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The Future of Sustainability in Higher Education

By Nathan Hensley

Abstract: In this article, I explore the future of higher education within the context of teaching and learning for sustainability. Challenges currently facing sustainability education are identified along with opportunities to face these challenges in ways that are transdisciplinary and holistic. I make the case that envisioning the future of sustainability education enables practitioners and educational theorists to better meet the needs of today’s generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). My vision of the future of sustainability education in higher education is grounded in transformative, experiential, and place-based approaches. Engaging students in authentic inquiry in the classroom enables students to become better citizens and stronger problem solvers within the context of sustainability and beyond.

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Deepening Our Craft: February 2017 General Issue

By Clare Hintz

Welcome to the February 2017 General Edition of the Journal of Sustainability Education!

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Alive, Survive, Strive, Thrive: A Grounded Conceptual Sustainability Taxonomy

By Kenneth W. Borland

Abstract: A conceptual sustainability taxonomy has been needed to better communicate the value of sustainability, to align sustainability scholars’ theories and sustainability educators’ practices, and to develop curriculum, teaching, learning, and assessment to enhance college students’ comprehension of and commitment to sustainability across general, major, and co-curriculum. Original conceptual research, including the grounding of a conceptual sustainability taxonomy with early career student affairs educators in higher education, presents a grounded conceptual sustainability taxonomy (Alive, Survive, Strive, Thrive) for educating college students and initiating scholar-practitioner contemplation, discussion, and research.

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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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Sustainability education and radical possibilities: A book review of David Selby and Fumiyo Kagawa’s Sustainability frontiers: Critical and transformative voices from the borderlands of sustainability education

By Jay Shuttleworth

Sustainability education examines the confluence between society, environment, and economy. Yet, an overemphasis on economy has historically trumped attention to the other sphere’s needs. Such an imbalance, editors David Selby and Fumiyo Kagawa argue, calls for a radical reconceptualization of sustainability education. In their book, Sustainability Education Frontiers: Critical Transformative Voices from the Borderlands of Sustainability Education, they invite authors from ten different countries to discuss how sustainability education can be transformed to meet the needs of a diverse and interconnected world.

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Book Review of Systems Thinking Made Simple: New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems

By Jeremy Solin

In this book review the author summarized the text, Systems thinking made simple: New hope for solving wicked problems by Derek and Laura Cabrera (2015). In the text, cognitive thought is described as a complex adaptive system and four simple rules of thinking are included as an approach to problem solving.

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A Sustainability Performance Assessment Tool: The SPA System

By Dorothy Paun, Shannon Bray, Tomoki Yamaguchi and Simiao You

Stakeholders have become increasingly vocal about companies’ sustainability impacts, and corporations have responded by issuing sustainability reports that discuss and gauge performance metrics for a variety of social and environmental dimensions. These corporate sustainability reports are public domain and contain a wealth of longitudinal data that could be used by stakeholders, including educators and students. However, these reports appear to be vastly underutilized due to insufficient knowledge of and skills for assessing corporate sustainability information. This article presents the SPA (Sustainability Performance Assessment) System (Paun 2015), an educational tool for mentoring students in corporate sustainability performance research. The Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) G4 framework forms the model underlying SPA. A student learning outcomes survey reported that 96% of the respondents said the SPA System reduced sustainability report complexity through enhancing their sustainability knowledge and/or analytical skills. More specifically, student feedback indicated an increased understanding of sustainability both as a concept and from a business perspective, and the improved ability to assess and compare corporate sustainability performance based on sustainability report information and data.

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Applying AASHE STARS to Examine Geography’s “Sense of Place” in Sustainability Education

By Makayla J. Bonney and Leslie Duram

Abstract: Geography supports place-based inquiry for the learner, applying the old environmental adage of “think globally, act locally” to environmental problem solving. Many within and outside of the discipline of geography see it as a highly appropriate home for sustainability studies. Yet despite a history of human-environment education, place-based relevancy, and support from professional research or education organizations, studies show that geography does not always take a lead role in sustainability education. In the following, we revisit the contested histories of geography and sustainability education and show support for geography-led sustainability curriculum. The scope of this research is universities which have self-identified as leaders in campus sustainability, using the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) participation as an indicator. To best understand the current relationship of geography and sustainability studies in higher education, this study examines the role of geography in offering “Sustainability Focused” courses as reported by AASHE STARS institutions with geography programs. The results show that although geography departments are highly utilized when present at an institution, there is still much room for improvement both within geography departments and campus-wide. We then discuss the implication of these findings, both for the discipline of geography and for students of sustainability.

