In schools across northern Arizona, teachers are becoming more creative in their determination to help children learn. They are incorporating the principles of education for sustainability to prepare the leaders of tomorrow to deal with the world they will soon take over. SEDI, the Sustainable Economic Development Initiative, recognizes those teachers who help their students excel. This year, a select group of outstanding teachers received a total of $3,500 in cash awards as recognition for the work being conducted in the classroom prior to closures.
The Teacher Awards for Sustainable Curriculum began as the brain-child of Lynn and Wayne Fox. Lynn retired from teaching middle school in Flagstaff and Wayne retired as Assistant Dean at The W.A. Franke School of Business at Northern Arizona University. As Lynn recalled, “The idea for the awards came while we were out walking and trying to think of ways to recognize teachers for their special efforts in the classroom. I know how difficult it is to provide today’s students with a great education when schools are so terribly underfunded. When we decided to step up and finance the fledgling program, we never dreamed it would become so successful so quickly.”
The awards are open to teachers in Apache, Coconino, Mohave, Navajo and Yavapai Counties and include kindergarten through twelfth grade. The purpose of the awards is to recognize development and implementation of innovative educational approaches that instill in students the importance, value and practicality of local environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability. As such, they mirror the economic development mission of SEDI in Arizona. These lessons, units or projects must reflect and reinforce the principles of sustainability for the 21st century.
The programs recognized for 2020 were:
- Rebecca Fouts & Lauren Bradshaw, Puente de Hozho Elementary School, Human Journeys Past and Present: project description
- Katie Krause & Jillian Hernandez, Eva Marshall Elementary School, Public Works Day: project description
- Tonya Snyder, Beaver Dam High School, Preserving School History: project description
- Amy Dries, Sinagua Middle School, SMS Think Sign: project description
- Russell Randall & Eric Estrada, Coconino High School, Transitioning Green: project description
- Judith Arnold, Marshall Elementary School, Navajo Nation: Water for Life in the Southwest: project description
- Crystal Pike, Mount Elden Middle School, Sustainable Practices in the Kitchen: project description
Each winning teacher received their award as a thank you for their leadership. While these award winners were outstanding, we understand that there are many other’s that also deserved recognition.
To learn more about SEDI, the teachers’ awards, and the other economic programs, contact Cory Runge, SEDI Director at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Note: This is not a grant. It is an award, a recognition with no strings attached.
SEDI also felt it was important to support educators and students who are responding to the changing academic environmental conditions in a time of national crisis. We are granting $17,500 to The United Way of Northern Arizona’s COVID-19 fund to support local agencies who are supporting our children’s continued education while they are learning from home.
Rebecca Fouts & Lauren Bradshaw, Puente De Hozho Elementary School
Human Journeys Past and Present
“Through this 6-week unit, students explored ideas surrounding social equality and resilience in conjunction with how these can impact one's life. Students inquired into these ideas in both their Spanish and English classrooms.
“The central idea for the unit focused on human journeys as a continual cycle of change, impacted by culture, geography, history and climate. We also focused on: change being inevitable and impacting human journeys both in the past and present, how different perspectives impact the human journey and how events of the past affect students' lives and communities today.”
Katie Krause & Jillian Hernandez, Eva Marshall Elementary School
Public Works Day
“We developed a STEM unit in partnership with Coconino Public Works. The goal was to create a unit that showcased Public Works and all they do to help our community through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in order to increase awareness of Public Works and interest in the field, or other educational opportunities through the Flagstaff High School Caviat Program. We focused on the role and response of Public Works during the Schultz Fire.
“Students began with an overview lesson at school. Then the students traveled to Coconino Public Works where they rotated through five centers created by us that were facilitated by employees of Public Works. The centers were inquiry based and/or hand on experiments where the issues of flood mitigation, keeping the community safe, the mechanics behind the vehicles needed during forest fires, and the economics associated with community response to forest fires were explored. We piloted the unit with 5th graders from our two schools in the Fall of 2019 with future plans to open it up to the rest of the county.”
Tonya Snyder, Beaver Dam High School
Preserving School History
“Empowering students to preserve school history by researching the past of our old schoolhouse and learning that sustainable living means that preserving our historical building not only keeps our history alive, but it also values the environmental benefits of maintaining historic structures.
