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Immerse in Your Watershed: Problem-Based, Service Learning for Undergraduate Sustainability Education

By Dina Chammas-Gass

This case study describes a problem-based and service learning module in which undergraduate students participated in a community-based project. Students joined a group consisting of local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), public and private organizations, concerned citizens, and city officials to tackle issues concerning the local watershed. The case study took place over a number of years from 2014 to 2016 and will continue in subsequent academic years with a new group of multidisciplinary students.
Students put together documentation for a grant application that resulted in the city receiving $2.5 million dollars in grant money towards sustainable stormwater management systems. This aspect of the project included extensive data collection and analysis, much like the kind of work water conservationist in the field would perform. Students continued the work by using the data to plan and design appropriate, site-specific best management practices (BMPs) for the campus and in subsequent courses will implement these designs on site.
The mode of instruction described in this case study proved quite engaging to the students because it put them in the heart of an actual local project, doing work that was removed from a purely academic exercise – thereby offering a real-world scenario as field employees. The goal is to provide hands-on instruction that inspires and engages students and allows them to apply concepts of watershed management as a service to their local community.

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Placing Local Food Systems: Farm Tours as Place-Based Sustainability Education

By Laura Johnson, Gary Schnakenberg and Nicholas Perdue

Place can be understood as space endowed with meaning, evoking notions of difference, connection, attachment, and emotion. As processes of modernity and globalization have increasingly homogenized cultural and natural landscapes, place is said to be ‘thinning’ or lost, linked to widening rifts between social and natural worlds. Such homogenization globally has sparked concerns, as people perceive landscape loss and increasing socio-ecological injustices. One such system of homogenization and unsustainability is industrial agriculture, a system that has shifted smaller scale, place-based, and diverse food systems to a global, mechanized one, distancing production from consumption, disrupting communities, and obscuring awareness, understanding, and care.

Yet, as consumer awareness increases and people desire to know where their food comes from and who produced it, inclusive place-based food systems can provide reconnections amongst producers, consumers, community, and the more-than-human world. In this paper, stemming from research in western North Carolina, we bring together literature from scholars of place, agro-food studies, education, and tourism to investigate the role of place in local food systems as well as the potential of small-scale sustainable agricultural places to serve as important educational spaces via community-based farm tourism. To better understand such potential, we draw on a study of the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture High Country Farm Tour, an annual tour of small-scale sustainable working farms in the North Carolina High Country. Delving into participating producers’ philosophies, practices, and stories reveals passionate sustainable producers firmly rooted in place, while exploring consumer motivations for and impacts of participation makes a strong case for community-based farm tourism and other environmental tourism projects as an avenue for place-based education, community socio-ecological resilience, and sustainability across scales.

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Empathy and Agency in the Isle Royale Field Philosophy Experience

By Lissy Goralnik and Michael Paul Nelson

Abstract: For five years we taught a field philosophy course in Isle Royale National Park to study if and how wilderness experience, coupled with a care-based and community-focused curriculum in place-based ecology and environmental ethics, could help students develop empathy for nonhuman nature. Empathy for the natural world can positively impact environmental attitudes and behaviors; empathy also plays an important role in citizenship skills and actions. Using a constructivist grounded theory qualitative analysis of student pre-, on-, and post-course writing, we found that students consistently demonstrated shifts in empathetic awareness and individual agency all years but one, when the course size was larger. Several factors impacted the development of an empowered sense of self and moral agency, including: the use of narrative and storytelling in the curriculum, the inclusion of student-driven choice-based assignments, and group size. Experiential environmental learning focused on the development of empathy can provide a meaningful path for students to bridge moral agency, environmental attitudes and knowledge, and citizenship skills and behavior so they can connect their values with action These results have consequential impacts for sustainability learning and action.

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Book Review: An Introduction to Sustainability: Environmental, Social and Personal Perspectives by Martin Mulligan

By Madhur Anand

Abstract: Martin Mulligan’s An Introduction to Sustainability: Environmental, social and personal perspectives reviews the history of sustainability science, placing emphasis on the social-ecological model. This model introduces the importance of personal values and choices. He discusses topics around four themes: limits to growth, diversity, community and resilience. It is well-written, informative and novel.

