Teaching Creativity and Environmental Justice to Change the World

 In PVF News

Guest post by Joelle Fraser, Co-Founder of IDEAL Bay Area, a designated fund at PVF

“Environmental justice IS community building. They go hand in hand. And when we include all people and perspectives, we bring creativity and learning to our practice and world.” – Our Changing Planet teacher

What if the creative powers of our children’s imaginations are the key to climate resilience for our environments, our cities, and our world? At IDEAL (Integrated Design for Education, the Arts and Leadership) we believe that the visions and strategies offered by our communities and future generations are part of the answer to living and thriving in our new reality of climate insecurity.

According to the Pew Research Center, 97% of publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is caused by human activity, yet many Americans refuse to acknowledge this fact or its impact on their daily lives. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported a decade ago that the “climate-related decisions that society will confront over the coming decades will require an informed and engaged public and an education system that provides students with the knowledge they need to make informed choices about responses to climate change.” Despite this assertion, California’s Blueprint for Environmental Literacy has indicated that only 13% of schools have successfully integrated Environmental Education into the curricula.

IDEAL believes that an integrated model of teaching and learning, one that weaves the arts and creative strategies with social justice and environmental literacy is essential to addressing this challenge.This led us to launch the professional development program Our Changing Planet in 2019, through a collaboration with Alameda Unified School District in Alameda, California. Our Changing Planet seeks to equip students and teachers with the knowledge and tools to strengthen their community’s climate resilience.

At the core of Our Changing Planet are the visual and performing arts that serve as creative hands-on, minds-on experiences for engaging teachers and their students to develop a community voice for collective solutions. The program model grew out of the best practices and approaches of the Integrated Learning Specialist Program formerly at the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE). The Integrated Learning Specialist Program uniquely combined constructivist learning theories with frameworks from Harvard’s Project Zero research institute and culturally responsive teaching practices. Through project-based approaches inspired by contemporary artists, scientists, and climate justice advocates, teachers make meaningful connections to content standards, build depth of knowledge across disciplines, and apply these practices within their own classrooms. Our Changing Planet engages learners as change-makers for climate justice, igniting creative and critical thinking to both understand current problems and imagine possible solutions.


“I was able to come to an understanding of the environment as a critical piece of ourcommunity rather than another thing to teach students about.” – Our Changing Planet teacher

Greta Thunberg said, “Hope is an action.”  At IDEAL, we are working to activate creative solutionaries throughout the Bay Area, fueled by a deepening ecological understanding and a growing collective imagination.

Recent Posts