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The City of Roses—Pasadena City College and the Chemistry Research Laboratories

By Jillian L. Blatti, Anthony F. Cuccinello, Betsy Juarez, William Liang, Jianyi Lu, Nikolai Massine, Jennifer Portillo, Elliot Pourmand, Anakany Ramirez, Vanessa Sanchez and Carina Sepulveda-Torres

As a background for these student responses, I would first like to describe the distinguished program they are a part of at Pasadena City College (PCC). The Early Career Undergraduate Research Experience (eCURe) is a program at PCC that provides students with an undergraduate research experience in the natural or physical sciences at the onset of their scientific careers. This unique experience inspires enthusiasm for scientific research by introducing students to research projects with broader impact in terms of sustainability, energy, the environment and emerging scientific technologies. In this particular eCURe research group led by Dr. Jillian L. Blatti, students have devised methods of synthesizing sustainable paints and testing their resultant properties; they have transposed their tested methods into lesson plans to engage local high schools in scientific outreach efforts, inspiring the next generation of scientists and science educators in sustainability education. As part of this outreach effort, students collaborated with Penn State University’s Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge (NACK) Network in their Remotely Accessible Instruments for Nanotechnology (RAIN) program to bring hands-on experience with advanced analytical equipment to high school students via the Internet, including a scanning electron microscope and atomic force microscope, which they used to analyze sustainable paints they crafted in the classroom. In these highly interdisciplinary and collaborative projects, PCC students are learning to integrate concepts from their science courses into a research-based setting, generating novel questions, designing experiments, analyzing the results, and communicating their science to a broad audience. This innovative community college research program has inspired our students at PCC to continue scientific research in sustainability that they have become passionate about as they transfer to four-year institutions. What follows is accounts of chemical research in sustainability in the chemistry research laboratories at Pasadena City College, the eCURe students’ ‘sense of place’, and how it impacted their views on sustainability research and education.

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Teaching Issues of Inequality Through a Critical Pedagogy of Place

By Anthony Barnum and Jason Illara

This paper examines the conceptualization and implementation of teaching inequality through placed-based and experiential learning while focusing on issues that impact the sustainability of communities through the effects of the social and historical constructs of race, class, and gender. The goal is to push students to rethink issues of sustainability in a more holistic way including social, economic, and political aspects to sustainability. In turn, students are empowered through a Freirian pedagogy to become “student-teachers” for the society in which they live in partnership with a local community organization to create public interactive history exhibits that create educational opportunities to both identify and document historical and current inequalities and their effects on the present moment and to encourage the community to engage with and analyze their own history in a manner to create meaningful dialogue and public discussion for the creation of a more equitable and sustainable society.

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How We Came to Inhabit These Spaces: Reflections on the Role of Place in Our Individual and Collective Journeys as Emerging Sustainability Scholars

By Kathleen Aikens, Naomi Maina, Ana-Maria Bogdan and Hardi Shahadu

This paper provides a descriptive analysis of the experience of four doctoral students engaged in a collective project of place exploration at a midsize Canadian university. Under the methodological tradition of self-study, we contextualize concepts of place attachment and decolonization in order to investigate what it means to be interdisciplinary scholars of sustainability. We use storytelling and mobile discussion methods, alongside visual and mapping methods to disentangle our experiences and analyses of place, mobility, land, and scholarship. This reflective piece demonstrates that collaborative forms of scholarship such as this require deliberate moves toward community creation and place attachment within institutions of higher education. Through a process of collaborative investigation and writing, we have created spaces of caring academic scholarship rather than engaging in competitive and hierarchical university culture.

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Teicher, A. (2009). צילום:ד"ר אבישי טייכר [Senses Garden in Holon, Israel] [Photograph]. Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. PikiWiki - Israel free image collection project. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PikiWiki_Israel_4954_
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Senses of Wonder in Sustainability Education, for Hope and Sustainability Agency

By Marna Hauk, Elise Baker, Rudina Cekani, Kristy Gonyer, Ciarra Green, Katelyn Hale, Linda Hoppes, Kimberly Kovac, Tess Kreofsky, Claire Lagerway, Daniela Perez, Richard Presicci, Heidi Schmidgall, Jenka Soderberg, Kaileigh Westermann and M. Zimdars

