EcoRise Youth Innovations

Project Representative
Sarayu Adeni, Global Partnerships Manager
Creation Date: 2008
Headquarters: Austin, Texas, USA
Geographical Reach: Global
Nature and number of beneficiaries: K-12 education: 1,800 teachers, 26,000 students
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EcoRise Youth Innovations

About the Project

EcoRise Youth Innovations inspires a new generation of leaders to design a sustainable future for all. Its school-based programming empowers youth to tackle real-world challenges in their schools and communities by teaching eco-literacy, design, and social innovation.
 
EcoRise enlivens conventional classrooms with meaningful, action-oriented learning. Students are problem-solvers and leaders for social change to develop solutions for community challenges in seven key areas: energy, water, food, waste, transportation, public spaces, and air quality. EcoRise offers schools high-quality, academically aligned curricula, along with teacher training and funding to support student-led projects and the development of critical skills and knowledge. Its approach to STEM and environmental education provides opportunities for creative problem-solving and actively facilitates connections between students and green career professionals who act as guest speakers and project mentors and provide an authentic audience at end-of-year youth solutions showcases. 

Context and Issue

The world is rapidly changing. The skills to think globally and act locally are more needed than ever to address increasingly complex challenges to planetary boundaries and social justice within communities.

With more than half the global population under the age of 30, today's children and youth are an untapped source of leadership. Unfortunately, school systems often fail to equip students with critical skills and tools: classrooms are antiquated, teachers are overburdened, and common methods of delivery and content have undergone little evolution in decades. With a transformation in education, the next generation of leaders can build twenty-first century skills and content knowledge in environmental stewardship, entrepreneurship, community building, and project management. EcoRise Youth Innovations believes that the future of the planet depends on channelling young people’s energy and ingenuity, empowering youth as agents for change.

Solution and Impact

EcoRise provides services to K-12 teachers in four key areas:

1.TEACH: EcoRise offers standards-aligned, project-based, K–12 content focused on environmental literacy, social innovation and hands-on design skills in six different curriculum suites:

• Sustainable Intelligence: Builds sustainability knowledge across seven eco-themes: water, waste, food, energy, air, public spaces, and transportation.
• Design Studio: Guides students to develop creative solutions to pressing problems using EcoRise’s design-thinking process.
• EcoPreneurship: Introduces social entrepreneurship and sustainable business practices, challenging students to develop business ideas.
• EcoSmarts: Engages elementary students in a campus-wide environmental audit as they learn and practice sustainable behaviors.
• Biomimicry: Challenges chemistry, physics, and biology students to look at “nature as mentor” to solve sustainability challenges.
• Leed Prep: Prepares students to become LEED-GA certified as they learn green building techniques by assessing their school’s environmental health.

2. CONNECT: EcoRise facilitates connections with green STEM professionals who provide project mentorship and introduce students to green career pathways, primarily via a virtual networking tool, launched in partnership with NEPRIS.

3. IMPACT: EcoRise awards campus micro-grants via the Student Innovation Fund, allowing youth to bring their solutions to life.

4. GROW: EcoRise supports and inspires teachers with professional development experiences that are creative, engaging, and relevant.

EcoRise's overall program reach in 2015-2016 impacted 600 primary and secondary schools, including 1,800 teachers, 26,000 students worldwide.

IMPACT on students:
• 74 percent adopted at least one new green habit or behavior (waste management, energy conservation, water conservation, stewardship of public places, more time spent outside).
• 72 percent improved their use of technology to learn with peers.
• 71 percent reported developing at least one 21st century skill

IMPACT on teachers:
• 93 percent reported EcoRise's curriculum supports their classroom's academic goals.
• 91 percent described EcoRise trainings as relevant, well-organized, and engaging.
• 93 percent said EcoRise brings new energy to their teaching practice.

The Student Innovation Fund in 2015-16:
• Awarded US $20,402 in total grants
• Empowered 1,444 student leaders across 34 campus projects in the U.S.
• Funded projects that saved schools US $66,319 in 1-year cumulative utility savings.

EcoRise's work is made possible by strategic partnerships with municipalities, private sector, education, collaborative and non-profit organizations including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Green Building Council, The Biomimicry Institute, City of Austin Office of Sustainability, Southwest Airlines, Representaciones e Inteligencias Sustentables, and The Meadows Foundation.

Future Developments

To bolster its commitment to advancing innovation in sustainability education, EcoRise aims to grow from 600 schools to 5,000 schools in 35 countries in the next three years. The organization’s training model is evolving from local, one-time face-to-face sessions to interactive, and high-quality e-learning that connects teachers and creates a global professional learning community for sustainability. EcoRise also plans to expand the Student Innovation Fund at an international level.

To further these goals, EcoRise is building global alliances with visionary companies, organizations and institutions who wish to partner for greater impact and bring sustainability education to children’s classrooms. Its core strategy relies on identifying partners who:
• Recognize the unleashed potential of youth as leaders and problem-solvers;
• Believe in the power of education as the foundation for societal change;
• Stand as leaders in the fields of sustainability and innovation;
• Share its vision for a more beautiful and prosperous world.

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