For many people, sustainability is synonymous with facilities, operations, and data. Certainly, this is a big factor in moving in a direction of sustainable development. But as the Sustainable Development Goals suggest, the true path to sustainability does not begin, nor end, with a new set of solar panels or a set of flashy recycling bins. Structural adjustments alone do not get to the heart of systemic change. Sustainability needs to be both physical plant and mindset driven.
To this end, our “why” with regard to sustainability needed (re)defining, and so we created a new student-generated sustainability statement to guide our way forward. The statement, both lofty and practical, both future-oriented and grounded in the present, states “The American School of Dubai encourages sustainable habits and innovative change by spreading awareness and taking informed action to improve the present and future of our community.”
Around our “why” we have created an educational program called Changemaker Education that focuses on sustainability (especially through Edible Education—gardening, pollinating, cooking, composting), global citizenship skills and dispositions required to make a change (with the guidance of the JUMP! Foundation), and service-learning, the process of learning through planning and making positive change in our community and beyond.
Our journey included the creation of multiple sustainability-related groups anchored community-wide by the student-facilitated Eco-Schools Advisory Board. The combined forces of this multifaceted collaboration have allowed ASD to be a leader allowing us to establish lofty school-wide goals and, increasingly, community partnerships with other schools and not-for-profit organizations. Along those lines our faculty is often sought out to support, ideate, share and celebrate our expertise on a global scale!
In support of UAE Vision 2021, ASD is moving boldly forward as an example of sustainability regionally and globally. We feel that a sustainable world is not only the appropriate vision for a school to have but one which can, quite literally, shape the decisions of future civic and business leaders and our very students. In short, by providing a vision to our students we are helping to co-create the future now.
Engaging deeply with sustainability in our learning allows our community to look at things from different perspectives, to make the necessary connections between and within systems structures, to innovate and generate change. Sustainability is alive and well at ASD not because we’re setting up solar arrays, or because we’ve added a unit about it in science class, but because we- all of us - are analyzing our behaviors, experimenting with new ideas, making change, and, step by step, becoming the example we've been waiting for. It takes a village, they say, and we’re opening our hearts and minds to the world to move, hand-in-hand, toward a more sustainable present, and future.