Fridays for Earth 2022

Cork Environmental Forum and SHEP Earth Aware are continuing their collaboration to bring you films, presentations and panel discussions on key environmental topics for 2022.

18th February 2022

Educating children to live in harmony with the Earth?  Localising & Democratising Education, West Cork Sudbury School & Vermont Learning for the Future

How do we educate children to live in harmony with the Earth?

The major crises facing humanity are global in scope (climate catastrophe, extinctions, mass migrations, etc.) and live as abstractions in the minds of people not yet directly impacted. Likewise, much of the school curriculum lives as abstractions in the minds of students, given the widespread focus on decontextualized textbook learning and exams. To educate for sustainability requires that we shift from the abstract to the concrete, bringing young people into direct contact and conversation with the living world around them: the plants, animals, waters, soil, and people of their locale, and creating dynamic models of place-based learning that highlight direct experiences and the study of social and ecological problems.

We are delighted to have two excellent guests who will share their experiences and work to localise and democratise education with Jessica Mason from the West Cork Sudbury School and Kathleen Kesson fromVermont Learning for the Future

West Cork Sudbury School, a place of self-directed learning.

Jessica Mason is an environmental educator with nearly 20 years experience in outdoor learning, ecology, eco-art and school gardens as well working with adults around awareness and behaviour change. Wth a background in environmental science she went on to study an MSc in Learning for Sustainability through Edinburgh University. Since 2018 Jessica has been part of the founding group of West Cork Sudbury School, a democratic school for self directed learning that opened its doors to students in 2020. She now splits her time between working as a staff member in the school and continuing her work through the Heritage in Schools scheme and teaching for Coomhola Salmon Trust.

Community Schools: Localising Education for Sustainability

Kathleen Kesson is Professor Emerita of Teaching, Learning and Leadership in the School of Education at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University. She is the former Director of Teacher Education at Goddard College in Vermont, and was the founding Director of the John Dewey Project on Progressive Education at the University of Vermont, a research and policy organization. She has written extensively about democracy and education, teacher development, spirituality and the curriculum, unschooling, environmental education, arts in education, and educational futures in numerous academic journals. Her books include Curriculum Wisdom: Educational Decisions in Democratic Societies, Understanding Democratic Curriculum Leadership, Defending Public Schools: Teaching for a Democratic Society, and most recently, Unschooling in Paradise. She currently works with Vermont Learning for the Future dedicated to the transformation of schools and communities to be more sustainable, equitable, just, and joyful spaces.


In case you missed the really insightful and thought provoking presentations from Jessica and Kathleen you can view on the video, look through the slides and further investigate with some really great recommendations and links.  

Video link to presentations


West Cork Sudbury School –

Vermont Learning for the Future

Speaker Presentations                                                                                                    

Kathleen Kesson slides

Jessica Mason slides        

Some further follow up and recommendations from Kathleen:

I love Carol Black’s film Schooling the World.  But it is more about the effects of modern schooling on indigenous peoples.

The community schools movement is pretty new (there is one book Community Schools in Action – by Dryfoos, Quinn, and Barkin – but I haven’t read it and it looks like it is mostly the “conventional” approach to community schools).

Appleton’s A Free Range Childhood addresses self-regulation at the Summerhill School. And as you know, my book Unschooling in Paradisedocuments the learning of four unschooled children. 

A Vermont scholar (John Clarke) wrote a book in 2013 about his school’s experience with personalized, self-directed learning (Personalized Learning: Student Designed Pathways to High School Graduation). It has a lot of information about the elements that came to be in Act 77, which I discussed.

And of course Local Futures put out their Localization Action Guide, which is not so much about schools, but helpful for the community development part of the community school movement. Guide here.

I’m encouraging folks who take this path to do some research and writing so that we can get more information out there about a transformative vision of communities and schools!

Great to meet you all.  Good luck transforming education in Ireland! Kathleen

Cork Environmental Forum and SHEP Earth Aware

SHEP Earth Aware

Cork Environmental Forum

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