Joy Harrison

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Joy Harrison

Interview by: Mikalia Hoffman

Joy Harrison has been a Prospect Elementary teacher for three years. She lives in Oberlin, and feels that it is a place where real change can happen--that if you can make something work in Oberlin, you can make it work somewhere else.

Q: When you think of Oberlin, do you think of it as a sustainable place?

A: I think that it is a community that appreciates sustainability and honors sustainability. Oberlin has organizations that are working towards sustainability. So I think sustainability is actively a part of the community conversation.

Q: Do you think there is more to be done?

A: Well theres always more to be done. Theres always more. But there is a lot. Theres the solar panels. Theres the food movement; local foods. So theres a lot going on here. Theres Ecolympics, which is happening now. Theres the Dashboard happening year round.

One thing that I love about Oberlin is that feels like a microcosm of the macrocosm.

Q: Do you think the Dashboard plays an important role in prospect?

A: I think it will. I think its like you plant a seed, you water it and it grows. And so I think students are used to having the Dashboard here. They are starting to see it as a part of the school. So they are starting to check in with it. Especially with Ecolympics. Ecolympics does a lot for bringing attention to the Dashboard. The kids are always curious, so theyre checking to see where Prospect is in relation to the other schools and how much were saving.

Q: What do you think of when you think of sustainability?

A: I think, can something go on for generations? Are our circles feeding back into each other in a way that it can last? Or is it a one-way ticket? Energy is going in and getting absorbed and theres a finite amount of it. So I think of sustainability like an ecosystem. But I dont think it just applies to the environment. Is your job sustainable? Does the community have sustainable practices? Is development sustainable? It crosses all the boundaries.

Q: What do you think Prospect does with the students to get them to think about the sustainability, and the environment in general?

A: As an IB school, one of our transdisciplinary themes is sharing the planet, and the key to all of the units across grade levels that have to do with sharing the planet is sustainability. And then there are other transdisciplinary themes that lend themselves to sustainability, like how we organize ourselves. And then of course Creative Change came through and they helped us.

A lot of the lessons they have developed through The Creative Change organization fit nicely into planners at different grade levels. We use them for our ecosystems unit and sharing the planet. And thats complimentary with the Dashboard because you can look at the Dashboard and check in on energy use or water use, and in discussions of sustainability that matters.

If you want to make the world work, it has to be sustainable.

Q: What do you think Oberlin, the school, or both could do to improve the way they teach sustainability? Or just in general, how can we become more sustainable and environmentally friendly?

A: It has so many different answers depending on how you angle it. I think one thing that is going to help us become more sustainable is for our curriculum and our standards to settle by the state levels, so we actually know what our learning targets will be. And inside that, thats when we can start incorporating all these different threads that run through sustainability. We can start talking more about using the Dashboard as a tool, and using Creative Change as a tool. But the college has been great about students from the Environmental Studies department coming over and doing projects. We have that garden outside. Young members come and help us in different ways.

Q: What do you do regarding sustainability outside of school?

A: I like that we have the bike path running through, and now that the summer is here I would like to ride more, and take my daughter around. The farmers market is a wonderful part of the community once everything starts warming up. Were all coming out of our winter cocoon.

One thing that I love about Oberlin is that feels like a microcosm of the macrocosm. Theres a lot of diversity here, yet its very small. Theres economic diversity, cultural diversity, and yet its so small. It feels like a place where a lot of experiments could happen. Theres something hopeful about that. That if you could make something work in Oberlin, its something you could export elsewhere.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: Its a wonderful community. It has problems like every community does, but the problems feel solvable because of the scale. I love the school system here, and I love the International Baccalaureate. I think its perfect when you talk about sustainability, its a perfect fit, because IB is an international thinking structure, so if you want to make the world work, it has to be sustainable.

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