Abstract: Recent sustainability education theorists have identified a gap in the research literature regarding sensory entanglement and wonder in sustainability education. Sensory entanglement and wonder are requisite because they bring valuable shifts supporting a more critical and transformative kind of sustainability education by (1) awakening a compassionate connection with the living world, (2) nurturing alternative epistemologies, (3) providing a strengthening function for sustainability educators and their co-learners, for stamina and ongoing engagement, and (4) generating sustainability agency and an active and authentic hope to sustain a sense of the possible in the midst of the dire. This article focuses on how awakening the senses to foster a sense of wonder can nurture grounded, authentic, active hope and agency in sustainability education. It is authored collaboratively by sixteen graduate course participants and faculty co-researchers who discuss interrelated theories pointing to a need to foster senses of wonder in sustainability education. The researchers work in research teams to explore experiential and sense-based hope- and agency-building curricula. Findings include activities and reflections across the five senses as well as with the sixth sense, intuition. Sensing, listening, intimate observing, imagining, feeling, entangling, and wondering can shift unsustainability epistemologies and transform human and cultural engagement. The sense of sound can be immersive and resonant, lending learners to relational and multispecies sensing. Scent can catalyze wonder and inspire experiential, holistic growth and integration of time. Savoring in the sense of taste can extend learners from survival to joy, offering opportunities for mindfulness that can connect cultural and biocultural mutualisms and collaborative sustainability agencies. Pattern sensing for similarity using the visual sense of wonder can support connected knowing and ecological vision. The sense of touch can offer a continuous and mutual comfort and belonging. Visual pattern and texture scavenger hunts can cultivate these sustainability sense capacities. The sixth sense, intuition, opens learners to imaginative, transformative, and connective ways of knowing as place and planet, stimulating hope-giving, integrative sustainability agencies.

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Discourses of Hope in Sustainability Education: A Critical Analysis of Sustainability Advocacy

By Gerri McNenny and Jan Osborn

Abstract: If we are to educate the coming generation about the threats to the environment and the consequences of the excesses of human actions on our planet, educators need to consider critical pedagogy as a means of engaging students in thought and action. This article examines texts from prominent sustainability advocates and researchers, analyzing how they frame sustainability on a spectrum of hope that will then enable educators to address sustainability education with a realistic sense of agency while preparing students to meet the challenges for a sustainable future. Suggestions for pedagogical applications are included for each category across the spectra of hope.

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The Purpose, Design, and Evolution of Prescott’s PhD Program in Sustainability Education

By Rick Medrick

        Medrick JSE Nov 2015 Hope Issue PDF Abstract: This article examines the purpose, design, process, and operations of Prescott College’s PhD Program in Sustainability Education. It describes how students come into the program, participate in foundational course work, operate within a cohort framework, and provide feedback and support for each person’s […]

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Sustainability Programming is an Ethical Obligation for Higher Education in the Environmental Century

By Stephen Mulkey

Abstract: Development of a sustainable relationship with our natural resources is an imperative for any meaningful quality of life as climate change poses the ultimate test of our adaptability as a species. The consequences of failing to respond will be catastrophic and irrevocable over a millennial time scale. During the environmental century, higher education has an ethical imperative to provide the foundation of a sustainable civilization. Higher education is broadly failing to meet this mandate. Most existing programs in environmental and sustainability science and studies provide inadequate training and lack budgetary autonomy equivalent to established academic units. Although many universities define sustainability through operational activities, the primary purpose of higher education is not operational sustainability — it is teaching, learning, scholarship, and outreach. Developing the capacity for proactive adaptation will require us to examine how we conduct teaching and research across the spectrum of higher education institutions. Education and research for proactive adaptation to rapid ecological change affecting human and natural systems is necessary if we are to produce holistic managers to conserve our natural heritage. All undergraduates should acquire basic ecological and sustainability literacy. Teaching, learning, and scholarship for sustainability must become the highest priority in higher education. Collectively, faculty have the power to implement these reforms.

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Green Schools as Learning Laboratories? Teachers’ Perceptions of Their First Year in a New Green Middle School

By Steve Kerlin, Rosie Santos and William Bennett

Many K-12 school districts are embracing energy conservation efforts and constructing environmentally sustainable buildings with the purpose of lower operating costs of their facilities. Investments in green infrastructure to improve operating efficiencies and occupant health are important but the impact on green buildings on instructional practice should also be considered. This study focused on teachers’ perceptions of the many impacts of a new sustainably designed middle school on students and teachers and explores the use of the school as a learning laboratory. Grades 6-8 teachers participated in open-ended focus group discussions near the end of the first school year in their new green building. An emergent coding framework was created to characterize conversation topics. Analysis of the coding yielded insights into seven major categories of teachers’ perceptions of the impact of the new green school on their work in the building and their students’ attitudes and academic performance. The seven major coding categories of green infrastructure, student behavior, student awareness, teacher awareness, curriculum, health, and professional development were further analyzed to formulate considerations and recommendations for others to capitalize on the instructional potential of sustainably designed school facilities as learning laboratories.

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From the forest to the classroom: Energy literacy as a co-product of biofuels research

By Justin Hougham, Steve Hollenhorst, Jennifer Schon, Karla Bradley Eitel, Danica Hendrickson, Chad Gotch, Tammi Laninga, Laurel James, Blake Hough, Dan Schwartz, Shelley Preslley, Karl Olsen, Liv Haselbach, Quinn Langfitt and Jennifer Moslemi

The Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) is a biofuel research project that includes a holistic educational approach to energy literacy. NARA research is focused on woody biomass as a feedstock for biofuels and associated co-products, particularly in the forested areas of the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Extending beyond the science of biofuels, the NARA project examines many social elements of our energy economy, including education. Projects that can combine research and connections to educational venues provide excellent opportunities to expand the impact of grant funded proposals. Keys to making this possible include coordination across disciplines, interpretation of research results, and research processes in the field coupled with investment into integrated educational strategies within the project. This paper outlines elements of the NARA approach to energy literacy, offering strategies for approaches to broader impacts in projects beyond the energy sector.

