so by educational policies that recognize the importance of these topics and by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While there is recognition that such topics should not be added on to an already full curriculum, but rather require more systemic and integrated approaches, doing so in practice has proven to be difficult. This edited Volume seeks to engage educators, school leaders, educational policy-makers and scholars of sustainability in education in key principles, critical perspectives, generative processes and tools that can help realize a Whole School Approach to Sustainability. The book will contain three sections:  1) Principles & Perspectives, 2) Critically Reflexive Contextual Case Studies (Early Childhood, Primary, Secondary and Vocational Education) and 3) Synthesis: Challenges and Prospects.

The editors are inviting abstracts (no more than 500 words) of potential chapters. Contributions can be research-based (spanning different genres of research) but can also be more conceptual in the form of critically reflexive essays. Abstracts should indicate a best fit with one of the sections and need to be accompanied with short bios of the author(s) and, if possible, references to prior publications that relate to the topic.

Please send your initial ideas for a contribution or any queries you may have to: ingrid.eikeland@nmbu.no before March 1st. All abstracts will be reviewed by the editors and a selection will be made for further development into a full manuscript to be published by the end of 2022.

T-learning in Times of Transition Towards a Sustainable World – Keynote held for Learning for Sustainability Scotland

I was invited to give the closing keynote of the 2020 Annual General Meeting and Networking of Learning for Sustainability Scotland. The event was held online for the first time on 12th January 2021. More than 150 members gathered to explore the theme Building Forward Better: The role of Learning for Sustainability – What role does Learning for Sustainability play in making the world a better place, and how can we make this a reality? You can find a summary of the event and link to each of the programma elements here: https://learningforsustainabilityscotland.org/2021/01/28/report-from-the-lfs-scotland-jan-dec-2020-agm/

My talk titled ‘T-learning in Times of Transition Towards a Sustainable World’ presented an ultimately hopeful perspective on the role of new forms of learning and more ecological approaches of education in overcoming global systemic dysfunction – outlining some principles, perspectives and sharing international practice. You can see the 40 minute talk introduced generously by Rehema White, here: https://media.ed.ac.uk/media/1_gcmxxtyz The talk is followed up by some responses to questions raised by the participants.

Sustainability Tipping points, Meaning and Transformation in 2015: one more week to submit to WEEC!

Perhaps 2015 will be the year that education, learning and action for socio-ecological sustainability will accelerate. Public unrest about climate change, micro-plastics in oceans and bodies, awareness of the hijacking of identity and colonalisation of the mind for business interests (don’t accept those cookies, or check that ‘I agree’ box too quickly), the increased yearning for meaning over consumption, can be considered early beginnings of a transition towards a healthier, more equitable, ecologically viable, morally defensible and peaceful world.

2015 will be the year where the UN Global Action Program for Education for Sustainable Development will be approved as one mechanism seeking to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Closer to home, in my own backyard, 2015 will be the year where the Dutch government will need to respond to a demand by the parliament that all Dutch education seriously addresses sustainability. This demand was initiated by 36 Dutch youth organisations last fall and somewhat surprisingly received a majority.

2015 will be the year where the city of Gothenburg in Sweden will host the 8th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC2015) in June. The conference identifies 11 key themes to be explored during the conference and beyond, and all represent potential tipping points in a transition towards sustainability. I have listed them below but please go the conference website (http://weec2015.org/) for more information or have a look at a short ‘pitch’ for the conference that was taped last year to promote the conference.

  1. Taking Children seriously in addressing global challenges

We only have one planet, it’s simple, it’s the only we one we have, and we have got to look after it. But when we explore ’People and Planet and how they can develop together’, what people are we talking about? In this strand we focus on the young both as victims, heirs and catalyst and agents of change: not only the children growing up in affluence but also those growing up in poverty. How can we create spaces for them to become fully self-actualized members of society who can ably and meaningfully contribute to a transition towards a more sustainable world in which People and Planet develop together?

