[PIC] Students from Dutchess BOCES were among those who participated in the Youth Empowerment and Sustainability Summi at Ashokan Center in Ulster County.
Students from Dutchess BOCES were among the students who participated in the Youth Empowerment and Sustainability Summit Feb. 6-8, 2020, at Ashokan Center in Ulster County.

Sustainability and climate change are big topics in business and politics. It only makes sense that education tackles them as well.

That is why Dutchess BOCES, in partnership with the Omega Institute, Mid-Hudson Teachers’ Center, Ashokan Center and the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, has formed the Dutchess BOCES Center for Sustainability and Climate Education.

“Through a number of connections I was introduced to over the last year, we at BOCES felt an urgency around sharing information and getting districts involved in sustainability and climate change,” Deputy Superintendent Cora Stempel said. “There are a number of groups with expertise and interest in the area. We all met and, as a result, BOCES made the commitment to start a center.

Last February, BOCES’ students had an opportunity to participate in the Youth Empowerment and Sustainability Summit (YESS!) at the Ashokan Center in Ulster County, which also heightened awareness. One school superintendent reached out about it, sharing information with other district leaders in the county.

BOCES worked with its partners to refine the center’s vision and mission.  The consensus was to provide education, consultation and support to districts around sustainability for the future, Ms. Stempel said.

In addition to the organizational partners, there are two individual partners helping to guide the launch of the new center. Joseph Phelan, retired superintendent of Rhinebeck Central Schools and a senior fellow with Sustainable Hudson Valley, and Dorna Schroeter, retired coordinator of PNW BOCES Center for Environmental Education, and a sustainability educator/author are serving as individual partners.

This summer, the partners focused on curriculum development. A variety of programming will be available for district staff and students. There will be opportunities for educators to learn with and from each other about curriculum, instruction and assessment practices, facilitation of strategic planning at the district and school level, and creating a district-based sustainability and climate education program.  Students will be invited to participate as well in both awareness and leadership activities.

“We have worked with school districts to determine what areas they want to learn about for possible activities this school year,” Ms. Stempel said.  BOCES Director of Educational Resources Jenny Schinella and Staff Specialist Terrence McKiernan are also actively leading the work of the Center and will be in direct contact with districts that join this service. 

Letters have been sent to educators throughout the region to introduce the new opportunities available through the Center.  A regional conference is being planned for spring.