Conference goers pose for group photo

About the Conference

Over 350 participants attended the 8th Americas RCE Meeting in Burlington, Vermont, USA from 23-25 September, 2019, the largest meeting of the RCEs in the Americas to date. Under the theme 'Human Health and the Environment', with special attention to how human health relates to climate change, the regional meeting was held concurrently with the Climate Action Summit that was occurring in New York City the same week.

Hosted by RCE Greater Burlington and organised in conjunction with Shelburne Farms, the University of Vermont, and the City of Burlington with the support of the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), the meeting reinforced the fundamental role that education plays in achieving a sustainable future in the region. Not only did it showcase a range of innovative sustainability initiatives, such as sustainable food systems during the harvest season, it highlighted the intersection of SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and featured Burlington’s commitment to becoming a sustainable city.

SLS Attendees

  • Kristina Chatfield (Serve-Learn-Sustain, Georgia Tech)
  • David Eady (Serve-Learn-Sustain and Ray. C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business, Georgia Tech)
  • Jairo Garcia (School of City and Regional Planning, Georgia Tech)
  • Garry Harris (Center for Sustainable Cities and GLOBE)
  • Jennifer Hirsch (Serve-Learn-Sustain, Georgia Tech)
  • Ciannat Howett (Office of Sustainability Initiatives, Emory)
  • Isabella Stubbs (Youth Network, Georgia Tech student)
  • Ruth Yow (Serve-Learn-Sustain, Georgia Tech)

Across three days, participants from eleven RCEs across five countries, along with a diverse mixture of students, faculty, educators, public officials, indigenous leaders, and many other members of the community, enjoyed a programme complete with panel discussions, walking tours, school visits, academic presentations, workshops, and press conferences. RCEs in attendance showcased their ESD projects and initiatives worked on over the past year, whilst the Global RCE Service Centre provided updates on UNESCO’s ESD for 2030 initiative, a review of GAP, and the RCE Global Network’s activities since the last regional meeting.

The comprehensive program included discussions on the intersections between education for sustainable development (ESD) and other disciplines of academic study, as well as how working with partners from other sectors (NGOs, government, business) enhances learning.

SLS Presentations

  • Kristina Chatfield & Isabella Stubbs: Youth Network SDG Training Module Fellowship program
  • David Eady & Ruthie Yow: Serve-Learn-Sustain Linked Courses focused on the Community Health theme
  • Jairo Garcia: Sustainable Urban Development & Public Health in a Warming Planet: A Coursework 
  • Garry Harris: Fighting Global Disease and Degradation of Health Caused by Mosquitoes through Citizen Science

An update was provided on the creation of an RCE Youth Network in the region, an initiative discussed in the meeting held the previous year. RCE Greater Atlanta and RCE Borderlands México-USA reported they co-hosted the first regional Youth Network event earlier in the year, and were working on other events to be conducted in both English and Spanish. Other initiatives discussed included agreement by the RCEs in attendance to move forward on a publication of an ESD resource book highlighting RCE projects, that could be created in conjunction with UNU-IAS, in both English and Spanish. RCE Greater Burlington proposed a joint effort for assisting communities in the Bahamas with ESD for resilient food systems, to create more communities among the islands who are resilient to climate disruptions.

It was a refreshing and insightful experience to be able to hear from and interact with both educators and students. There were a lot of inspiring educators that are at the forefront of place-based learning, sustainability education, etc. Hearing from the middle school students who were managing sustainability projects, touring Sustainability Academy (an amazing public elementary school), and reflecting on the current offerings of education with high school students (many who would be heading off to college soon) was a great experience.

- Isabella Stubbs, GT Student

To read a report by Isabella Stubbs (GT student) recapping the conference, click here.