In 1998, before environmental protection concerns were widely recognized, Unity Charter School was part of a small movement in the education sector to spearhead a curriculum to instill strong social and environmental values, a sense of personal responsibility, and a “love of learning”. Today the school exemplifies educational excellence, infusing Education for Sustainability throughout its culture. At Unity, student agency drives critical thinking and inspires advocacy through a constructivist learning approach.
Through its infusion of education for sustainability standards the students learn about the laws of nature and science principles. They learn how all living things are interdependent. They do this in their indoor classroom labs and in nature, their outdoor learning lab. Over the past few weeks middle school science students have been working at beautifying the bog area in their lower field. A bog is a wetland that accumulates peat, a deposit of dead plant material. Unity’s bog was designed and created by the middle school students. In addition to cleaning out the bog they have also spruced up their native species garden. This work illustrated the diversity of this ecosystem and its value for many different species, and for us to enjoy as a community.
In addition to the native species garden, Unity students also have a learning garden for the lower school. The vegetables grown there are carefully prepared and served in the vegetarian cafeteria. The middle school has also fundraised over $10,000 to convert an abandoned lot and create a pollinator garden for the local community to enjoy. “Humans are more generous, cooperative and forward-thinking when surrounded by nature,” said Tim Beatley, an architecture professor at the University of Virginia and executive director of the Biophilic Cities Project. Immersing students in nature has been a priority for Unity Charter School for over 20 years.
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