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Sustainability Education: What’s Politics got to do with it?

By David Meek

This article explores the relation between politics and sustainability education. It draws upon a political ecology of education perspective to analyze how political and economic processes shape the curricular content of sustainability education, environmental behaviors, and processes of ecological change in Brazil. Examples from research on agroecological education within the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) highlight how national level public policies and economic incentives intersect with the MST’s political ideology to influence the creation of sustainability education programs, development of curricular content, and advocacy around land management practices. Scholars, educators, administrators, and community activists are encouraged to draw upon the political ecology of education perspective in negotiating the political nature of sustainability education.

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Teaching Life-Cycle Assessment with Sustainable Minds©- A Discussion with Examples of Student Projects

By Mark Meo, Kelsey Bowman, Kayla Brandt, Madeline Dillner, Dylan Finley, Justin Henry, Kaylie Sedlacek and Aaron Winner

When the Department of Geography at the University of Oklahoma expanded its undergraduate degree options to include Environmental Sustainability in 2011, it was faced with the question of how should the Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) core course be taught, and what aspects of LCA should it cover. In addition to the textbook selected for the classroom, it was clear that students would also need to get hands-on experience using LCA in a manner that reinforced and extended the themes taught in class. This dual challenge was resolved with the selection of a readable and easily understood text and the adoption of Sustainable Minds software for the conduct of student projects. In this paper, we describe the manner in which LCA is taught in the classroom and the important role that LCA software has played to help students acquire a working understanding of the merits of the technique as well as its limitations. Examples of student projects that were completed as course assignments are used to illustrate the scope of student interests and accomplishments.

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Urban Sprawl: Definitions, Data, Methods of Measurement, and Environmental Consequences

By Reza Banai and Thomas DePriest

Like sprawl itself, writing about sprawl is scattered in a vast multidisciplinary literature. In this paper we provide a map of what is increasingly known about urban sprawl in emerging literature. This review of progress includes four main parts—definition, data, methods of measurement, and environmental consequences of urban sprawl. The focus of this literature review is to determine whether the aforementioned parts are elements of a connected system in which progress in any one part reflects in others, thereby enhancing knowledge of urban sprawl’s environmental consequences through a cross-fertilization with progress in how sprawl is defined, data are used, and phenomena are measured. We conclude with a discussion of areas of further research that surmounts the shortcomings of a disconnected, epistemic (knowledge) system of definitions, data, and methods, and points toward an explanation of urban sprawl’s environmental consequences. The implications for the education of urban sustainability are noted.

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Shelburne Farms’ Sustainable Schools Project Education for Sustainability (EFS)

By Jen Cirillo and Emily Hoyler

 PDF:CirilloandHoylerSpring2014 Also see outside source for more information here  Key Words:  Sustainability Education, State of the Field, Shelburne Farms, Alternative Schools, Place-Based Education     Education for sustainability (EFS) is a lens that considers environmental & ecological integrity, economic vitality, and social justice/equity.  Building upon big ideas, such as systems-thinking, interdependence, and community, EFS uses […]

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Essential Elements of Sustainability Education

By Andres Edwards

 PDF:AndresSpring2014   Key Words:  Sustainability Education, State of the Field, EdTracks, Systems Thinking   Learning Outcomes Enduring Understandings/Big Ideas:  Systems thinking, interdependence, human/nature connections, the self and well-being, patterns of nature and of human systems; viable economies, social/equity concerns, stewardship, respect for nature’s limits; regeneration, intergenerational thinking, resilience thinking,  Content Knowledge:  Ecological economics, systems theory, […]

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A Community of Learners, Educators, and Leaders Create Wider Spheres of Influence at Prescott College PhD Program in Sustainability Education

By Pramod Parajuli

PDF:PramodSpring2014 Key Words:  Sustainability Education, State of the Field, Prescott College, Ph.D. Program in Sustainability Education   The problems we are facing are linked. It is not a set of problems. It is a system of problems. Now it is time to look at the system of solutions. – Janine Benyus, Nobel Laureate Symposium, 2011. […]

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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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At variance with reality: how to re-think our thinking

By Stephen Sterling

Rather than outline my view of Education for Sustainability as such, I attempt here to address here a deeper frame of reference which helps underpin the nature and task of EfS in relation to achieving a more participative consciousness, essential for our times.

