WAB in partnership with Metanoia, has launched a 15-month student-centered environmental sustainability audit at the school. Not only will this audit help us understand our environmental footprint and take actions to become more sustainable, but the initiative also provides an exciting opportunity for our students to take a hands-on role and gain skills and knowledge through experiential learning.
Metanoia is a unique organization comprised of sustainability professionals passionate about the transformative potential of sustainability in schools. As a first step, they recently conducted online interviews with 25 members from across all school sections. The aim was to get a snapshot of where the school stands in terms of sustainability before embarking on the rest of the audit.
In order to learn more about this sustainability audit and how our students will be involved, we did a Q&A with WAB’s Director of Innovation in Learning and Teaching Stephen Taylor, and Founder & CEO of Metanoia Anthony Dixon. Please also watch the video above for more details.
1. Why did WAB decide to work with Metanoia to conduct this sustainability audit?
Stephen Taylor: We were looking for an audit partner who would help us investigate sustainability across the whole school, and place students at the center of the work. After considering a few options, Metanoia was the best choice, and came with strong recommendations from another school they had worked with. We were made aware of Metanoia by some of our Sustainability Lead Teachers, and their proposal was uniquely suited to international schools such as ours.
2. What aspects of this audience are you most excited about, and what kind of impact do you hope the audit will have on our students?
Stephen Taylor: We’re really looking forward to their work with students across the school, training them to lead the surveys, analyze the data and learn about sustainability at the behavioral and systemic levels. We hope that students who get involved will enjoy the experience of this work, and see how their inquiry and action can make a difference here at WAB.
3. Why is student engagement and experiential learning such an important aspect of the audit and can you give us some examples of what student engagement and experiential learning might look like for WAB students?
Anthony Dixon: We like to refer to this as a “whole-school sustainability audit” because in the ideal case, the entire school is involved, not just the students – it touches every department and all stakeholders at some stage, and because of that breadth of engagement over the 12-15 months, the audit has the potential to be quite transformative for the school community.
It would be easy to undertake the audit without any student engagement – we could gather the essential data, write our analysis and submit our recommendations and go on our way. But to do so would be to miss a great opportunity: the school campus and its day-to-day life is an incredible resource for teaching and learning about sustainability, and in most schools it’s a vastly under-utilized one.
Obviously school is the place where students spend a very large part of their early lives – 8 hours or more a day for 180 days a year for 12 years. In a sense it’s a second home for them and they care a lot about the place, and are very invested in it, so there’s a lot of energy there for making it better when they have the opportunity to do so.
4. What audit-related activities can students expect to get involved in in the new year? Are there any activities already planned?
Anthony Dixon: We’re looking forward to working with students in various ways in all of the 12 audit modules but the ones we’re starting with are Energy, Travel and Water.
In the Energy module for example, students will help us analyze data on the school’s energy consumption, identify what energy systems are on the campus, how efficient they are and so on. Students will work with us to estimate the carbon footprint of the school’s energy use and make recommendations for how it can be reduced – using technology as well as behavior-change.
In the travel module we will look at the carbon emissions associated with how staff and students commute to and from school every day, and also those associated with school trips.
An important aspect of the audit is communicating about it to the school community as it happens– what are we doing, what are we finding? And we want students to be closely involved in this process too. This goes beyond the fundamentals of good speaking and writing – it gets into how to communicate complex ideas and data to a variety of audiences, as well as strategic questions like how might the communication be designed to encourage behavior change, what outcomes do you want from the communication, and how do you know if the communication has been effective?
5. What role will WAB staff, teachers and the community play in ensuring students stay engaged throughout the whole process?
Stephen Taylor: Part of the audit will be managed remotely, but a lot will be done in-person when Metanoia’s team come to work on campus in Spring. They will have the opportunity to meet and work with the team in person and carry out activities such as the biodiversity survey. In the meantime, our Sustainability Lead Teachers are identifying suitable students for each of the modules and we will also create a communications team of students to work with Metanoia and keep the community informed.
6. At the end of this audit, what kind of skills and competencies do you hope to see in WAB’s students as a result of their involvement in the audit?
Anthony Dixon: The word metanoia means “a transformation of heart and mind leading to a change of behavior”. What we have seen is that through their engagement in the audit including close observation and analysis of the sustainability of the school, students develop a deeper understanding that leads not only to them being motivated to change the way the school does things, but also to a desire in themselves to act differently – it catalyzes a change of behavior on a personal level.
In subsequent years, students will also be involved in implementing some of the audit’s recommendations. While it’s relatively easy to make recommendations, seeing those changes through is not always straightforward. So learning how to effect change in an organization is a really valuable skill students will take into their lives and careers and their communities.
Last year the European Commission published what it called “GreenComp” which identified 12 sustainability competencies in 4 areas: Embodying sustainability values (valuing sustainability, supporting fairness, promoting nature), embracing complexity in sustainability (systems thinking, critical thinking, problem framing); envisioning sustainable futures (futures literacy, adaptability, exploratory thinking), and Acting for Sustainability (political agency, collective action, individual initiative). The audit develops all of these.
More information about the sustainability audit and Metanoia can be found here.