Summer Institute FAQs

General Overview • Time Commitment and Costs • Key Dates • Who is this program for? • Can I earn CEUs? • What are sustainability-focused action projects, and how do they fit into all disciplines? • What is an action showcase? • What competencies will I develop as an educator through participation in this program? • What deliverables will I be developing throughout this program? • What is sustainability and ecoliteracy? • What is global competence? • What are pedagogies that invite active citizenship? • I already do Project Based Learning in my classroom, is this a good fit for me? • What is a Sustainable Communities Action Project (SCAP)? • How is the SCAP Standards-Aligned? • Why do we investigate global issues, and take action locally? • Who can I contact if I have more specific questions?

Time Commitment and Costs

There is no extra work required during the school year, other than to implement the project you design over 5 days in the summer institute and attend a 1-day student showcase, profiling the students' action projects. Based on their professional learning plans and goals, teachers will determine whether they want ongoing support as part of the learning community; mentoring/coaching around implementing the action project, and engaging in a fieldwork experience are available to all participants.

We will support educators in setting up their fieldwork experience, which includes 1-2 days working with a local organization partner to learn more about the issues they cover in their action project with students. There is zero cost for participation in this program, and all food and materials will be covered during the summer institute. All participants will have to cover transportation to and from the institute. $500 stipends will be awarded to all participants who complete the deliverables at the end of the school year.

Key Dates

April 30th: Application deadline

June-July: Independent reading and preparation for summer institute (3-5 hours)

July 24th-27th: Sonoma State University summer institute for Grades 6-12 Educators

July 28th: Optional Leadership Practicum

September-January: Educators can opt to engage in a 1-2 day fieldwork training

February-June: Teachers prepare and bring students to a 1-day local showcase of action project

Who is this program for?

Sustainable communities are those that value and embrace social, economic and ecological diversity. We will create space to focus on strategies for increasing equity and engaging at risk students including students from vulnerable populations; including low income families, foster youth, students of color, undocumented students and LGBTQ-identifying students.

We encourage applications from teachers who work in schools that embrace environmental and outdoor education, project based learning, community-based learning, global learning and alternative assessments as core to their ethos.

Can I earn CEUs?

Yes- teachers can earn CEUs through San Diego State University.

If you feel this program is exactly what you are looking for, but are too far from the site, or don’t meet the grade level criteria, please contact the site director at the location you wish to attend. We hope to expand this program to new sites around California by 2018.

Barbara Doten, Long Beach,

Michelle Mazzeo, Sonoma State,

What are sustainability-focused action projects, and how do they fit into all disciplines?

All educators want to make learning authentic and relevant for students; we all call planet earth our home, and therefore, applying our learning to the protection of our planet and the rights of our fellow human beings is a compelling challenge that positions students as heroes of their own stories, and makes learning come to life. Teachers of any discipline can leverage the content and skills taught in their classes to give students an opportunity to apply their learning in alignment with the greater good.

What is an action showcase?

There are many festivals, summits, showcases and other events around the state where students can share what they learned through an action project. A showcase serves as a site for sharing reflections on the process and outcomes. Showcases can take place at schools, or in the community.

What competencies will I develop as an educator through participation in this program?

Teachers will develop knowledge and skills around:

  • Understanding of global conditions and current events
  • Create a classroom environment that values diversity and engagement
  • Experiential understanding of multiple cultures and perspectives
  • Promote equity and social justice
  • Integrate learning experiences that promote content-aligned explorations of the world
  • Develop local partnerships that provide real world contexts for global learning opportunities
  • Develop and use appropriate methods of inquiry to assess students’ global competence development

What deliverables will I be developing throughout this program?

  • During the Summer Institute, teachers will have time, resources and support around designing a sustainable communities action project plan (SCAP), including general unit plans that help students build content, and a timeline for the SCAP implementation
  • Over the course of the year, CISP will support teachers in documenting the outcomes of their lessons and project implementation leading up to the student showcase, especially as they relate to building global competence and ecoliteracy
  • As this is a professional learning community, CISP will also expect teachers to reflect (through check-ins and/or written reflections) on their own growth as educators empowering eco-literate global citizens

What is sustainability and ecoliteracy?

The UNESCO site on Education for Sustainable Development reminds us that, “the message of sustainability is not ‘new’; it can be summarized into three main themes that help bring all disciplinary learning together under one umbrella: a) all living systems are connected b) human quality of life is just as important as economic development c) there can be no long-term economic development without attention to human development and the quality of the environment. Sustainability is most often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. There are three main pillars: social, environmental, economic.

These ideas are central to the wisdom and values that inform ways of living sustainably that have characterized indigenous and farming peoples in many parts of the world for thousands of years.” Eco-literate students have the knowledge, awareness, and ability to make decisions that promote health and well-being for themselves and their communities without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

What is global competence?