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A Framework for Leadership for Sustainability Education at Portland State University

By Dilafruz Williams, Heather Burns and Sybil S. Kelley

In response to the hitherto unchallenged assumptions supporting a globalized economy, the Leadership for Sustainability Education (LSE) program, formerly Leadership in Ecology, Culture, and Learning, was developed as part of an emerging sustainability movement. This article highlights the favorable conditions that provided the context for the evolution of the LSE program, including organizational policies and practices at Portland State University, and a commitment to community-university partnerships that conveyed the University’s motto, “Let Knowledge Serve the City.” We discuss the potential that higher education has to transform practices and ways of thinking necessary for ecological sustainability and social justice. Following this overview, we outline the main elements of the LSE Master’s degree program, including the four key learning areas: self-understanding and commitment, systemic view of the world, bio-cultural relationships, and tools for sustainable change. Additionally, we describe the types of learning experiences and assessment strategies employed throughout the program. We conclude by sharing the key authors and thinkers who influence the program and coursework.

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Sustainability Education: The Community College Perspective

By Anouchka Rachelson

For the past seven years, I have been creating and facilitating professional development workshops focusing on Earth literacy and sustainability for faculty at Miami Dade College (MDC), Florida, the largest community college in the United States. With the support of the college’s Earth Ethics Institute, I organize a lunch and learn series called Wisdom Luncheons, oversee an organic campus garden project, facilitate workshops on sustainability education, and teach graduate classes focusing on sustainability, globalization, education, and Earth literacy for our faculty. 175,000 students currently attend MDC, so the potential to transform the community through education is enormous. It is no surprise then that ideas about sustainability education swirl through my head during most waking hours, and occasionally, they occupy my dreams as well.

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We Teach How We’ve Been Taught: Expeditionary Learning Unshackling Sustainability Education in U.S. Public Schools

By Stephanie Owens

Millions of youth in the United States today are mandated to go to “work” daily. Indoor spaces, hard, plastic seats, and inauthentic menial tasks characterize their workplace. In a time in which the life support systems of our planet are imperiled and more humans are living in communities of poverty and violence, there exists an absurd disconnect between how education is currently practiced and the education that is needed to facilitate deep cultural revolution. Our teachers are taught to teach using the same irrelevant pedagogies, sitting in rows inside institutions of higher learning, taking notes, and memorizing disconnected facts for regurgitation on multiple-choice exams. My argument is that we are not going to be able to implement any true attempts in sustainability education without concomitant change in the way we teach teachers. While publicly funded schools still provide an equalizing agent to potentially provide opportunity for all children regardless of their race or social class, no school can truly educate children to meet the coming demands of our time without experiential teacher education. Expeditionary Learning, a national reform model for public schools, creates lasting change in the praxis of teaching by creating opportunities for teachers to learn in a different way than they have often been taught as students themselves. With continued coaching when they return to their classrooms, teachers are able to create learning environments embodying inquiry and authenticity so that our youth are empowered to affect societal change.

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Greening the campus through research-to-practice: A case study in experiential education

By Pamela-Jean N. Driza and Maruja Torre Antonini

In order to state their commitment to sustainability, colleges and universities across the United States are signing environmental charters which emphasize the importance of incorporating environmental issues into education, research, operations, and outreach. As a signatory of several charters, the University of Florida (UF) has taken a particular interest in greening their student housing and has made considerable progress in retrofitting a housing stock over 100 years old. However, despite the implementation of sustainable practices throughout their residence buildings the university has continued to identify areas needing further improvement. As participants in the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Research to Practice (R2P2) program, which aims to engage the educational community in a variety of on-campus research, a team of UF students and faculty utilized the opportunity to investigate obstacles faced in enhancing student housing performance. This case study reports on the pedagogy used by this team to assess the efficacy of applicable sustainable strategies and the environmentally significant behaviors of residents within three residence halls. This pedagogy aimed to first, involve students in project-based learning (PBL); and second, to provide a service to the university by contributing to its efforts to green the campus. Findings of this study illustrated a number of methods for improving building performance. Additionally, as pedagogy, PBL was found in this study to set the stage for acquisition of Gestaltungskompetenz—the organizational, participatory, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and reflection competencies necessary for sustainable development. However, while these findings offer great promise for improving sustainable practices and education, more focused research is needed to explore the challenges and opportunities of their application. Therefore, this study is an invitation to further our exploratory research and continue the discovery of applications for the PBL model in sustainability education.

