Education Impact

United Nations University Recognizes Innovative Education Project

Posted by Jen Cirillo
Director of Professional Learning

Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability, an educational initiative of two teachers and Shelburne Farms, was recently recognized as a “Flagship Project” by the United Nations University for its contributions to Quality Education, one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The award was presented at the 11th Global UN RCE (Regional Center of Expertise) Conference held in Cebu, the Philippines, December 7-9, 2018.

Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability gathers teams of students at Shelburne Farms in early fall to strategize and launch year-long student projects focused on a UN Sustainable Development Goal of each team’s choosing. Throughout the academic year, teams work in their community on projects, then regather in May to share and report back on progress and successes.

Some student-driven, student-led projects have included: a student-run cooperative that operates under a sustainable mission guided by the UN SDGs, a project providing healthy food on weekends to students in need, teens teaching younger students about gender equity, and a collaborative art project between schools on the SDGs.

Youth voice and leadership are essential in making communities more healthy and just for everyone.  We are honored that Cultivating Pathways was recognized by the UN for its innovative approach to education.

Cultivating Pathways was the inspiration of Kate Toland of Peoples Academy in Morrisville and Lindsey Halman, formerly of EDGE Academy at Essex Middle School in collaboration with Shelburne Farms and the Rubenstein School of the University of Vermont. This initiative is supported by Vermont Learning for the Future—a network of over 200 education professionals across Vermont. 

Projects like Cultivating Pathways are what helped earn Vermont’s Greater Burlington Region official designation as a Regional Center of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable Development by the United Nations University Institute for Advanced Studies of Sustainability in 2014. The region, which includes the Vermont portion of the Lake Champlain Basin, is one of 136 RCEs worldwide, and one of only five in the United States. A network of worldwide RCEs aspire to achieve the goals of the Global Action Programme for Sustainable Development by translating its global objectives into the context of local communities.

The University of Vermont and Shelburne Farms co-coordinate the Greater Burlington RCE multi-stakeholder network of educators, NGOs, government, business leaders, students, faith groups, and community members.

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