Book Notes: Smart by Nature


Smart by Nature is an inspired handbook that connects hands-on experiences of the garden, the kitchen, the table, the compost heap, and the classroom curriculum.” ~Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse

In keeping with the inspirational thread we are currently exploring on this blog I was delighted that a close friend of mine happens to be promoting a book titled appropriately, Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability. It is written by Michael K. Stone, a senior editor at the Center for Ecoliteracy, a public foundation in Berkeley, California, known for its dedication to education for sustainable living. The Center for Ecoliteracy provides information and support to K-12 educators, parents and other members of school communities who are helping young people gain practical skills to live sustainably. I loved that my friend was able to send me a copy of this book as it synchronistically fit with my deep desire to help lend a voice to the conversation being widely generated in this country, and, certainly in the UK, about getting kids reconnecting with the Earth, and, most importantly, serving as a very solid guide to adults who find themselves inspired to help generate such programs in their schools and communities. Because it’s one thing to watch Jamie Oliver spark a conversation about what foods our schools are offering our children for lunch. It’s another to know where to begin. And I’m guessing that a marjority of my readers would agree that it’s far more powerful to give our kids a place to grow their own food, to get their hands dirty, to watch the miracle of a seed growing into a plant and to (let’s face it) demystify life itself, than to simply change the menu in the cafeteria. Otherwise I believe change will most likely be temporary and not rooted in a fundamental understanding that would lend itself nothing short of transforming one’s life. Thus the word sustainability. But where to start?

“As we recognize the sobering implications of global environmental and social justice threats, people are looking for smart new answers. Smart by Nature offers the best hope of all by explaining what sustainable living really means, how to teach it, and why young people with this knowledge will lead us to a safer, more fair, and prosperous future.” ~Kevin Coyle, VP Education and Training for the National Wildlife Federation

Smart by Nature offers a framework for schooling for sustainability based on two decades of work with hundreds of schools by the Center for Ecoliteracy. The book is conveniently divided into four areas of schooling for sustainability: food, the campus, community, and teaching and learning. Students learn to ask what is upstream and who is downstream, and to examine how their decisions affect the health of people and the environment. I invite you to imagine if the folks involved in the oil industry had been schooled in this way as children. Indeed, it is imperative that these principles, largely lost to both urban and suburban children, be reinstated into their curriculums if we, in fact, will have any chance of maintaining our beautiful world as we have grown to know it. The clock is ticking, my dearest readers. If these values beat in your heart, I hope you will find it within yourselves to teach what you know and to join others of like mind to help you realize your understandings and passions, or, at very least to write about these issues and to highlight communities who are implementing such programs. I believe this book is an excellent resource to guide such folks along the way.

Many of you have heard of the Native American tribal tradition of bearing in mind the effects of each of our collective decisions on the seventh generation to come. This is a practice well worth considering as we each find our way to support sustainability in our lives and in the lives of those who come after. May you find your way and help our youth to find theirs.

Love and gardening blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

8 Responses to “Book Notes: Smart by Nature”

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post, Kathyrn! We appreciate your spreading the word of the Center for Ecoliteracy’s programs and SMART BY NATURE. They’re doing important work for the entire planet, just like you!


  2. Thanks, Kathlene, for sending this over! It was the perfect book at the perfect time! Love, Kathryn xoxo

  3. Keep these stories coming. Don’t know of another way to change the way we live than by showing and telling how others have changed theirs. It starts with the kids, they will educate their parents. Love to you for all your efforts. Julie

  4. Hi, Julie, Thanks for the encouragement and wise words! So true. The kids will educate their parents–and friends and neighbors, too, hopefully! And later their own children. One mind, one heart at a time. Kathryn xoxo

  5. Beautiful, educational and inspiring post, Kathryn.”what is upstream and who is downstream” is a question we can all ask, and can be a wider metaphor; a template for action for, as you point out, for the “seventh generation to come”
    Thank you.

  6. Hi, Philip, good morning! You are so right! I love that! I will begin to practice that idea, to ask myself, “What is upstream and who is downstream?” and see where that leads. I can’t wait to find out! Thank you! Kathryn xoxo

  7. Thanks for the inspirational book review. I’m generating quite a reading list from just a short visit to your site Kathryn. I think quite a few of my blog readers would be interested in this one and in your own newly-published book.
    Regards, Alison Kerr

  8. Welcome, Alison, and thank you! So glad you are finding value in the book section! Kathryn xoox

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