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Effect of Experience-based School Learning Gardens Professional Development Program Workshop on Teachers’ Attitudes towards Sustainability Education

By Jan Ray, Koh Ming Wei and Diane Barrett

We are faced with a multitude of environmental challenges today, including sustainable food, water, land, and energy resources. As we strive to understand and address these resource issues, we become keenly aware that there are neither quick fixes nor short-term solutions. Consequently, these resource issues will be handed down from this generation to the next—and to the next—for progressive resolution. Therefore, our students need to have an education grounded in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) that will prepare them to become the systems thinkers, critical analyzers, and creative problems solvers that living sustainably on this planet demands. In order to benefit from such an education, our students require teachers who are not only well-trained in STEM concepts and skills but also understand how to create authentic, standards- and experienced-based learning activities for their students in meaningful educational settings. To address this requirement, a year-long, experience-based School Learning Gardens Professional Development Program was created for teachers, implemented by the The Kohala Center’s Hawaiʻi Island School Garden Network on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, and funded through a USDA/SPECA “Ag in the Classroom K-12” grant. This study was conducted with the 29 classroom and school learning garden teachers who participated in the week-long teacher training workshop component of the program. The study examined teachers’ attitudes toward sustainability education before and after the workshop. Teachers’ attitudes were measured using the Teachers’ Attitudes Related to Sustainability Education survey. Findings revealed that there was a statistically significant increase in teachers’ overall attitudes toward sustainability education, as well as their attitudes related to productivity and comfort within sustainability education.

These findings were viewed as an essential first step in assuring that teachers were prepared and willing to provide students with meaningful, experience-based school learning garden activities that hold promise for an environmentally-sound and resource-sustainable future for generations to come.

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Enhancing food security through experiential sustainability leadership practices: A study of the Seed to Supper program

By Denissia Withers and Heather Burns

Experiential and inclusive sustainability leadership practices in learning garden programs can lead to increased community food security. This recent study shows that Oregon Food Bank’s Seed to Supper program increases food literacy, builds social capital, and creates opportunities for fostering inclusive leadership in learning garden communities. Through a mixed-methods community-based research process, the study found that learner empowerment through food literacy and sustainability leadership increased access to locally-grown foods for food insecure populations. The leadership model discussed in this paper uses the concept of the web of inclusion (Helgesen, 1990) as a framework for discussing the intricate social networks within the Seed to Supper program.

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Curriculum Designing with Sustainability in Mind: Reflections on a Process

By Dan Caston

There are unique challenges in sustainability education that many in administrative and decision-making positions may not fully understand. While there is a general movement toward interdisciplinary curriculum design in colleges and universities, what may truly be needed to effectively address sustainability issues is trans-disciplinary curriculum design. Using my experience in creating the Stewardship Toward Sustainability certificate program at Ferrum College as a launch point, I discuss solutions to overcoming conceptual and political barriers in this process.

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Challenging families to live more sustainably : A multicase study in adopting eco-sustainable habits in the context of family

By Michel Léger

A case-study methodology was used to explore the processes of change as experienced by 18 New Brunswick (Canada) families attempting to lead a more eco-sustainable lifestyle as part of a 6 month long provincial initiative called the NB Family Eco-Challenge. Cross-case thematic analysis of findings revealed the emergence of certain conceptual themes related to families who successfully adopted collective environmental actions. For instance, we note the presence of certain applied competencies in these families, such as a capacity for planning, openness to change and collective efficacy. We also noted that families who succeeded in integrating collective environmental actions shared biospheric values and tended to maintain their chosen actions when part of a support network. Based on these findings, this article concludes by outlining the lessons learned in terms of their potential for a possible educational program for families looking to adopt a more eco-sustainable lifestyle.

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NOLS: Bringing Sustainability Education to the Front-Country

By Karly Copeland

Minimum impact camping is a focus of most wilderness programs, but what example are we setting for our students before we get to the backcountry? In the past eight years NOLS has increased its focus on leading and teaching front-country sustainability by example, in addition to Leave No Trace practices taught in wilderness classrooms. This article explores some of the strategies, challenges, and successes in bringing sustainability to NOLS’ front-country operations.

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Boyer Plus: Field Study Courses for Sustainable Education

By Daniel Moscovici

The field study (or short-term study abroad) creates a successful hybrid of study abroad and field research. These short-term educational adventures (edu-ventures) give environmental or sustainability students opportunities to gain practical knowledge while traveling domestically or overseas. In addition, it presents the opportunity for both faculty and students to extend the traditional Boyer model of scholarship, a reputable professoriate model, by developing continuity. The field study fulfills the four pedagogical goals of the Boyer model: creating research opportunities (discovery); breaking down the silos of traditional academic departments (integration); acting as consultants on-site (application); and educating students beyond the faculty members’ expertise (teaching). In addition, these field studies fulfill a fifth goal: building relationships and transgressing time (continuity). The development of this Boyer Plus model from a field-study experience serves as a tremendous tool for colleges, universities and professors to build the opportunities and necessary pedagogical skills for both traditional and non-traditional students.

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Review of Learning Gardens and Sustainability Education: Bringing Life to Schools and Schools to Life.

By Tricia Francis-Morgan

Tricia Francis-Morgan elegantly lays out all the power in Williams and Brown’s book. She gives just enough of a taste of how transformational learning gardens can be, in so many different ways, from the social to the physical, to the biological, that we are left with a desire to quickly get the book. At the same time, Francis-Morgan’s perspective on this pioneering book carries extra weight given her own experiences using learning gardens in the Caribbean.