Mulligan, M. (2014). An Introduction to Sustainability: Environmental, Social and Personal Perspectives. New York: Routledge. ISBN-13: 978-0415706445

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Supporting Energy Education Online: Climate Literacy And Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN)  

By Anne U. Gold, Tamara Shapiro Ledley, Susan Buhr Sullivan, Karin B. Kirk and Marian Grogan

Recent changes in the climate system are mostly due to greenhouse gas emissions through increased energy use by society, which changes the distribution of energy in the Earth system. These changes highlight the importance of energy education. Energy consumption is at the source of and the solution to climate change. However, studies across the US and globally show that students’ understanding of energy and the connection between energy and climate is low. The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness (CLEAN, http://cleanet.org) effort supports educators of middle school through undergraduate levels in their teaching about energy topics by providing an online, free collection of peer-reviewed, classroom ready resources that span the entire breadth of energy and climate education. The web portal also provides materials for teachers to learn more about how to teach about energy and climate. A vibrant community supports educators and other stakeholders in their efforts.

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Cook County Green Corps African American Trainee Experience in a Green Job Training Program

By Lena Hatchett, Susan Ask, Nancy Pollard and Loretta Brown

This case study describes the Cook County Green Corps program, a green job training program serving African American young adults from a low-income neighborhood. The program was implemented by an interdisciplinary organizing team to build knowledge, skills, and participation in sustainable jobs and urban agriculture among young adults. The trainees’ experience was documented by a program evaluation survey, environmental knowledge survey, and 1 year reflection interview. We summarize the experiential design, implementation and evaluation of the program. We discuss the limitations and the benefits of the program for trainees and the neighborhood. We share recommendations for future green job training programs that can best serve urban neighborhoods.

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Education for Sustainability Essentials

By Greg Smith

  PDF:SmithSpring2014   Key words:  Sustainability Education, state of the field, place, community, problem-solving, action When trying to consolidate my thinking about sustainability education in preparation for a talk a few years ago, I asked myself two questions: What is sustainability?  And what kinds of people seem most likely to help humanity move in that […]

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The Essential Elements of Education for Sustainability (EfS): Editorial Introduction from the Guest Editor

By Jaimie Cloud

PDF:  Jaimie Cloud JSE May 2014 “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.” F. Scott Fitzgerald […]

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The Oikos of Rural Children: A Lesson for the Adults in Experiential Education

By Karim-Aly S. Kassam and Leanne M. Avery

              PDF: Kassam&AveryJSESpring2013 The Oikos of Rural Children[1]: A Lesson for the Adults in Experiential Education   Karim-Aly S. Kassam, Department of Natural Resources & American Indian Program, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell UniversityLeanne M. Avery, Department of Elementary Education and Reading, State University of New York College at Oneonta  […]

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Spare Changing the World: The Inner Challenges of New Paradigm Organizations

By Timothy Clayton

Timothy Clayton looks at the internal workings of NPO’s (New Paradigm Organizations) to see how they might respond to the experiences of operating in a world structured by capitalism and traditional business practices. His insights produce an impressive and thoughtful list of ways in which some NPO’s, despite a flashy mission statement, might not practice what they preach, and can fall into traditional modes of operation.

This essay explores the challenges facing organizations intent on fostering peace, justice, and sustainability when incorporating traditional business practices into their operational modeling. The implications of these practices on internal organizational community conditions are examined, as are the possible impacts on mission-intended transformational capacities.

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Engaging People in Meaningful Change through the Politics of Place and Celebrating Our Accomplishments in Community: Terril Shorb interviews Daniel Kemmis

By Terril Shorb

In this revealing interview, Daniel Kemmis shows how he has brought sustainability issues into play as mayor of Missoula Montana and as a leading state legislator in Montana. So often, ideas remain in the abstract, but Daniel Kemmis’ experience shows the reality of how they can be brought into the political realm, along with all its imperfections. He brings weight to the call to “act locally.”

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Protecting What We Love: Ideas for Systemic Problem-Solving

By Riki Ott

Riki Ott uses “ultimate civics” to inspire students to take action and make a change. Here, she puts forth the foundation for her curriculum that brings students out of the classroom and into the political arena, with the goal of eliminating our addiction to petroleum.

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Sustainability and Schools: Educating for Interconnection, Adaptability, and Resilience

By Greg Smith

Greg Smith shows us, through his numerous interesting real-life educational stories, how place- and community-based education can bring a true spirit of opportunity to public school students. He argues that true sustainability will come about through local efforts of the current generation of students to guide and form our future.

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