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 Model

Ongoing Sustainability Programs:

Groundswell: Hands-on Environmental Learning
Groundswell is a service-learning education initiative focused on helping teachers and students identify and take action on local environmental issues. Groundswell strives to develop a culture of stewardship in local schools throughout Kent County by engaging students in hands-on experiences and place-based projects. By networking with local organizations to provide funding and unique professional development opportunities, Groundswell fosters long-term curricular changes that incorporate sustainability and stewardship. Through Groundswell, over 4,000 students, 50 community partners, 40 teachers, 17 schools and 13 school districts have participated in community projects to help restore and protect the Grand River Watershed. Projects include research & prevention of water runoff, the removal of invasive plant species, greenhouse & garden construction, and developing effective recycling programs.

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.

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
For twelve years, the M.Ed. in Higher Education program sponsored a cultural exchange/study abroad experience in Puebla, Mexico. This past spring, the program shifted to travel to Kingston, Jamaica. Students, faculty and staff participated in service learning projects, working with SeaView Primary School to refurbish a basic school (Kindergarten) along with the teachers, staff and children at the school.

In Summer 2013, a new graduate study-abroad program developed by Dr. Olivia Williams traveled to the Dominican Republic for two weeks. Graduates lived with host families, explored the rich history and culture of the island and developed lessons that were presented to local children. The program paired graduate students with GVSUs undergraduate Spanish majors, who served during part of the program as interpreters for the group.

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.

Storytime at Sweet Mellisa's
Storytime at Sweet Mellisa's is a program created by Dr. Barbara Lubic that turns summer literacy into a weekly ice cream social. Hosted at Sweet Mellisa's ice cream shop in the Alger Heights neighborhood, the event is held every Wednesday evening in June, July, and August and promotes reading. Since starting in June 2010, the program has grown as almost 300 local children join in the weekly event to receive free books (made possible through partnerships with Schuler Books, Bargain Books, and Scholastic) and MOO-ville 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!"

Storytime at Sweet Mellisa's on Prezi

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)