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Review of Ecoliterate: How Educators are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence

By Roger Coss

Daniel Goleman, Lisa Bennett, and Zenobia Barlow, in their book Ecoliterate: How Educators are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence, share the stories of a new generation of educators and activists that are displaying the five practices of socially and emotionally engaged ecoliteracy: developing empathy for all forms of life; embracing sustainability as a community practice; making the invisible visible; anticipating unintended consequences; and understanding how nature sustains life. This book provides useful examples and serves as a guide for educators interested in developing a sustainability-focused learning environment for their students through the framework of ecoliteracy. The purpose of the following review is to first present the purpose, argument, and organization of Ecoliterate, and to then evaluate the claims and implications it presents for practitioners of sustainability education.

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CIDER: An Acronym for Understanding the Educational Possibilities for Bioregionalism

By Nathan Hensley

This article provides an overview of the primary themes embedded within bioregionalism. The framework for the paper is built around the CIDER acronym—compiled by the author—and includes: Connecting to our “life place,” inquiring into the interplay of cultural and ecological landscapes within the bioregion, decentralizing, emphasizing natural boundaries, reinhabiting as a culminating concept and practice. The CIDER acronym is then discussed in the context of applying bioregional thinking and practice to the broad field of education.

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A Human Ecological Approach to Energy Literacy through Hands-On Projects: An Essential Component of Effectively Addressing Climate Change.

By Anna E. Demeo, David P. Feldman and Michael L. Peterson

Mitigating climate change is among the most urgent challenges humans face. However debate regarding sustainable energy and options for reducing carbon dioxide emissions tend to be polarizing and frequently unproductive. Too often facts are lost in jargon and numbers that have little meaning for many, including policy makers. Further compounding the problem is the lack of a tangible connection for most citizens between fossil fuel use and environmental degradation. This lack of understanding limits our ability to have sensible discussions about our climate and energy future. A human ecological approach to teaching energy literacy is essential to ensure responsible environmental stewardship in the age of climate change. A powerful and effective way to address this is through project-based learning that helps prepare students, across disciplines, by providing them with the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to be effective advocates for energy choices that reduce environmental harm. Having an informed and energy literate society is crucial to overcoming barriers and adopting policies that address climate change.

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C. A. Bowers’ The Way Forward: Educational Reforms that Focus on the Cultural Commons and the Linguistic Roots of the Ecological/Cultural Crises: A Review

By Clare Hintz

Clare Hintz provides the kind of review that brings just the kind of perspective needed for delving deeper into Chet Bowers important work on the importance of language use and history in sustainability education. While giving us a good idea of what to expect from the book, Clare also brings us a larger perspective that helps understand Chet Bowers and his special role in stimulating our educational processes to be truly about and in favor of a sustainability perspective.

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4 Inches of Living Soil: Teaching Biodiversity in the Learning Gardens–A photo-essay

By Dilafruz Williams

In Learning Gardens and Sustainability Education: Bringing Life to Schools and Schools to Life, Williams and Brown (2011) place living soil at the center of the discourse on sustainability education. One of the seven principles that guides their pedagogy of learning gardens is: valuing biocultural diversity. This photo-essay of elementary students in K-8 schools, explores how 4 inches of soil in the learning gardens can teach about life’s diversity. The author urges humble attentiveness to that which is below our feet seemingly hidden and unnoticed yet teeming with life.

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Incorporating Sustainability into the Curriculum: The Case of Green Course Projects at a Pacific Island American University

By Yukiko Inoue

Graduate students enrolled in an education research course (many of the students were school teachers) that the author taught during the spring 2010 semester participated in this “green” course project. Those students who were not school teachers, who worked for private companies or government agencies, focused their projects on green communities, workplaces, or households. Students conducted their projects based on inquiry-based learning, and this sustainability study reported in the current paper itself derives from an inquiry-based approach. The results from this study demonstrated that daily curricular activities at universities and schools provide an important way to support environmentally responsible living. Implementing green course projects similar to the one described here is one of many ways in which university teachers can incorporate “sustainability” into their curricula.

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Integrating Culture as a Cornerstone of Success in Sustainability Education: A Case Study, Youth Allies for Sustainability Leadership Program, Earth Care, Santa Fe, NM

By Christina Selby

Environmental sustainability cannot be separated from social justice. Christina Selby presents a compelling case study of sustainability work grounded in cultural democracy, or processes that involve all groups in community decision-making. In the Youth Allies for Sustainability Leadership Program, young residents of Santa Fe, New Mexico, address ecological integrity through intercultural healing, relationship-building, and advocacy. Selby grounds her case in the broader theoretical work of eco-justice and transformative education. She highlights the urgent need to further integrate the defense of cultural integrity with the protection and restoration of ecological balance and economic vitality. This case study is a shining model for such integration.