  1. Reclaiming sense of place in the digital age

Place-based approaches emphasizing the importance of place and place-based identity in determining our relations with the planet are on the rise across the globe. The focus on place and identity is timely as the complexity and uncertainty brought on by globalization and the rapid pace of technological and social change resulting in enormous cultural shifts which include a search for meaning and affiliation in locally defined identities. Although there are some who are worried about the ‘disconnect’ between people and place that results from a pre-occupation with and dependency on information and communication technologies, there are also those who see the use of ICTs as a way to reconnect people and places. There are numerous examples of citizens monitoring changes in the environment (e.g. changing bird migration patterns, changing quality of water, soil and air, changes in biodiversity) using GIS, cell phones, and specially designed monitoring apps. This strand explores the opportunities for reconnecting people and planet locally in a rapidly changing world.

  1. Environmental education and poverty reduction

As the millennium development goals are being replaced by sustainable development goals and there appears to be a shift from ‘education for all’ to ‘quality education for all‘, an important question is: what is the role of EE in reducing poverty? Already in 1975 (Belgrade Charter on EE) and 1977 (Tbilisi Declaration) EE was assigned a role in overcoming inequality and questioning unsustainable economic models to help alleviate poverty. But what has EE done concretely since? And why has reducing inequity and poverty been under-emphasized in the DESD? As poor people around the world are disproportionately affected by the impact of climate change, mining, resource depletion, loss of food and nutrition security, and so on, environmental and sustainability educators need to look for ways to engage multiple stakeholders (schools, communities, governments, private sector and civil society organizations) in strategies to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods. In this strand we look for researched practices from around the world that seek to do so.

  1. Learning in vital coalitions for green cities

Transition towns, eco-villages, urban agriculture, green schools with edible school gardens, are becoming more and more mainstream and widespread. These initiatives all require forms of joint learning with sometimes unlikely partners. Organizing such learning, also referred to as multi-stakeholder social learning, requires a new role for environmental and sustainability educators and policy-makers. A new task might be: brokering and supporting vital coalitions that are both energizing and generative in engaging citizens, including children and youth, meaningfully in greening urban areas in order to contribute to local food security, health and ecological stewardship. This thematic strand explores these emerging and expanding initiatives from a learning perspective: What kind of learning is taking place? Who is learning? How can such learning be supported? What is the impact of these coalitions on the learners themselves, the organisations they represent and the community they seek to improve?

  1. (Re) emerging concepts for environmental stewardship and sustainability

Since the birth of environmental education in the sixties of the last century emphasis has been placed on systems thinking and a more holistic approach to problem solving or situation improvement. Over the years many learning activities and curricula have been developed by environmental educators but still the challenge of enabling people to see connections, relationships and interdependencies, is as big as back then but the urgency to so is greater than ever. In meeting this challenge there are calls for re-discovering and utilizing indigenous ways of knowing but at the same time there are new concepts such as bio-mimicry, cradle to cradle and life cycle analysis that show promise in strengthening integral thinking and design. In this strands the educational potential of old, new and blended ways of ‘thinking the earth whole’ is explored.

  1. Mind the gap! Moving from awareness to action

Early EE was informed by insights from behaviourist social psychology suggesting that an increase in environmental awareness would lead to more responsible environmental behaviour. This assumed linearity between increasing knowledge-growing-awareness and changing-behaviour has shown to be weak. Attitude-behaviour models have since then been revised to include a number of additional factors and feedback loops. Just providing information, raising awareness and changing attitudes apparently is not enough to change people’s behaviour. But still policy-makers and donors want ‘evidence’ that education leads to a change in behaviour and improved environmental quality. In this thematic strand we re-visit the ‘gap’ by exploring new behavioural models and new forms of ‘evidence’ taking a critical look at projects and approaches that successfully influence and/or change behaviour.

