Stone Soup Leadership Institute

Moving From Planning to Action in Climate Education: Massachusetts Leads the Way

Last week, on October 25, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healy announced Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer’s far-reaching report, Recommendations of the Climate Chief. This 87-page document has 39 recommendations to meet the state’s ambitious sustainability targets by 2050, and is designed to move the state from planning to action.

Embedded in the report is a commitment to implement a comprehensive cross-agency plan for developing a climate-resilient workforce. The list of jobs that will be needed is extensive. The report states the need for “more electricians, HVAC technicians, EV mechanics, wind energy engineers, coastal resilience engineers, planners, regenerative farmers, bus and transit operators, PV installation technicians, climate finance experts, workers to collect, transport and aggregate organic waste for composting and bio-digestion, and construction workers to retrofit buildings” among others.


Our Work in Massachusetts

For over 25 years, Massachusetts has been the Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s learning laboratory for our sustainable workforce initiatives. Founded on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in 1997, we’ve expanded our activities to communities across the state and around the world. Along the way, we’ve developed partnerships with business, education, community, and government leaders – and have used our educational tools and trainings to empower young people to pursue sustainable career pathways, and to become leaders of a more sustainable world.

We’ve worked alongside sustainability-oriented pioneers, professionals, and practitioners who share their experiences with youth delegates at the Institute’s Sustainability Summits. In our hands-on Sustainability Tours, we’ve visited school gardens, local farms, and aquaculture start-ups; renewable energy programs and electric car-charging stations; clean water management sites, and solar rooftop installations. We’ve learned about cultural sustainability from the Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts, as well as from indigenous peoples from Hawaii and other island nations. Through our programs youth are encouraged to envision their dreams for their lives, their communities, and the world–and to design plans for a more sustainable future.

The Climate Crisis Affects Us All

Climate anxiety is a pressing issue among youth today, with 84 percent of young people expressing fears for their future. They are hungering for solutions to this crisis. So why is climate education not being taught in the schools?

Our research shows that the #1 reason is the lack of availability of teacher training and educational resources. Many educators lack the confidence to teach environmental education; they aren’t scientists, and they often feel they lack sufficient expertise to do so. And while there are some climate education resources available, they vary in quality and formatting. Often these materials are also not user-friendly for educators, since they require precious time to search for materials that will be geared to student interests or that can be adapted to do so.

Over the years, we have worked with high school teachers in a variety of disciplines in Massachusetts – and around the world. We’ve discovered that while most educators would like to use innovative tools and curricula that address the climate crisis and offer information about climate solutions, they are bogged down with bureaucratic challenges in gaining access to curricular materials that will allow them to do so.

For this reason, as an educational organization, we asked ourselves: “How might we make it easier for educators to bring environmental education to their classrooms? What if we could find a way to train future teachers so they could develop the confidence to teach their students about these very important issues? What if we could give them the tools and the curricula they need to introduce this critically important current issue in their classrooms?”

Our Future Teacher Training

During MASS STEM Week, from October 16-20, we were invited to premiere our teacher training module for the Stone Soup Climate Education Curriculum. This extensive set of lesson plans is based upon the book, Stone Soup for a Sustainable World: Life-Changing Stories of Young Heroes. For this special premiere, we partnered with the largest chapter of SEAM (Student Education Association of Massachusetts) at Bridgewater State University (BSU), which is the state’s largest teacher training institution. In preparation for the workshop, our team – Education Outreach Manager, Nina Potsiadlo, STEM Teacher Trainer, Albert Perez and I carried out a three-month planning process with BSU Associate Professor Dr. Gia Renaud, SEAM President Caroline Pupecki, and our intern Ella Olmez, who was trained as a facilitator at our 19th Sustainability Summit in June 2023.

We designed the workshop to include two one-hour sessions, plus an orientation that was held prior to the workshop.  Stone Soup for a Sustainable World includes 100 stories from 38 different countries across a wide range of disciplines and areas of focus. For MASS STEM Week, we chose to work with the story “Engineering Solutions to Climate Change Problems,” which features Alex Perkins, who grew up on Nantucket island.

The workshop participants were impressed to see how in this story, a high school student had used basic engineering designs to bring a clean renewable energy solution to a local problem to his island community. Alex had been nominated by Wendy Schmidt of ReMain Nantucket to serve as a youth delegate at the Institute’s 2011 Sustainability Summit on Martha’s Vineyard. At that summit, Alex worked along with other island youth as each of them developed their own unique Sustainability in Action project. Afterward he went on to develop his own sustainable career pathway and became a successful environmental engineer in the blue economy.

Alex’s story inspired the future teachers who participated in the workshop. Mia Perrin, future high school English teacher, was touched by “how involved you can be in making a change, even at a young age.” She added, “As an 18-year-old, sometimes it feels like I don’t have a ton of power, but clearly I can if I put effort into it.”

Megan Moore, a future high school TESOL teacher (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), said, “I most enjoyed Alex’s perseverance; how he identified a problem in his community and pursued a solution along with his peers and other people at his school, and in his town.” Allison Morrissey, a future elementary school geography teacher, said she enjoyed learning about pyrolysis, “the whole process of turning plastic waste into fuel.” And Ella Olmez, connected Alex’s story to a current topic in the world, noting that “Scotland is trying to be 100% clean energy – [and] wind turbines are a big part of it.”

