The Greater Burlington Sustainability Education Network (GBSEN) in the state of Vermont, USA, is a Regional Center of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable Development, recognized by the United Nations University.
A member of a global network with over 168 RCEs from around the world, GBSEN promotes education, training, and public awareness to create a sustainable future for the greater Burlington region through the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Our goal is to promote the work of sustainability practitioners in the region and encourage collaboration to strengthen existing and new sustainability initiatives.
Our network is comprised of educators, students, non-profits, government leaders, businesses, and community members. If you are interested in joining the network, Please contact Jen Cirillo at Shelburne Farms firstname.lastname@example.org or Walter Poleman at the University of Vermont email@example.com.
© Walter Poleman
GBSEN recently had the honor of hosting the 8th Americas RCE Meeting. The three-day gathering was held on September 23-25, 2019 and attracted participants from 11 RCEs representing five nations across South, Central, and North America. A core group of 35 Vermonters joined the 31 out-of-town delegates to participate in events that took place at Shelburne Farms, University of Vermont, and various locations in the City of Burlington.
© Brian Jenkins
Participating Partners from RCE Greater Burlington:
The theme of the meeting was Human Health and the Environment, and many of the participating RCEs gave presentations highlighting the intersection of SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being),
© Megan Camp
SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). In addition, SDG 13 (Climate Action) was featured at a public forum entitled Mobilizing Climate Action For Health, which took place on September 23 – the same day as the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City – and was attended by over 180 people.
The overall goal of the gathering was to bring together people of diverse backgrounds, ages, cultures, nationalities, sectors, and disciplines to share and discuss emerging ideas, strategies, and challenges in the realm of education for sustainability. By holding elements of the meeting at different venues and field sites in the Greater Burlington area, we hoped to stimulate dialogue among the participants
© Sarah Webb
and foster the overall level of relational synergy within the RCE Americas network. To that end, the meeting had several highlights:
Engagement with youth from local schools. High school students from Burlington City & Lake Semester facilitated a robust discussion of the Sustainable Development Goals during an afternoon visit to the Community Sailing Center, while middle school students shared about their involvement in the award-winning Cultivating Pathways to Sustainability program. UVM students served as discussion facilitators at the Climate Action public forum.
Participation of Abenaki educators. Judy Dow of Gedakina welcomed visitors to Abenaki land, and led an exploration of Burlington’s complex history that featured the
Judy Dow © Walter Poleman
importance of the Intervale to the indigenous people of the region. Chief Don Stevens shared an Abenaki creation story and harvest celebration song at the evening gathering at Shelburne Farms. Their participation underscored the critical role of indigenous voices in shaping a sustainable future.
Experiencing Shelburne Farms. Participants had the opportunity to explore the programs and working landscape of Shelburne Farms.
© Walter Poleman
Many of the visiting delegates stayed at the Inn at Shelburne Farms, and all participants had a chance to learn about the education for sustainability programs and enjoy the local food grown on the land.
Transdisciplinary support from Higher Education. Sponsorship of the networking dinner prior to the public forum on September 23 was provided by all eight of the academic colleges and schools at the University of Vermont. Champlain College and Middlebury College also sponsored events and meals. This unified showing of support for the RCE approach from across local campuses was emblematic of the growing commitment of higher education to the Sustainable Development Goals, and the power of linking sustainability initiatives across disciplines.
Follow-up Learning Journeys. The optional learning journeys led by partners in the Greater Burlington Sustainability Education Network following the meeting were well-attended. Several delegated returned to the Burlington Waterfront for guided tours of the ECHO Center and Rubenstein
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger ©Megan Camp
Ecosystem Science Laboratory, while another group visited with Burlington City and Lake Semester and Sustainability Academy in the City’s Old North End.
Engagement of Leadership. In addition to the welcome address provided by Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger to open the meeting at Rock Point Center, UVM President Suresh Garimella and Shelburne Farms President Alec Webb each offered welcome addresses at the events they hosted.
Visitors from Puerto Rico. We had the honor of welcoming a delegation from Puerto Rico at the meeting. Puerto Rico has applied to become an RCE in 2020, and each of five members of their delegation made substantive contributions to various aspects of the meeting. For example, Adrianna Gonzalez was a featured panelist at the public forum, and shared stories of the impacts of Hurricane Maria on human health in Puerto Rico.
Hosting the meeting here in Vermont was a valuable and rewarding opportunity for all of us associated with RCE Greater Burlington, and we feel that it will both galvanize our regional network and strengthen relationships across the Americas as we work together during the critical decade that lies ahead.
As a local follow-up to the meeting, the Greater Burlington Sustainability Education Network (GBSEN) will be hosting a Burlington Geographic presentation at the Main Street Landing Film House on Wednesday, December 4th from 7 – 9 PM. The title of the presentation will be Human Health and the Environment in Burlington Through Time.
The week of April 13-21, 2019 has been officially designated as SDG Week in our region. During SDG Week, educators, students, non-profits, government leaders and agencies, businesses, and community members will be working together to promote the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Hosted by the Rubenstein School, UVM Sustainability Faculty Fellows Program, and Shelburne Farms
Location: ArtsRiot, 400 Pine Street, Burlington, Vermont
The Greater Burlington Sustainability Education Network (GBSEN) invites educators, researchers, leaders, and community members from across the Burlington area to attend an engaging afternoon of connection, conversation, and networking. The goal of this gathering is to explore how we can promote the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, both locally and globally, and strengthen partnerships within our emerging network.
In addition to helping spark sustainability connections and exciting new learning opportunities throughout the Burlington area, the afternoon gathering will feature a presentation by a group of four UVM students who have been interviewing sustainability leaders throughout our community.
ArtsRiot, with its mission of destroying apathy through community engagement, is an ideal setting to convene this “sustainability mixer.” Light fare will be provided, and stimulating conversation is guaranteed. So come join us after work on April 18th, and we’ll see what emerges!
A team of eight volunteers representing the Great Burlington Sustainability Education Network traveled to Puerto Rico over Spring Break to assist with ongoing hurricane relief efforts there. Much of the island was severely impacted by Hurricane Maria on September 20th, and many farms, forests, and communities were devastated. Ongoing relief efforts have been making a big difference, but six months later there continues to be a tremendous amount of work to be done.
The GBSEN team, which included Walter Poleman, Kimberly Wallin, Tatiana Abatemarco, and Tatiana Gladkikh from the Rubenstein School, partnered with Centro para la Conservación del Paisaje to work in solidarity with Puerto Ricans as they restored watersheds, farms, and structures in communities that surround El Yungue National Forest in the northeastern part of the island.
Our partners in Puerto Rico are in the process of preparing an application to become an RCE, the first in the Caribbean!