In April, Hawai’i Preparatory Academy opened its new Energy Lab, a unique facility designed to educate and inspire students about the concepts of sustainable living. The opening was a fitting setting for the kickoff of another initiative: Footprint Futures, a program by Global Footprint Network and HPA in which high school students learn the principles of Ecological Footprint accounting.
The goal of the Footprint Futures curriculum is to provide students with the analytical tools to explore and answer the question: What is the optimal level of resource use for a given country? Ultimately, the Footprint Futures curriculum is designed to cultivate in the next generation of leaders the ability to engage critically with the most pressing issue of the 21st century – how to achieve lasting human well-being amidst tightening resource constraints.
Supported by teleconferences with Global Footprint Network, students chose a country to study, solidified their understanding of essential concepts, and analyzed Footprint and biocapacity data. The program was capped with Energy Lab opening day activities which included presentations on Footprint Futures to the entire student body, poster projects on the Ecological Footprint, and a formal evening event for community and business leaders.
Rachel Hodara, Strategic Initiatives Coordinator at Global Footprint Network, led the students in a lively discussion on optimal resource consumption. “The students demonstrated an extremely high level of understanding and engagement with the material,” Hodara said.. “They ended the project not only knowing the basic concepts of resource constraints, but raising the kinds of questions and suggestions that showed in-depth interest and involvement.”
Global Footprint Network and the Hawai’i Preparatory Academy are now applying the lessons learned from the pilot program to a greater number of students and schools. During the Third Annual Student Congress on Sustainability at HPA this June, Dr. Bill Wiecking, director of HPA’s Energy Lab, will offer an intensive Footprint Futures curriculum over three days to 80 students from 20 schools from the state of Hawai’i. A group of students from St. Joseph’s College, one of the most distinguished high schools in Australia, will participate via video teleconference.
The next phase of the program will be to develop an online version of the curriculum, incorporating Web 2.0 features that will enable schools all over the world to participate and interact. The Footprint Futures project is made possible in part by a grant from Avina Stiftung, a European foundation.