After the workshop we asked participants how confident they felt about teaching climate education. “This workshop made me feel like I’m now at a 9 in my ability to teach climate education,” Mia Perrin said, and added, “I can apply my knowledge and make it engaging for my students in the future.” Allison Morrissey said that after the workshop she felt much more confident about creating lesson plans, using the Institute’s curriculum. She added, “Albert’s suggestions and feedback were very helpful and gave me ideas on how to improve my lesson plan.”

After exploring Alex’s story, lesson plan, video, and social media calendar on the Stone Soup Climate Education Curriculum site, workshop participants applied their new knowledge to develop a wide range of lesson plans based on his story.

  • A 3rd grade STEM teachers saw how they could use Alex’s story to get students excited about exploring climate change solutions.
  • A 4th grade STEM teacher saw how she could use the Engineering Design Process to show students how they can ask, imagine, and plan their designs before creating, testing, and improving them.
  • A teacher of an 11-12th grade ELA (English Language Arts) class saw how he could engage students in a civics lesson by having them write letters to government leaders about environmental issues in their community.
  • A 12th grade history teacher envisioned a class which students are invited to research, compare, and analyze the history of clean renewable energy – especially wind turbines.

Our Future Teachers – From Science to History and Language Arts

“I learned that climate change education can be implemented across disciplines, from science to history and English. I learned that the ways to structure climate change education are limitless and can be easily implemented with the resources available on the website,” said Shayla Flaherty, a future teacher of environmental science. Megan Moore, added, “The lesson plan ideas are versatile and easy to incorporate into any grade, level, and subject matter. My 11th and 12th grade students in my English Teaching Strategies course will benefit from Alex’s insights. His insights were great ways to engage students to respond to classroom content.”

By broadening their understanding of climate change issues and solutions, these future teachers discovered they could deepen their other course work – from English Teaching Strategies, to Teaching Science, to Biological Anthropology. With the lesson plans they created they boldly demonstrated how one story could be adapted for use across many different disciplines – from STEM, to civics, to Language Arts, to history.They courageously explored complex concepts and embraced new ideas. Their curiosity and eagerness to learn was contagious! They proved that the Stone Soup Climate Education Curriculum can be used to create a vibrant and dynamic set of lessons that can give students both practical skills and knowledge, and inspiration for how they can be involved in creating a better world for tomorrow.

“Working with these future teachers has been such a delight! Their idealistic, can-do spirit mirrors my own. They are genuinely in search of new and innovative ways to engage their students. They reminded me of my own background in teaching,” says Marianne Larned, Author, Founding Director of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute.

“As a 19-year-old future teacher, my search led me from the progressive School of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to the Rudolf Steiner International School in Scotland. It was there that I promised myself to bring a more humanistic, engaging, real-world, whole-child model of education to my students.”

“I believe that Climate Chief Hoffer would be very pleased to read this comment by Shayla Flaherty: “’I have always wanted a more comprehensive curriculum addressing climate change,” she said. “The Stone Soup Climate Education Curriculum helps students learn about the career options in environmental science – either in STEM or in the social sciences. Introducing students to the foundational STEM concepts and motivating them along the learning pathway is imperative for their success.”


Upon receiving the Institute’s 2023 Cronkite Award for Climate Education, Hoffer said, “Education has a critical role to play in our efforts to tackle the climate crisis. We need to teach young people about the incredible career options available to them in clean energy and train them with the skills that are in demand by sustainability-oriented companies. Massachusetts stands ready to work across our state government and with partners across the country to advance climate education.”

The Stone Soup Climate Education Curriculum “Turn key. Ready to go!”

The Stone Soup Climate Education Curriculum is “Turn key, ready to go!” said Chief Hoffer.

It is the only comprehensive platform dedicated solely to climate education and exploration of sustainable career pathways. It has been:

  • Developed working alongside young people in the Institute’s 25+ years of climate education initiatives;
  • Endorsed by education, business, and government leaders;
  • Tested by educators and students in middle and high schools; and
  • Aligned with NGSS, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) standards.

It features:

  • 100 easy-to-use lesson plans with a consistent and adaptable format;
  • Language Arts & STEM activities, as well as teaching materials for lessons about sustainability innovations and sustainable career pathways;
  • A curriculum built on the model of the curriculum guide for the first book in the Stone Soup series (Stone Soup for the World: Life-Changing Stories of Everyday Heroes), which incorporates DEI, SEL, and service-learning methodologies;
  • Storytelling based on the real-life stories of young people from 38 countries around the world.
  • Teacher training modules to help educators learn how to customize the lesson plans so that they can be used across all disciplines.
  • Multifaceted social media content featuring a Hero of the Week who is linked to the lesson plans, and YouTube (Safe for Kids) videos; [sample video]
  • Spanish and English editions;
  • A Sustainable Workforce Development online ecosystem that connects youth to green and blue career pathways and jobs.

“We Are Teaching the Future Generations”

“Thank you for providing 2 wonderful engaging workshops for our SEAM students.  The students enjoyed learning about the climate change education curriculum. The feedback from Albert about their lesson plans was meaningful and constructive. The students are excited to take this new knowledge into the field. It was a pleasure working with you.” Dr. Gia A. Renaud, Associate Professor, Student Teaching Coordinator, Bridgewater State University Elementary & Early Childhood Education.

Perhaps most inspiring of all are the comments we received from the future teachers who participated in this workshop. “This workshop gave me the ideas, knowledge and resources to better educatemy students to climate education. said Allison Morrissey. “We are teaching the future generations. We need to ensure that they have the tools they need to change the world. Thank you!”