  1. Assessing environmental and sustainability education in times of accountability

In this thematic strand the focus is on assessment of learners in school settings (K-12 and vocational education). In many countries there is a call for climbing the rankings and excelling in math, science and languages (cfr. the Pisa rankings). This often leads to a focus on the testing of ‘universal’ knowledge. At the same time schools – in their own context – need to pay attention to sustainability, health, citizenship, arts and humanities while preparing learners for a rapidly changing world and workplace. These claims seem to be competing with one another. How can environmental and sustainability education navigate this force field? Are there alternative ways of assessing learners that provide more space for meaningful learning around real/authentic issues?

  1. Beyond the green economy: educating and learning for green jobs in a green society

Driven perhaps by mostly economic interests and technological innovations, companies and governments are beginning to re-orient themselves to what is commonly referred to as the ‘green economy’ and its related ‘green skills’ and ‘green jobs’. The demand for a workforce that is capable to work in such an economy is on the rise and (vocational) schools are responding by re-orienting their curricula. From an environmental and sustainability perspective it is important to critically follow this trend in order to make sure that the P for People and the P for Planet receive at least as much attention as the P for Profit or Prosperity. In this thematic strand we invite participants to discuss the role of environmental and sustainability education at the interface between school and community and the world of work.

  1. New perspectives on research in environmental and sustainability education

The increased attention to ‘engagement’ in environmental learning has resulted in a greater focus on the agency of citizens, young and old, and their active participation in all phases of learning and inquiry. Positioning citizens in such roles is consistent with calls for treating all people as responsible agents capable of participating in changing and improving their circumstances. Doing so is considered crucial as the complexity and seemingly overwhelming nature of sustainability issues can easily lead to negativity and action paralysis. This is why some environmental education researchers emphasize not only the intellectual engagement of people in socio-ecological issues, but also their emotional engagement. For environmental education research to contribute to citizen engagement in socio-ecological-environmental issues, forms of civically engaged scholarship with appropriate research methodologies and methods are needed urgently. In this thematic strand participants are encouraged to share, reflect on and discuss emergent perspectives on research in environmental and sustainability education.

  1. Educational policy development for environment & sustainability

Communities, schools and universities are affected by a number of educational policies that are not always consistent with one another and offer varying opportunities for addressing environment and sustainability in a meaningful way. This strand investigates existing and new policies and innovations that offer the most promise for enabling educational change for a more sustainable future, including in relation to educational institutions’ approaches to curriculum, research, facilities operations, governance, and broader engagement with community and place.

  1. Education and learning for climate change adaptation and resilience

Communities, both urban and rural, are experiencing the impacts of climate change in sometimes subtle (e.g. the shifting of seasons, change of bird migration patterns) and not so subtle (e.g. flooding, droughts) ways. How can education and learning help communities adapt to these impacts and become more resilient in their response? How do communities strengthen their capacities for social resilience, reduced vulnerability and an integral risk management? Or should the focus be on ’adaptation’ and ’resilience’ reflecting the inevitability of climate change while de-emphasising climate change mitigation or prevention?

IF ANY OF THESE THEMES SPEAK TO YOU AND YOU FEEL YOU CAN MAKE A CONTRIBUTION GO TO http://weec2015.org/ AND SUBMIT YOUR ABSTRACT BY JANUARY 14TH!

Earth is calling! Anyone answering? Release of iPhone 6 as a way into environmental and sustainability education

As one of the organizers of the next World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC), to be held in June of 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden, I was asked to introduce some of the key topics to be addressed during the congress at the European Environmental Education Days (Bergamo, Italy, September 24-25, 2014). Since it was a bit consuming in terms of time and energy… we agreed that I would record my talk here in Gothenburg where I am currently part of my time. In the talk I use the release of the iPhone 6 as an entry point to talk about the complexity of socio-ecological challenges that are compounded by a dominating neo-liberal view of economics. I end the talk by briefly touching upon some of the main themes of the congress. The conference website at http://www.weec2015.org has just opened its abstract submissions feature and people can submit their abstracts until mid-December. Environmental and sustainability education will need to go hand in hand if we are to make a transition towards a healthier, more equitable, just and mindful society that does not further compromise the carry-capacity of planet Earth.

The talk was posted today on youtube here</a

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