The Center for Ecoliteracy has developed a framework for schooling for sustainability, which we call Smart by Nature™. Our book Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability features success stories, lessons learned, and "What You Can Do" suggestions for applying this framework.
The framework is based on four guiding principles:
Nature Is Our Teacher
To envision sustainable communities, we look to design principles evolved since the advent of life on Earth. We can shape human societies and institutions after the patterns found in sustainable ecosystems and learn from traditional societies that have thrived for centuries following these same patterns. Accepting nature as our teacher helps educators focus on basic ecological principles, apply systems thinking, and practice solving for pattern, and support healthy living.
Sustainability Is a Community Practice
The sustainability of a community depends on the health and inclusiveness of the network of relationships within it. Successful schools act as "apprentice communities" for learning the art of living in an interdependent world. Schools teach by how they act in the world, use resources, and relate to the larger communities of which they are a part.
The Real World Is the Optimal Learning Environment
Sustainability is best learned in the real world. Students experience nature's patterns and processes as they occur. They become engaged in actions that matter and participate with people where they live and work. They observe and try out skills needed by change agents, and discover that they can make a difference. School buildings and campuses provide opportunities to explore and demonstrate sustainable practices.
Sustainable Living Is Rooted in a Deep Knowledge of Place
Places known and loved deeply have the best chance to be protected and preserved, so that they will be cherished and cared for by future generations. Studying a place in depth helps create a sense of kinship. It allows students to see through the eyes of the people who call that place home and helps them imagine and contribute to locally based solutions.