Sustainability is central to Explorer West’s mission and influences all aspects of the school such as: curriculum, community outreach, facilities management, student leadership, fundraising events, community partnerships, and more. Explorer West has been honored both regionally and nationally as a leader in the field of sustainability initiatives and curriculum.
Sustainability is “meeting our needs without limiting the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Sustainability is broken into three interconnected areas: economy, environment, and society. On a three-year rotation, these three key components serve as the thematic backbone for various curricula. Throughout the year, across subject areas, students complete research and projects around the annual theme.
Examples of Sustainability Program
School-Wide Sustainability Workshops. To build literacy around key sustainability concepts, during the first two weeks of school all faculty and students participate in workshops addressing core concepts in the theme for the year.
- Tomorrow’s Leader’s Tonight. The 8th graders teach sustainability concepts for the annual theme to parents during the annual event.
- Outdoor Education. The unsurpassed outdoor education program provides all students with graduated experience in outdoor skills and “Leave No Trace” outdoor travel, from snowshoing and cross-country skiing to worldclass backpacking in areas such as Mt. Rainier and Olympic national parks.
- Environmental Issues Slam. Student teams competed against each other in front of their peers with finalists moving onto Washington Foundation for the Environment’s “Annual Great Environmental Issues Slam” that has speakers from a range of non-profit organizations competing for the audience award for best presentation.
- Sustainability in Science. From writing grants for a garden to monitoring weather patterns and climate change, to building Willow snowshoes, science class in a hands-on workshop in sustainability.
- 8th Grade Global Studies. All 8th graders have a yearlong class to explore sustainability as it relates to environment, population, economy, culture, food, energy, water, media, governance, and global citizenship.
- Change the World Project: Each year 8th grade students in small groups choose a local sustainability problem. The group researches it, plans action, implements the action, evaluates the impact of their action, and shares their whole project with the community. Students present their project in front of their fellow students, families, and in front of a panel of experts in the field of sustainability.
- Sustainability Themes in Drama. Every student participates in drama, onstage and backstage, to produce shows that support the annual sustainability theme. For example, in support of “Society” cultural myths from three different regions celebrated wisdom about what makes a society sustainable.
- Green Campus Initiative. Students organize, promote, and monitor recycling and the school’s native plants and produce gardens, as well as the successful “No Idling Campaign.
- Annual Field Trip. A spring field trip takes the entire school out to two different sites or organizations related to the annual theme, from the Yukon Gold Rush Museum and African American Museum, to the Ballard Locks and Olympic Sculpture Park to the King Tut exhibit and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center.
To involve all students in annual service projects, mixed grade advisory groups partner with a range of community organizations, including Community Orchard of West Seattle, White Center Food Bank, Washtington Trails Association, Green Schools Alliance, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Green Cities Program, Seattle Public Utilities, Roxhill Elementary School, and South Seattle Community College.
- Washington Foundation for the Environment’s “3rd Annual Great Environmental Issues Slam” – Winning Student Teams, 2013-18
- NAIS Leading Edge Award for Environmental Sustainability. NAIS defines environmental sustainability as “becoming more green and less wasteful; incorporating environmental education into the curriculum; supporting social and economic well being in the local community; and endorsing sustainable physical development”.
- King County Earth Heroes Award
- Terry Husseman Environmental Curriculum Award and garden grant
- Various faculty members lead panels and workshops on ways to integrate sustainability in curriculum and school culture.