Sunday, July 1, 2012

RIMPAC, Sustainability and ... Philadelphia?

by Bill Doughty
Australia's HMAS Perth arrives at Pearl Harbor for RIMPAC 2012.
The Navy’s Rim of the Pacific exercise started this weekend -- with more than 20 nations, 46 ships and submarines and 25,000 service members converging in and around Hawaii to train together, learn from each other and build cooperative relationships to preserve peace.
It’s the first RIMPAC with non-U.S. officers in charge of major components (Australia for maritime; Canada for air).  It’s the first to feature humanitarian assistance/disaster relief training as part of the exercise.  And, RIMPAC 2012 will include the first demonstration of green fleet technologies on a massive scale, with U.S. surface ships and carrier-based aircraft using biofuels and other energy-saving and sustainability initiatives.
The theme this year is “Capable, Adaptive, Partners.”
RIMPAC is the world’s largest maritime exercise and involves nations as diverse as Russia, Chile, India, France, Singapore, Mexico, Japan, United States and the Republic of Korea.  So, what does it have to do with one of the nation’s smallest “schools” in Philadelphia?
At the Sustainability Workshop, located at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, urban high school seniors learn by doing hands-on real-world projects, with the world as their classroom.  While not affiliated directly with the U.S. Navy, the Sustainability Workshop shares some of the same values, including developing capable, adaptive partnerships.  Participants work together to apply innovative critical thinking as members of a team.
The school is the brainchild of engineer/teacher Simon Hauger, who was featured today on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s “The Next List” on CNN.  Hauger's philosophy of teaching involves incentivizing learning; the incentives are the students’ own sense of accomplishment, project achievement and a feeling of community they achieve by working together.  School work reinforces the students' natural idealism and desire to work hard.
According to Hauger, students read more because they want to read more:
“Maybe the most fascinating aspect of this work is that the academic skills follow,” Hauger said.  “Most of our students will tell you that they have done more reading and writing this school year than they had done in their entire high school career. Many will tell you they have done real science for the first time, and some will even tell you that they finally understand why math is useful.”
Students learn and apply STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  For example, over the past year they installed and then activated a solar rig, worked on a car to try to achieve 100 miles per gallon, and tested their own hypotheses for increasing energy efficiency initiatives for city buildings. 
Teacher and Sustainability Workshop co-founder Michael Clapper.
Teachers are more like facilitators and coaches than traditional instructors or disciplinarians.   Co-founder Michael Clapper is one of the teachers who helps them interact with private companies and government agencies.   
"We went to Urban Outfitters one day," recalls Clapper.  “...Then the next day we're at the Navy hearing about their power cell approach. We walk in and they say, 'We're so looking forward to interfacing with you today.' "
The program has a side effect of pointing students in a positive direction toward common goals.
Globally or locally, RIMPAC and the "Sustainability Workshop” showcase cool ideas:  a willingness to work together cooperatively to prevent conflict and a commitment to achieve greater sustainability and conserve resources.

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