Fertile Ground: Sustainability Education as a Restorative Justice Practice

Elsa Barron & Karli Siefker

Environmental Ed

Our capstone studies sustainability education, focussing specifically on sustainability education targeted at students with histories of trauma. We will explore current literature surrounding environmental education and interview professionals working in this field to create a literature review on the subject, and ultimately engage our research through designing a sustainability curriculum. This curriculum will be implemented at DePaul Academy in South Bend, a holistic academy that serves as an alternative to the traditional juvenile justice system.

This program will involve weekly lessons via Zoom, implemented alongside the DePaul science teacher, Jeremiah Schloemer, supplemented with gardening and artistic experiences through Jeremiah’s facilitation. Through assessing current literature on sustainability education, we will build upon theory that emphasizes the importance of environmental access and education as a component of restorative justice.

Creating a program for DePaul Academy allows us to implement this theory, as students will be exposed to sustainability and environmental justice in the context of their background and current education. Particularly as many of these students hold histories of trauma, an encounter with nature and environmental justice education holds the potential to provide an experience of restorative justice and healing. This will have a direct impact on the students at DePaul academy and also help to frame a new discussion of sustainability education around a lens of restorative justice. We hope to assess pre-existing research, while also considering this specific context of DePaul Academy to expand the potential impact of sustainability education in future applications, particularly for those with histories of trauma.