“What does EAST stand for?”
That’s a good question. This is the first in a four part series that examines the components that make EAST so powerful for our students and facilitators. It goes without saying that our students and facilitators are what makes EAST succeed the way it does and not be yet another “great idea that won’t work in the real world”. This week, our President and CEO Matt Dozier takes a look at the “E” in EAST: Environmental.
Several years ago we quit giving the long explanation of the EAST name. The first class of students named the course Environmental and Spatial Technology because:
1.) They were in an environmental science class.
2.) It sounded cool.
3.) It made an acronym: “EAST.”
We quit using the long title several years ago because EAST had developed beyond just spatial technologies and moved into other technological areas. Also, we like that we had moved from the long title to the basic acronym—it made us feel like we were becoming a “thing” that others knew like IBM or 3M (look up that acronym). Still, the most common question asked of me (besides the obvious, “Have you always been this funny looking?”) is still, “What does EAST stand for?”
The individual components of the EAST name are important to the makeup of both the EAST programs and the EAST model; they’re not just words. The “E” in EAST stands for “Environmental”. When most people talk about the environment, particularly these days, they’re talking about the natural world and how to protect and preserve it…and that’s important. I’m all in favor of protecting the limited and fragile resources that make life worth living (or capable of living). Just imagine what would happen if all the trees were clear-cut or all the water was poisoned. You can’t, and that’s all right, because in either of those scenarios there wouldn’t be anyone left to worry about anyway.
Many EAST projects focus on education, advocacy, and protection for local natural resources—and that’s a great thing. I am constantly amazed at the passion, intelligence, and dedication I see in EAST students when it comes to environmental topics. I don’t see what others are complaining about when they talk about “kids these days”. The kids I know are smart, hardworking, articulate and impassioned. If that energy is focused on protecting a watershed or ridding a community of an invasive and destructive species of plant or wildlife, then look at the good that comes of it. The resources are protected. Very often, the community comes together because it’s their kids that are leading this effort. Students are allowed to channel their interests in a positive direction that might just help them find a lifelong path to something vocational or avocational. Everybody (and thing) wins; what a deal!
But the “Environmental” that starts our name goes beyond the natural world and directly into the educational realm. EAST classrooms don’t look or feel like other classrooms. The environment is one of self-affirming action. It looks more interesting and exciting. It feels more interesting and exciting. It is more interesting and exciting. Why? Because it’s about doing something.
In the best EAST classes, there is a mutual respect between the students and each other and the students and their facilitator. Everyone is pulling together to do something important and interesting…even when they’re working on different things. It’s a real and palpable team spirit that electrifies the room. The EAST environment focuses on the dichotomy between individual need and mass (school and program) need.
It really is possible to create a classroom where students want to come to school, want to work hard, and want to learn and achieve beyond their own reckoning. How do I know? Because I’ve seen it hundreds of times. The EAST environment is the first key to EAST success. The facilitators set the tone. The students accept the responsibility. The community is a better place.
Sounds like a good deal to me.
To read part two of Matt Dozier’s “What is EAST?” series, please click here.