“The freshmen began this project by researching. They visited the site where the building is located; they read and annotated historical documents. They also interviewed a board member, along with former students of the old schoolhouse. Last but not least, they examined the environmental benefits of remodeling the building.
“What the students learned was that our past history ties to our present and even future events of our town. They also learned about some of the energy benefits that are tied to our restored building. Lastly, they appreciated and added to the passing down of historical stories from one generation to the next.”
Amy Dries, Sinagua Middle School
SMS Think Sign
“Students created an enormous sign that says THINK, made from reclaimed wood and coated in gum wrappers to form an eye-catching reminder of our school’s weekly goal. In the background the students wrote over and over: 'Before you do or say anything be sure it is True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind.' The sign replaced a dusty and broken piece that had been there since SMS was a high school. Students choose images for each letter that represented what it means to be True – a heart, Helpful – holding hands, Inspiring – a windmill, Necessary – a fish in the ocean and Kind – spread kindness like confetti.
“Students used the jig saw, miter saw, nail gun, paint and sandpaper as they created the letters and framed them with a wood border. The community college came and erected scaffolding and secured the sign to the wall. The 'unveiling' occurred on a THINK Thursday, the perfect day to spread some kindness and beauty in our school.”
Russell Randall & Eric Estrada, Coconino High School
“At Coconino HS, our Transition from School to Work program assists student who are differently-abled to develop the skills necessary to successfully transition into the adult world. The project we are presenting here, Transitioning Green, involves students who have documented disabilities including Mild and Moderate Intellectual Disabilities, Severe Emotional Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Orthopedic Impairments, Speech and Language Disorders, and Epilepsy.
“Our students are generally from low-income families, many belong to marginalized cultural groups, and some speak English as a second language or use a communication device. Most of our students live in the Sunnyside area of Flagstaff and possess a desire to improve the community in which they live. Lastly, all our students want to be allowed to self-determine their life paths to the greatest extent possible.”
Judith Arnold, Marshall Elementary School
Navajo Nation: Water for Life in the Southwest
“The students learned about WW II and the how the building of the atomic bomb lead to a rush by the U.S. government to build a stockpile of uranium, a substance which happened to be located on the Navajo Nation in large quantities. The resulting policies and mining practices during this mining boom introduced unsafe environmental conditions for many residents, which still exist today and are still causing cancer, birth defects and other diseases in the Navajo population.
“The students built models of the Navajo aquifer layers and learned which held the uranium and what factors contribute to the residents still drinking unsafe water. During a field trip, we met with a Navajo man who explained that his own mother and both his wife's parents died from uranium caused cancers. He showed them un-remediated uranium mines near his home and explained that even their livestock drink the uranium tainted water. They then eat their livestock, providing secondary exposure, as is the case with many living on the reservation. He also explained the great expense of hauling water for home use.
“I then provided students with a variety of sources explaining what has already been tried to meet the need for clean, affordable drinking water for everyone on the reservation. Knowing that 16,000 homes on the reservation still do not have running water, their job was to engineer their own solution and build a model or to design a combination of methods they believe would work to correct the water situation.”
Crystal Pike, Mount Elden Middle School
Sustainable Practices in the Kitchen
“Culinary class is a life skill class that teaches students how to prepare their own food safely. But what about safe for the planet?
“Our Foods class has taught students how to implement sustainable practices in the kitchen. This is important because these students will be cooking and eating the rest of their lives, and doing it in a environmentally friendly way is imperative. Below are examples of how we have adopted better practices that were not seen before in this Foods room:
- Composting – We now compost all food scraps as an alternative to the landfill
- Sustainable All-Purpose Cleaner – We make our own cleaner with safe household products that are friendly to the Earth
- Hand towels and cleaning towels – This shows students how to reduce the waste of paper towels
- Healthier Options – Not only are healthy options better for all people but also better for the environment in the long run. We have replaced recipes such as Microwave Brownies with recipes like Kale Chips, Hummus, and Fruit Smoothies. Also, teaching students about GMO’s, organic vs. non-organic options, and processed foods will build their awareness around the effects of the way they purchase and eat food.”