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Assessing Systems Thinking Skills in Two Undergraduate Sustainability Courses: A Comparison of Teaching Strategies

By Cosette Marie Armstrong, Kim Y. Hiller Connell and Sonya M. Remington

The purpose of this study was to determine systems thinking skill development among undergraduate students and assess the effectiveness of two different instructional methods for increasing these skills. Undergraduate students from two four-year state institutions, one located in the Midwestern region (n=20) of the United States and one in the Southwestern region (n=16) participated in the study. To accomplish the research object, the study employed a mixed between-within subjects experiment. Employing two different systems thinking teaching interventions, one group of students was exposed to a one-time intervention while the other group was exposed to a more extended and holistic intervention. Data were collected at two points in time: pre- and post-intervention. At the beginning (pre-intervention) and end (post-intervention) of one semester, students read case studies describing apparel firms’ sustainability efforts. The students were then tasked to identify sustainability challenges, analyze conflicts between challenges, and offer business recommendations. Using a rubric, the authors scored the students’ responses on a scale of 0 to 5 and assessed ability to 1) think holistically and 2) perceive interrelationships and resolve resulting conflicts. T-tests revealed that prior to the teaching interventions, as a whole, the students had unsophisticated skills related to their ability to think in systems. ANOVA revealed that, through instructional methods focused on systems thinking, it is possible to increase students’ ability to think in systems. Additionally, the study revealed that, compared to a constrained one-time intervention, a long-term, holistic, and integrated approach is significantly more effective in encouraging students’ system thinking competencies. Results of this study support the need for educators to integrate teaching methods designed to increase students’ systems thinking competencies holistically throughout course curriculum. Additionally, the study outlines a transferrable approach to assessing systems thinking skills within postsecondary education.

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Navigating a Geography of Sustainability Worldviews: A Developmental Map

By Abigail Lynam

Given the importance of understanding and learning to work effectively with a diversity of perspectives and values in the sustainability field, this article offers a developmental map of the worldviews of sustainability. It includes an introduction to developmental theory and research, an overview of the diversity of worldviews, how they differ and relate to one another and to sustainability practice and leadership, and how these worldviews develop over time. A developmental perspective suggests that every sustainability practitioner/educator/leader has a worldview that is made up of the beliefs that person holds and their definition for sustainability emerges out of those beliefs. Moreover, there are consistent patterns observed cross-culturally in the ways that these worldviews develop. Understanding and learning to work with the diversity of perspectives and their developmental trajectory is vitally important for sustainability education and leadership in that it helps us to design curriculum, and sustainability campaigns, policy and actions in ways that are more holistic, include a diversity of worldviews, address conflict between them and contribute to the development of the worldviews themselves.

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Sustainability in Outdoor Education: Rethinking Root Metaphor

By Adrienne Cachelin, Jeff Rose, Dan Dustin and Wynn Shooter

Recognizing that behavior comes not only from understanding, but also from attitudes cultivated in outdoor settings that elicit visceral feelings toward nature, outdoor educators have unique opportunities to make sustainability comprehensive, accessible, and relevant.  Yet the principal metaphor underlying outdoor education in general, and the Leave No Trace (LNT) program in particular, may be counterproductive to fostering environmentally and […]

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Compost, Blossom, Metamorph, Hurricane – Complexity and Emergent Education Design: Regenerative Strategies for Transformational Learning and Innovation

By Marna Hauk

This work proposes a novel theoretical framework for sustainability education and explores four possible applications of the framework. Insights from complexity and complexity education elide with patterns from nature to birth four patterns of regenerative, emergent education. In this work I explore these four natural systems models of emergence and apply them to education. For […]

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Sustainability Education in the Interior Design Curriculum

By Jane Nichols and Erin Adams

Nichols and Adams show how central design must be to sustainability by showing the numerous ways and multiple disciplinary perspectives that allow sustainability to be incorporated into the design curriculum. The program described goes far beyond a nod to “green building” technologies and shows how design is at the root of the ecological, economic, social and transformational aspects of sustainability.

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Northwest Earth Institute’s Discussion Guides Enhance Sustainability Education at University of Michigan

By Mike Shriberg

Mike Shriberg shows the power of implementing a true discussion-based curriculum in his sustainable campus course at the University of Michigan.

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Educators as Architects of Living Systems: Designing Vibrant Learning Experiences beyond Sustainability and Systems Thinking

By Barbara Widhalm

This article discusses how living systems principles can inform educational design. It describes a theoretical framework for creating academic learning experiences as organic wholes that sustain learning verve. The framework is intended to aid educators in awakening a felt sensation of aliveness, vibrancy, and self-organizing creativity in a group of learners. It seeks to create […]

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