Scott Skolnick, a second grade teacher in the Rochester City School District, is leading an effort to align lessons from Learning Lab to his school’s curriculum. It’s a project that literally started with the flip of a switch a year ago.
John James Audubon School No. 33 in Rochester, NY, has 1,300 PK-6 students, and plenty of opportunities to reduce energy usage. Scott took advantage of those opportunities by helping to turn off lights, power down computers and save electricity, and at the end of the year, presented the school district with the energy savings data from his school. His actions saved the school $1,200 and the district rewarded his efforts by giving 50% of the funds to Scott to use at the school as he’d like. He decided to invest further in sustainability initiatives whose impacts would reach even more of the school community.
Scott first became familiar with Learning Lab, USGBC’s online education platform for K-12 sustainability curriculum, after attending the Green Schools Conference and Expo in Pittsburgh in 2016. He signed up as a Learning Lab Pro Reviewer in 2016, where he teaches and then provides detailed reviews of lessons from the catalog in order to help improve the quality of the content on the platform. He was immediately impressed with the content, and pitched the idea to fellow teachers on the school’s green team to conduct a correlation between their existing units and Learning Lab lessons. They were on board.
With funds from his energy-saving efforts, he purchased Learning Lab subscriptions for six of his fellow K-3 teachers at Audubon #33, and successfully applied to receive professional development (PD) hours from the school district to conduct alignments of Learning Lab lessons to their school curriculum. Over the course of several months, his cohort of teachers met five times and worked independently to link about 30 lessons from Learning Lab to their existing curriculum maps, and received 10 hours of PD for their work.
“The lessons were so compatible with what we were teaching anyway, and with a sustainability focus. It was an easy professional development. We were already teaching these things, but not as well as the Learning Lab lessons laid out. The attachments (downloadable resources) were really neat.”
Scott now says that the K-3 curriculum has been aligned, the goal is to implement the lessons, then present the PD opportunity to intermediate teachers (3-6) and get them on board with alignment. For a district like Rochester City Public Schools, which is the fifth largest in the state of New York, and with high levels of poverty and traditionally low-performing schools, Scott says he is excited about the potential of sustainability-infused curriculum to better engage students and help them make their schools and communities healthier, cleaner and more vibrant.
He says, “Our school uses Common Core, and when I cover cycles in nature, it was the perfect time to fit in lessons on water from Learning Lab. We, as teachers, still have to meet the same standards, but instead of using boring lessons from the textbook, we can do it in a more fun, engaging way with lessons from Learning Lab.”