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Burlington joins national effort for sustainability

BURLINGTONFor a city that is already focused on issues of sustainability, a formal kickoff for a new national initiative, Schools and communities that Learn for a Sustainable Future, will only strengthen the community-wide dedication to the issues. On April 3, city officials, Shelburne Farms Sustainable Schools Project leaders, and representatives from SoL Education Partnership--a national organization, all gathered together in the Great Room of the Waterfront Theatre to take initiatives for a sustainable future to the next level. Shelburne Farms has been working in collaboration with many community partners, such as the Burlington Legacy Project for over five years to make sustainability education come alive throughout the city of Burlington and beyond. Jen Cirillo, of the Shelburne Farms Sustainable Schools Project, said two years ago they were asked by the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education to join a network being formed of people and groups who all do similar work throughout the country. Just last Wednesday, the formal kick-off for the new national partnership, and reinforcement of partnerships on the local level all came together with all looking to the future of a strengthened network. Cirillo said that Burlington is one of the first communities out of 10 nationwide to launch this effort, and was chosen in part because of the success of the Sustainable Schools Project. She added that with so many initiatives happening in the city, Burlington is at another level, and starting ahead of the game when it comes to sustainability. Burlington is already at this great place, she said. Hosted by the City of Burlington, the Burlington School District, and The Sustainable Schools Project of Shelburne Farms, the afternoon kick-off event featured a talk by Peter Senge, a best selling author and MIT lecturer. Following the talk, the group of participants in Tuesdays event split into groups to brainstorm ideas about what was to be both offered and gained from being a part of a national community, and to think of the desired qualities that make up a learning community. One of the most important things about the days events, said Cirillo, was Getting all of the players together in the same room and know, this is who we are, as a collective. She said that this collective included a diverse group of group of people, opinions, and backgrounds represented at the event, and if anything, only wished it could have been broadened to include even more. She added that more groups will be included in the project as it moves forward. While most of the day-to-day work that Jen Cirillo already does with the Sustainable Schools Project will not change that much at this point, this new collaborative effort will be marked by a shift of thinking, and an opportunity to improve and deepen the work already being done in Burlington and to form collegial relationships with like-minded people at the national level. There is also a liaison team being formed in Burlington, called the Core Course, which will put on an SoL Leadership conference outside of Boston during August. Jen Cirillo said that the national network allows them to be hopeful about the future, and be able to determine, Where do we want to go? and What do we want to learn? Last Tuesdays meeting launched a conversation exploring the future of education, the community of sustainability in the Burlington area and how these experiences can contribute to the national learning community.

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