October 25, 2004
The implementation of The Next Link: Building Sustainable Communities and its place-based curriculum is underway! The past year and a half of progress has moved us towards our vision of a leadership program which fosters appreciation for the critical relationship between natural, social, and environmental systems.
Educational leaders associated with the project, have made presentations of the film and its educational components at various conferences across the country. A number of K-University teachers have piloted activities from the manual and continue to develop others. In Vermont, we’ve seen these project extensions demonstrate a wide range of applications.
At the elementary level:
- At one school, the majority of students and staff are participating in their SLIMY program (Sustainable Living Initiatives Motivating Youth), focusing on establishing meaningful connections with the environment and the broader community. The early focus on responsibility for the future can be seen in leadership activities like maintaining and improving existing woodlands adjacent to the school, gardening to produce food for the school cafeteria lunches and community food shelves, composting and recycling, and coordinating discussion groups to outline new initiatives integrating curricula and the spaces surrounding the school.
At the middle school level:
- Students, teachers, and parents are engaged in charting the local water table and instituting measures to guarantee non-contamination of local water sources.
At the high school level:
- French and English classes have established links with local senior citizen centers, where students conduct oral interviews and work with seniors, helping them meet their daily needs.
- Students are working in rural communities in Honduras on projects to improve the quality of life for the inhabitants.
- Advanced placement biology students have identified patterns damaging the forests to their campus; they have since united with their community, proposing a plan of action to the school board which guarantees the protection of these forests.
At the university level:
- A college course entitled “Finding Community Voice” evolved out of The Last Link film and has been implemented by a group of educators dedicated to creating an inter-generational community addressing the needs of the immigrant populations in their area.
These projects represent a sampling of The Next Link: Building Sustainable Communities initiative, which stresses that we possess within ourselves limitless resources in creating helpful and hopeful ways to have a positive impact upon our global community. Common to them all is the belief that we need to build healthy communities which practice modeling stewardship of our planet and its inhabitants in order to preserve the human and environmental resources for the future.
We are currently working to partner with more educational and community organizations to produce and distribute Next Link kits, complete with student lesson plans and community action guides.
In June of 2004, Ben and Tim were able to briefly share the stage with Willie Nelson at the Shelburne Museum before his concert there. As they took the stage, a large banner was unfurled before the audience, bearing the slogan “Thank You Willie, Save the Family Farm”, along with the signatures of hundreds of Vermont teachers and students. Accompanied by children and young adults, each touched by agriculture and bearing gifts for Willie, Ben and Tim thanked him for his work on the film and presented him with the first The Next Link: Building Sustainable Communities award.
Stay tuned for an on-going update of the latest The Next Link initiatives from around the country. For more information, please contact project leader Tim Kahn (tim@thelastlink,org).