Global competence is a set of dispositions or skills that all young people need to navigate a rapidly changing world. These competencies, which are practiced throughout the summer institute and will be built into your action project, include Investigating the World, Recognizing Perspectives, Communicating Ideas and Taking Action. Please refer to the CISP website’s resource page for more information on global competence frameworks:

What are pedagogies that invite active citizenship?

Design thinking, project-based learning, interdisciplinary learning, place based learning, community-based learning, participatory action research, action research, socratic inquiry, storytelling, values-based education, enquiry learning, future problem solving, experiential learning, learning outside the classroom, community-based problem solving (and more!) position students to develop the skills and knowledge needed to contribute to a sustainable future, including global competence and eco-literacy. Through these practices, teaching and learning are used to empower and inspire students to see themselves as lifelong, active global citizens in their own lives and in their communities.

I already do Project Based Learning in my classroom- is this a good fit for me?

Yes! Project based learning invites students into a sustained inquiry process that ends in developing a public product that is shared beyond the classroom. Designing a SCAP follows many of the same principles, and the SCAP serves as a public product that intentionally considers students’ problem solving interests in alignment with local, national and global policy and solutions.

What is a Sustainable Communities Action Project (SCAP)?

The Sustainable Communities Action Project is a sustained and collaborative effort to learn about an issue or outcome related to human sustainability on the planet; students develop a solution aimed to advance the sustainability of our local, and by extension, global community. Teachers will design their SCAP during the 5-day Summer Institute, and implement the SCAP over the course of the 2017-2018 school year. More on what the SCAP is:

  • A sustained inquiry process that requires students to think deeply about sustainability challenges at a personal, community and global level; students learn to see themselves as lifelong learners and engaged members of society
  • Students consult directly with people who are actively involved in overcoming identified challenges
  • Creates space for students to connect with the community and natural environment, and see community spaces, people and the natural environment as an extension of the classroom
  • Creates space for students to investigate local policy and take actions that align with policy
  • Connects project to global goals for sustainable development, enabling students to identify global patterns around their issue
  • Employs an environmental and social justice lens on the planning of any action for the advancement of sustainable communities
  • Creates space for students to work in groups, and to reflect on their own place in the community and the world; students practice and develop their individual agency and group agency when it comes to overcoming challenges
  • Students are learning to solve problems that affect them and the people around them, instead of looking to others in positions of power to solve their problems

How is the SCAP Standards-Aligned?

In the 5 day Institute, we will explore ways that your standards- including NGSS, History/Social Science Frameworks, Common Core- connect to global competence, ecoliteracy and issues of sustainability. Sustainability education is an overarching and global concept that cuts across and unifies all disciplines, offering pathways for integrated projects and collaboration across disciplines. In addition, we will make explicit connections between this project and your efforts to prepare students to be college and career ready including:

  • identifying personal goals
  • utilizing critical thinking to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
  • reflecting on responsibilities as a citizen
  • working productively in teams while integrating cultural and global competence
  • demonstrate creativity and innovation
  • employ valid and reliable research strategies
  • understand the environmental, social and economic impacts of decisions

Why do we investigate global issues, and take action locally?

As UNESCO states, “Individuals, families and community groups are best placed to tackle global issues at the local level – and it is at the local level that teachers, schools and students can also learn skills for building a sustainable future.”

One of the primary purposes of this project is for students to think critically about an issue and the challenges surrounding it. We look at ourselves and our own local landscapes first because we have more entry points for authentically engaging and understanding an issue; students have more access to firsthand information and the capacity to take the types of direct actions that allow them to develop agency and empathy. History and organizing has taught us that very rarely can a third party solve a problem for a community better than the people experiencing the problem. This outside "savior" paradigm has recreated historical power dynamics that perpetuate systemic inequality.

As students understand how personal and local problems and solutions also manifest globally, they learn that acting locally does indeed serve communities beyond their own local community. This concept of thinking globally and acting locally allows educators to think about developmentally appropriate ways to bring the complexity of the world to our classrooms. Ultimately, acting locally inspires grassroots solutions, and helps build community support for our schools and students.

To practice and develop agency, students must see themselves as actors in the broader community. In the SCAP, educators explicitly make space for students to see their action projects in relation to local policy, national and global goals for society. By connecting learning to what is happening in the wider community, students grow personally, develop relationships with people outside their school and families, and gather new ideas that can be applied to their own experience, or within their school communities.

Who can I contact if I have more specific questions?

Please contact Michelle Mazzeo at if you have questions regarding the Sonoma State Institute July 24-28 and Barbara Doten if you have questions regarding the Long Beach Institute in August.