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Welcome to Sustainabilityville

15 April 2024

Once upon a time in the ever-evolving land of Sustainabilityville, the residents were engaged in a perpetual game of "Guess What We Care About Today?"

At first, the villagers were all about saving the trees. "Paper is the enemy!" they declared, as they hugged every tree in sight. But lo and behold, a few months later, the trees were old news. Suddenly, it was all about reducing carbon footprints.

The residents traded in their tree saving campaigns for carbon footprint tap dancing lessons. "Step lightly, my friends, for the Earth has a delicate dance floor!" they exclaimed, twirling around in their eco-friendly slippers.

Just when the carbon footprint craze reached its peak, a new fad emerged: sustainable fashion. The villagers tossed their slippers aside and embraced clothes made from recycled fizzy pop cans. "Fashion with a fizz!" they proudly proclaimed.

Yet, as quickly as it began, sustainable fashion faded into oblivion. What came next?

The villagers of Sustainabilityville decided it was time to put down the recyclable fizzy pop-can garments and do something more substantial. Recognising the need for consistency, they collectively concluded that a village-wide shift in mindset and a united approach to sustainable changes were the key. The forward-thinking villagers of Sustainabilityville set their sights on the heart of the village: education.

They crafted a holistic CPD program aiming to not only integrate sustainability into various curriculum areas but also to equip the village's educators with strategies to cultivate sustainable mindsets in learners. The program emphasised critical and systematic thinking, empowering staff to make decisions that were not just for the present but future-proofed for the well-being of the planet.

These CPD sessions became a cornerstone in the village's commitment to sustainability, with frequent revisitations of crucial topics in various formats. The goal was clear: to create an educational philosophy where sustainability was not a mere subject but an ingrained ethos.

Breaking away from the traditional CPD mould, the villagers embraced creativity and engagement. Escape rooms challenged educators to think outside the box, taskmaster tournaments sparked friendly competition, and gamification activities turned learning into an adventure.

Around 31 staff members embarked on missions as wild as a recycled rollercoaster, from crafting sustainable science labs to pondering the cosmic environmental impact of botox.

Not stopping there, the staff were granted self-directed CPD days, transforming Sustainabilityville into a bustling hub of collaboration with local businesses. A whopping 144 staff members were treated to on-site visits, guest lectures, and hands-on experiences that transported them from the humble village to the bustling heart of industry sustainability.

Through meticulous planning audits, sustainability themes sprouted across all curriculum areas like a garden of eco-friendly delights from health and science's exploration of biodiversity and ethics to maths unravelling climate data. Even the motor vehicle program got in on the action with talks of recycling batteries and emission trading schemes.

Back-to-the-floor days and industry updating sessions turned the village into a real-life sustainability hub. The village's farmers incorporated the study of local ecosystems and the vets sourced recycled animal bedding: everyone contributed to the sustainability commitment.

Military and protective services took on disaster risk reduction, while the business curriculum became a sustainability carnival, juggling fiscal policy, sustainable production, and the responsible use of money in a cost-of-living crisis.

The village was abuzz with excitement as the educators, armed with newfound perspectives, worked collectively to shape a generation that not only understood the importance of sustainability but embodied it in their daily lives. Thus, the village of Sustainabilityville not only changed its environmental practices but also sowed the seeds for a future where sustainability was an integral part of the village's identity and education system.

My choice of a story over a conventional blog post reflects our belief at Suffolk New College that education for sustainable development is about changing how we experience and engage with the world. By weaving a narrative, we emphasise the need for a more immersive, dynamic, and adaptable approach to teaching and learning – an approach that aligns with the essence of sustainability itself.

It's not a static concept; it evolves, just like the characters and plot in a story.

Suffolk New College's dedication to sustainability goes beyond curriculum teaching. By prioritising sustainability in teacher development, staff members serve as genuine role models for environmental and social issues.

This awareness extends to the needs of others, including future generations and marginalised communities, motivating learners to contribute to positive societal change. These values have become ingrained in the culture of Suffolk New College, defining both learners and staff and establishing what it means to “Be Suffolk New College”.

The acknowledgment as finalists for a sustainability award at the Beacon Awards is not merely a celebration but an invitation for others to embrace a journey towards a more sustainable and responsible future in education, by rethinking your staff development too.

Charlie Simmans is the Head of Teacher Development at Suffolk New College

Find out more about sponsoring an AoC Beacon Award here.