Sustainability and Community Engagement in Education

The College of Education's mission of "Teaching, Leading, and Learning in a Democratic Society" underscores our commitment to educating students to be increasingly responsible citizens. By enriching the lives of students, we hope they share their skills to improve their schools, neighborhoods, and communities.

Sustainability in COE

Ongoing Sustainability Programs:

Groundswell: Hands-on Environmental Learning
Since 2007, Groundswell has promoted place-based K-12 education through environmental service learning. Currently, 1,500 students, 70 community partners, 65 teachers, and 22 schools have participated in the program’s environmental stewardship programs and high-quality professional teacher development.

Groundswell projects engage local students through their elementary, middle, and high school classes. Teachers are challenged to address environmental issues with students while accomplishing their schools' academic objectives. Groundswell projects provide students with unique interdisciplinary learning opportunities, requiring them to use problem solving, creativity, networking, communication, and collaboration to address environmental issues in our local communities. Last year, student projects included planning and installing rain gardens to prevent erosion and non-point source pollution, removing invasive species from critical wildlife habitats, and water quality monitoring. Groundswell's success has been noticed throughout the Great Lakes region. Over the past few years, Groundswell has received $1.46 million through contributions, grants, and in-kind support to continue providing services to teachers, students, and their communities.

Groundswell also partners with GVSU's TRiO Upward Bound Program, which assists underserved and/or first-generation college-bound students in grades 9-12 achieve success in high school and enrollment in college. Working with GVSU coordinator Josh Brandsen, students in Central and Union High Schools have studied the social issues of urban food deserts, developed community gardens, explored watershed management and created fresh food recipes.

Kids’ Food Basket
In a campaign organized by the Student Information and Services Center (SISC), the COE collects “loose change” to support the Kids’ Food Basket of West Michigan. Money collected is used specifically to assist with the purchase of juice boxes. The COE’s faculty and staff also decorate brown-paper lunch bags with inspirational messages and designs, which are used to distribute sack suppers to students in the greater Grand Rapids area. Kids’ Food Basket currently serves more than 6,000 children their evening meal each day, using over 100,000 juice boxes and 180,000 brown bags each month. More information about the program can be found at the Kids’ Food Basket website: www.kidsfoodbasket.org/

Service Learning Initiative
The COE's Service Learning Initiative serves to improve the social conditions of the Greater Grand Rapids area. One component of the Service Learning Initiative is the Semester of Service Learning (SSL). The SSL allows pre-service teachers to spend an entire semester working within a local school to develop community-based projects that address real issues. To accomplish these projects, student teachers study citizenship, democratic values, teamwork and social responsibility, all while gaining important subject-area content and concept knowledge.

Study Abroad

Visit the College of Education's Study Abroad page for more information about both the Consortium of Overseas Student Teachers (COST Program) and education-focused study abroad opportunities through GVSU's Barbara H. Padnos International Center.

Adopt-A-District
The Adopt-A-District program offers COE faculty, staff, and students a chance to work with specific schools and school districts in need of additional help and resources. Since beginning in 2003, the program works to provide school districts with a variety of professional development opportunities, grant writing assistance, program development and maintenance, student volunteers and more. While districts may apply for participation in the program, requests are sometimes handled on an as-needed basis.

Although funding is not a key component of Adopt-A-District, Carol Gielow has assisted the program for the past ten years by coordinating a pop-can and ink-cartridge recycling project. With Funding Factory's 100% free recycling program, credits are earned throughout the year and are transferred into cash for Adopt-A-District.

Alumni Association
The GVSU College of Education Alumni Association is active in giving back to the community and the university. Alumni meet three times a year at GVSU to talk with students about current trends in education and to review students cover letters and resumes. The alumni also volunteer at freshmen move-in, homecoming, Storytime at Sweet Mellisa's, and assist with projects for Community Outreach Week. Alumni can also connect through the GVSU College of Education facebook page, which features job postings, upcoming scholarships, and upcoming programs.

Story Time in the Heights
Story Time in the Heights is a program created by Dr. Barbara Lubic that turns summer literacy into a weekly ice cream social. Hosted in the Alger Heights neighborhood, the event is held Tuesday evenings in June, July, and August and promotes reading. Since starting in June 2010, the program has grown as over 300 local children join in the weekly event to receive free books (made possible through partnerships with Schuler Books, Bargain Books, and Scholastic) and ice cream. As one family summarized the program, "it's a great way to connect with neighbors and encourage our kids to read ... we look forward to next year!"

In July 2015, the National Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Digital Studios & Indie America filmed Story Time in the Heights to feature it in their series entitled "Impacting Neighborhoods".

Visit Story Time in the Heights on Facebook for more information.

Story Time in the Heights

Sustainability Focused Classes:

Since equity and social responsibility are two of the core values of the COE, many education courses focus on increasing social sustainability and enriching communities through the lives of students. An example of COE courses that focus on sustainability are:

EDF 310 Organizing and Managing Classroom Environments
EDF 315 Diverse Perspectives on Education
EDT 619 Curricular Integration of Ed. Technology
EDS 629 Transition Practices
EDF 671 Educational Policy and Practices
EDF 672 Social/Cultural Foundations of Education
EDL 720 Organizational and Community Relations
EDL 770 Leadership Theory into Practice
EDF 180 Service Learning (*pending approval)