Education works to teach the children green

Thursday - 10/7/2010, 10:13am EDT

Glenn Cummings, deputy assistant secretary, Education

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

The need and drive to "think green" is growing not just outward but down as well. The Department of Education (ED) is challenged with how to make sustainability more a part of the curriculum in the nation's schools, and help make a whole generation more green-aware.

Glenn Cummings, Deputy Assistant Secretary in ED's Office of Vocational and Adult Education, told Federal News Radio the department is working to "to begin to align our work, particularly here in the federal government, more fully with the movement out there in the country."

For students, said Cummings, this means focusing on two areas:

  1. What it means to be "an educated citizen with an understanding about sustainability and environmental literacy," and what should be taught to this generation. "How to act in this generation that does not endanger the next generation. That's really what we mean about sustainability."

  2. Workforce development. Cummings said that as new jobs emerge "education must stand up and contribute to making people ready for a workforce that is rapidly changing, particularly when it comes to issues (like) retrofitting your home for efficiency upgrades, renewable energies like wind and solar and biofuels. Those are the kinds of things that we have to make sure, certainly in our division - the Education Department, that we're doing well."

Closer to home, Cummings said other departments like EPA, Energy, and NOAA have had their own plans for spreading information in the schools about sustainability. Now's the time to bring the federal government together to work towards giving information to schools.

To help with that, the ED has added environmental literacy into programs eligible for funding.

Two hundred and fifty million dollars has been made available for grants, said Cummings.

Within the elementary and secondary education act there is some programming money that allows schools to build on certain types of programs. It might be an ESL program, might be a STEM program, and for the first time ever we included environmental literacy as a place where they could draw down their money for promoting environmental concepts.

As for the immediate future, Cummings said recommendations were collected at a recent summit of federal and school officials.

Those recommendations will now be put together a federal steering group and in the next 60 days they'll be taken back to secretaries of involved departments for further action.

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For more on ED's efforts bring together higher education, k-12, corporate and non-profits to work on sustainability, listen to the entire interview with Glenn Cummings by listening to audio at the top of this page, and for more from Federal News Radio's "Greening of Government" series, click here.